Saturday, 3 September 2011


I was very excited about the prospect of visiting this remote Scottish island. But Islay is much more than a remote Scottish island. It has plenty to offer if you are interested in the great outdoors, whisky - or photography.

For the first of those three draws, the scenery is stunning - the views across the Sound of Islay to the Paps of Jura are breathtaking and the illusions of a disappearing horizon over Loch Indaal are something to behold. The light on the island's west coast provides a stunning setting in which to take photographs, too. Meanwhile, the golden eagles soaring overhead provide a glorious photo opportunity (should you be equipped with an appropriately long lens, that is). One should be careful they're not snapping in a frenzy at buzzards, which are much more common than their much larger cousins. Of course, they too provide an intriguing photographic subject.

Lesson learned: Always have the right lens attached, or you'll miss shots like this golden eagle overhead.
Don't forsake buzzards; they too make an imposing subject. This was a drive-by shot on the Portnahaven road.
Secondly, to the whisky. Islay is home to seven distilleries, of which six are open to the public (Caol Ila was undergoing some refurbishment and was, alas, closed to visitors on my trip). Their architecture - whitewashed walls, slate roofs, towering chimneys - makes for an often interesting subject, as I discovered at Ardbeg.

The Old Kiln at Ardbeg distillery on a beautiful Islay afternoon. Note the whitewashed walls and slate roof.
Tthe more technical side of distilleries offers interesting photo opportunities, as the spirit cupboard attests.
As for that pure, hobbyist's photography, there was ample opportunity to explore some of Islay's wonderful landscapes during my stay on the island, whilst a boat trip to Corryvrekan allowed some time to take-in Jura and the wonderful uninhabited Eilean Mor.

Herring gulls take off from the water alongside a shag, having been disturbed by our passing boat.
The Paps of Jura provide a stunning backdrop for one of the more popular walks on the island.
Finally, a walk to the American Monument on the Oa (pronounced as 'Owe', I discovered to my embarrassment) provided a glimpse of that other Islay rare bird, the Chough, and an interesting use of the light to silhouette a solitary Highland cow.

This solo Highland cow cuts a very recognisable silhouette on an Ileach hillside.
The rare chough in flight, this one found near to Britain's only wave power station near Portnahaven.
All of my photographs from my Islay break are on my Picasa account.

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