Heritage & History
Museum of Islay Life, Port Charlotte
From flint tools from the Mesolithic period to illicit whisky stills, and collections of old Islay photographs there is 10,000 years of Islay history on display.
Open Monday-Saturday, 10.30 am – 4.30 pm from April until 31st October.
Telephone: 01496 850358
Natural History Visitor Centre, Port Charlotte
Something for visitors of all ages, informative displays, videos and hands on activities. You can even help yourself to a cup of tea for a small donation. A great place to spend a rainy afternoon.
Open March –October, Monday-Friday 10 am – 4 pm,
Saturday (June to August only) 10 am – 4 pm.
Telephone: 01496 850288
Finlaggan – Ruins of the ‘Lord of the Isles’
The islands in the Loch housing the ruins of this historic settlement can be accessed all year by handy wooden jetties. There are display boards on the islands explaining the site but for more information there is a Visitor’s Centre open April to October which for a small entrance fee brings the history of this fascinating site to life.
Telephone: 01496 840644
Kildalton Cross & Chapel
A lovely spot to explore with the ruins of a chapel and the amazing carved stone cross dating to circa 820AD as well as several ancient graves depicting carved figures. If you go during the summer you will also be treated to fabulous home baking and flasks of hot drinks left on the picnic benches each day for visitors to help themselves too after paying for the goodies using the honesty box. This was always a highlight of our holidays to Islay as getting to Kildalton Cross means a lovely drive from Port Ellen on the road carved through ancient woodland and past ‘Fairy Hill’ so it was quite easy to believe the goodies must have been left by the fairies too!
Dunyvaig Castle, Lagavulin
Park in the car park opposite the side of the Distillery and enjoy the short walk out of the village heading up the hill, turning right along a sign posted track leading to the ruins of the castle. The latest archaeological discoveries about this ancient site can usually be found at the Museum of Islay Life at Port Charlotte. However, you can wander the ruins, enjoy the lovely views of Lagavulin Bay, all whilst enjoying the distinctive aroma of the distillery too! If you’re lucky as you head back to the car park the Lagavulin Malt Bar will be open where you can refresh yourself with a wee dram or hot drinks and cakes too.
Standing Stones & Stone Circles
Throughout Islay you will find a number of standing stones and stone circles, some documented others not at various locations and, no doubt, countless others yet to be discovered in its wild and boggy wilderness. The purposes of some of them are still up for debate as sadly these important sites to Islay ancestors are now largely forgotten.
Kilnave Chapel, North Coast
Similar to the ruins and stone cross of Kildalton above but it also benefits from spectacular views across Loch Gruinart to the beaches of Killinallan opposite. Although it is now a lovely peaceful scenic spot, sadly this chapel was left in ruins after members of warring clans sought refuge in it only for their opponents to burn them alive in it when they set light to the thatch! Thankfully, the locals are far more friendly and welcoming these days!
The American Monument, The Oa
It’s worth the meadow and moorland walk from the RSPB Car Park to the monument perched on 429 foot cliffs on the edge of the Oa Peninsula. It commemorates the sinking of two troop carrying ships and the many lives sadly lost off the rocks of Islay in WW1.
Islay, now has a fraction of the population it once had and as such there are numerous ruined buildings and lost villages that can be discovered virtually at every turn. Some of our particular favourites and worthy of an adventurous walk are the ‘Plague Village’ above Ardbeg where legend has it the entire population was wiped out and the lost village of Lurabus, victim of the more recent ‘Highland Clearances’, which is a pleasant walk up the hill behind ‘Singings Sands’ beach on the Oa.