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Explore the diverse landscapes of Islay & Jura; visit distillery water sources, and walk the coastlines and white sand beaches that lend their flavour to the islands’ iconic single malts; Bowmore, Jura, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, and Kilchoman. With time in the itinerary for visiting 7 out of 9 distilleries this trip is perfect for both whisky-tasting amateurs and connoisseurs.
The Isle of Islay is renowned for being the home of Scotland’s finest single malt whisky—production has been established since 1779. Distillery tours with the knowledgeable locals are a highlight, but for the authentic island experience make sure to combine distillery visits with our suggested walks. Readjust to the relaxed pace of island life where the hospitality of the locals will have you feeling instantly at ease on these two contrasting islands.
Arrive on Islay by sea or air; take the
Calmac ferry (2hrs 10 mins) from Kennacraig on the mainland to Port
Askaig/Port Ellen on Islay, or fly (40 mins) from Glasgow to the
island’s small airport near Port Ellen. From Islay it’s a scenic 15
minute ferry to Jura and a short coastal bus ride (25 mins) to your
accommodation in Craighouse on Jura.
Jura water source walk (optional): 7.5 km
If you arrive on Jura with an afternoon
to spare and would like to stretch your legs take a gentle walk from
your hotel in Craighouse to the Jura whisky water source. Keep a look
out for red deer!
Craighouse is the only village on Jura,
it has one hotel opposite Jura’s famous distillery and both have views
over the Sound of Jura. Enjoy a dram of Jura just kilometres from the
source whilst gazing out to sea.
Begin with a short transfer from your
hotel to the start of the Paps of Jura loop walk. The longest route is
challenging but the rewards on a good day certainly outweigh any trials –
the views over the Sound of Jura to the mainland are spectacular. As
this route is strenuous in grade and only for experienced hikers there
are two alternatives; walk either a short 6 km route to the loch to
admire the view of the Paps from their base, or take in just one of the
Paps, we recommend a 14.5 km route up and down Beinn an Oir (785 m) the
highest of the Paps but with the least strenuous ascent.
Paps of Jura lochan (easy): 6 km
Beinn an Oir (moderate): 14.5 km
Paps of Jura loop (strenuous): 17.5 km
After a hearty breakfast on Jura make
your way to Port Charlotte. From where it’s a 15 minute bus journey to
the charming fishing village of Portnahaven for a short loop walk of the
area. Enjoy walking on quiet country roads and coastal paths with
views of the Isle of Orsay, and it’s Stevenson family-built lighthouse.
The village harbour is a popular spot for resting seals and elusive
otters are occasionally spotted here too. Later visit Bruichladdich
distillery nestled in a coastal village just north of Port Charlotte
where you can choose from a variety of whisky tours or a specialist gin
Portnahaven and Port Wemyss loop walk: 7.5 km
Overnight: Port Charlotte
Today you have a choice of walks with
return taxi transfers from Port Charlotte to either the RSPB Bird &
Nature reserve at Loch Gruinart or to the island’s remote west coast to
visit Kilchoman distillery—simply let the driver know where you’d like
to go on the day.
Loch Gruinart to Ardnave Point: 17 km
After spending some time at the RSPB
Loch Gruinart’s information centre walk along the sea loch on scenic
quiet country roads to Ardnave Point where the route takes a small loop
around the headland on sandy paths with coastal views throughout. Keep
an eye out for the distinctive hen harrier, corncrake, and lapwing.
Kilchoman to Saligo Bay: 13 km
Alternatively, take the transfer to
Kilchoman distillery on Islay’s wilder west. Walk quiet country roads
and tracks to take in two of Islay’s finest beaches—Machir and Saligo.
Combine your walk with a tour of the distillery—we recommend the premium
tour—before returning to the comfort of your accommodation in Port
Overnight: Port Charlotte
Catch a morning bus (25 mins) from Port
Charlotte to Bowmore—the island’s “capital”—before following the coast
south to Laggan Point on coastal paths, tracks and country roads. On a
good day you’ll be able to see Bruichladdich distillery on the opposite
side of Loch Indaal, and get wonderful views of the 8 km long white sand
beach at Machrie Bay. Round off the day with a visit to harbourside
Laggan Point loop: 14 km
Begin the day with a short bus journey
(25 mins) from Bowmore to Port Ellen. Now that you’re in Port Ellen you
can take a walk around the bay to the unique 1930s Carraig Fhada
lighthouse, and look forward to visiting three of the most famous
distilleries on Islay; Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. We recommend
booking the optional premium half day tour of Laphroaig—it promises to
be a highlight of the trip!
Carraig Fhada Lighthouse walk: 9 km
Overnight: Port Ellen
The walk from Port Ellen along the coast connecting Laphroaig,
Lagavulin and Ardbeg distilleries is a relaxed and scenic way to end
your stay on Islay and gives you the chance to visit Lagavulin and
Ardbeg distilleries if you haven’t already. The walk can be halved by
taking the bus from Ardbeg back to Port Ellen if you have a dram too
many and lose track of time en route.
Three distilleries walk: 11.5 km
Overnight: Port Ellen
Depart Islay for the mainland via air or
sea. The airport is just a 10 min drive from Port Ellen with Loganair
flights to Glasgow. Alternatively, return to Kennacraig on the mainland
via Calmac ferry from Port Ellen or Port Askaig.
We specifically choose the hotels, inns, guesthouses and B&B’s to ensure that you enjoy every minute of your stay. All offer a warm welcome to walkers, traditional hospitality and delicious local food.
During the high season, you might be booked into alternative accommodations which are not listed in the description. Any alternative accommodation will be of the same or better standard as those described.
This independent walking holiday is available to solo walkers. If you require single rooms in your party we will of course try to accommodate your request, subject to availability. Please note that singles may not be of the same standard or size as twins/doubles.
A hearty breakfast is included each morning. Lunch and dinner are not included so you are free to choose from the available options. Most of your accommodations will more than happy to provide a packed lunch on request and this can be booked on arrival. Alternatively, your route notes include details of local shops and convenient lunch stops on the way. Dinner is available either at your accommodation or nearby pubs and restaurants.
Although not exhaustive these are the accommodation providers we use most often.
Nestled just off the Sound of Jura, the Jura Hotel is the perfect place to balance getting away from it all, with enjoying delicious local dishes accompanied by sea views in the hotel restaurant.
The little village of Port Charlotte is strewn along the west coast of Loch Indaal, and many of the 10 elegant bedrooms have wonderful views over Loch Indaal.
A warm welcome awaits at the Harbour Inn in Islay’s “capital” of Bowmore. Situated within a couple of minutes from Bowmore distillery the inn is perfectly placed for exploring Islay’s heart.
A charming B&B situated in the centre of Port Ellen overlooking Leadomus Bay, and less than a 5 minute walk from the Calmac ferry terminal. Joy is a wonderful hostess who will make your stay a memorable one!
This walking holiday is best enjoyed between early April and mid
October. Islay is very popular during the summer months, and the last
week in May during the annual Whisky Festival, so we advise you book as
far in advance as you can.
Due to public transport restrictions on the islands at the weekend it’s
best to begin your trip from Monday—Thursday. However, if this isn’t
possible just call the office and speak to our Destination &
Adventure Specialists who can help by arranging taxi transfers.
Bag transfer on this trip is available as per your itinerary but on a
few occasions you will take your luggage with you when you travel with
public transport between your accommodations. You won’t need to carry
more than a day bag on your walks. We ask you to limit your luggage to
one bag of up to 15 kg per person.
The trip is designed to help you make the most of your time on Islay
and Jura and your proximity to it’s world-renowned distilleries. As
such all the walks are optional and most should take around half a day,
ensuring you have plenty of time to visit the distilleries.
Please note that the distilleries all have varying opening hours, and
some only run tours on specific days and at pre-arranged times. Most of
these tours should be pre-booked either online or by phone directly
with the distilleries. We provide information on the tours offered and
when they run in the pre-departure information pack. Additionally, you
can find live tour availability on many of the distillery websites.
There are so many whisky tour and tasting options to choose from that
we have excluded these so you are free to choose your preferred tour
and tasting options at each distillery. The cost for a basic distillery
tour and sample dram or two tends to be around £10 per person.
If you would like to try something special we recommend the Laphroiag
Water to Whisky premium tour. This includes a tour of the distillery,
picnic at the water source, along with a chance to try peat cutting for
yourself on Laphroaig’s nearby peat source, followed by a cask tasting
and bottling all accompanied by your knowledgeable Laphroaig guide. The
tour operates 7 days a week from noon lasting 4.5 hours with 7 people
maximum per tour.
Alternatively, try the premium tour and tasting at
Islay’s only farm distillery at Kilchoman. Distinct from the other
distilleries on the island Kilchoman is a smaller operation that grows
and malts all of their barley onsite. The tour operates 7 days a week
from 11am for 2 hours with 12 people maximum per tour.
Please note distillery tour dates may vary outside of the summer
months. A basic distillery tour normally takes 1 hour so make sure to
plan your distillery visits around any walks you plan on doing to allow
yourself plenty of time. Check distillery websites and book well in
advance for tours to avoid disappointment on the day.
The walks are optional, and allow plenty of time each day for
distillery visits and whisky tastings. The routes range from 7-17 km on
quiet country roads, tracks, and paths. The trip is graded easy to
moderate with the exception of the longest Paps of Jura loop walk for
which you will need to be experienced navigator and is graded strenuous.
Otherwise, some previous walking and mapping reading experience is
desirable, but with our route notes and GPS tracks provided on the Macs
Adventure smartphone app you should have no problem following the route
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you
have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and
emergency evacuation and hospital care.
The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the
recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items,
for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat, and
sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which
includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm
and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing
for summer, and a day pack.
To arrive by ferry make your way to Kennacraig on Scotland’s mainland, there are daily Citylink buses from Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow (3hr 20 mins) to Kennacraig. From Kennacraig take the Calmac ferry to either Port Askaig or Port Ellen on Islay. The Kennacraig ferry terminal has public toilets, a ticket office and waiting room.
If you’re coming from further afield you might prefer to fly onto Islay directly from Glasgow airport with Loganair. The airport is just a 10-minute bus journey from Port Ellen or 35 minutes by bus to Port Askaig.
It’s a scenic 15-minute hop across to Jura ferry from Port Askaig to Feolin port on the Isle of Jura. From Feolin take a 25-minute bus or pre-booked transfer to Craighouse village.
It’s also possible to make this trip a drive & hike by using your own car if you are coming from the UK. Most of the distilleries are able to give the designated driver their drams in miniature bottles to go. Please speak to a Destination & Adventure Specialist to find out more.
Planning a trip can be daunting, especially if this is your first long distance walking holiday. We are often asked the following questions and I hope that you will find the answers useful.
As all the walks are self-guided you will be responsible for navigation, decision–making and safety during your trip. The walks are graded easy to moderate—they are not strenuous and although there may be some uphill and steeper sections, these are not particularly challenging. The optional Paps of Jura loop walk is graded strenuous and is only for experienced hikers. At 17.5 km long taking in ~1500 m ascent/descent it’s the hardest walk on the trip. If you currently don’t enjoy that level of fitness, regular walking supplemented by cardiovascular exercise for six months before your walk is recommended. A good gym or personal trainer will be able to draw up a personalised training programme.
We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the region is extremely popular especially between May and September. You will find up to date availability on our website and we will always try and accommodate your plans.
Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes and a day pack.
Although Map and September are generally considered the best months for walking in Scotland, Islay tends to receive warmer weather than the rest of the west coast throughout the walking season (April - October) so the choice is yours.
Midges are small biting insects (much like North American gnats) which are prevalent in the summer months. They are particularly bad on still, overcast days but do not bother you if you are moving, the wind is blowing, sun is shining, it’s raining, or you are inside. So as long as you carry repellent for the odd occasion you may need it they shouldn’t have any impact on your experience.
Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate walkers with dogs as many of the accommodation providers we use do not accept pets.
You can use public transport or a local taxis to travel to the next overnight stop. Full details are included in your info pack.
You will be required to do both on this itinerary. On some days you will be required to take your bags with you on public transport between your overnights. You won't need to walk any of the routes with more than your day-pack though. Please check the ‘Included’ section for clarification on this.