We took the Kennacraig ferry to Port Ellen, Islay and arrived after dark and after 8pm in the evening. After consuming a beer and a coffee on the ferry, food was first on the priorities list but we needed to check-into the B&B first. I learned the hard way: always print-out directions and don’t assume your phone will work instantly when you arrive somewhere. We had made our smart phones able to use internationally for the month but my phone wasn’t cooperating when we got to Port Ellen and I wasn’t handling it well. We just started driving because you can’t really stop when there is a line of cars exiting the ferry pressuring you from behind (ha!). We just drove until I could get the email to load and then was challenged to find a place to turn around in the dark on a two lane road where everyone speeds. The ferry ride had been so pleasant with the smooth travel and hilarious drunk group of Swedes who wore mattress pants and told me that my Mother’s maiden name is famous (my Mom’s Swedish), and now it was back to stressful and lost in the dark. Sean had the foresight to pull-over and we were able to find our way to the small adorable B&B right outside of Port Ellen on top of a steep hill called The Swallows Roost.
We checked-in and dropped our bags and hi-tailed it back to the car in search of food. On our way down the hill there were huge highland cattle in the road and incredibly they moved into the car turnout so we could pass them. It was so funny because I thought they might ram our car but they moved over so politely-it was no big deal for them. Apparently it wasn’t strange because the entire next day there was cows in the road at various points during our tour of Islay so it just seems like something as natural as trees in Washington.
I had recommendations from the owners of the B&B to try either the Indian food place or the Islay Hotel back in town and we opted for the hotel. We got there and headed into the cozy little bar and, to our extreme happiness, they were still serving food. We ordered a few beers and our food and took a breath of relief. Lucky us, the bar had live music in the form of a woman and a guitar that was so wonderful and it was like she was telling us: “Relax, you are in Islay and this place is magic.” We received a mussels in white wine appetizer that had the most tender and huge mussels it was crazy! The best mussels I have ever had in my life. Sean had the meat pie and I had the fish pie and both were equally delicious and very filling. After we had some food in our stomachs we HAD to get some scotch because we were in Islay and that’s just what you do when in Islay.
With full bellies of food we headed back to the B&B to find that our host had supplied two drams of whisky and some water awaiting our return. It was so sweet of them! We were off to bed with plans to get-up super early in hopes of hitting as many distilleries as possible. Most of the distilleries close around 5-6pm so starting in the morning was the best option to tour as many as we could. Lucky for us our B&B supplied the biggest breakfast to get us started! We had yogurt, croissants, coffee, cereal, toast, juice, fruit, etc! Also, the B&B has the most wonderful view of a lighthouse and Port Ellen and at night it gets so dark and clear that you can see the stars.
It was a sunny any slightly chilly day and we were able to visit almost every distillery in Islay. I will write about the distilleries in my “Part 2′ post because that is a whole mess of photos and long descriptions…to much for one post. We got home from a long day of distilleries and chatted and drank with the B&B owners who had bought us a bottle of “fizz” or champagne to congratulate us on the wedding. We talked about beer, life, scotch, travel … you name it! After several drams and beers later we finally called it a night. I can say, hands-down and without a doubt, it was the best hotel or B&B stay I have ever had. I am so happy with the entire experience that I don’t think I will stay anywhere else the next time I come to Islay and I highly recommend them to anyone visiting the place.