Islay Visits Part XXXVII – A Tale of Two Distilleries…..

Tuesday 29th July 2014

It was a bit of an overcast morning when we emerged from the cottage , So after a rather late breakfast we decided to head up to a favourite spot of ours in the north-east of the Isle , Bunnahabhain . I love going up that part of the isle , the drive up the road makes you feel as though you are somewhere else , it was also quite sunny when we arrived there ! There was quite a lot going on around the distillery as they were transferring stock to new casks , mainly sherry butts by the looks of it , Long John was busy on the fork lift and there was bodies flying in and out of various warehouse doors ! We made our way up to the shop and were greeted by a very enthusiastic guide who no sooner were we in the door was offering us a dram and making pleasant conversation . Sorry i didn’t take her name but she did say you’d just started recently at the distillery and she is thoroughly enjoying her job , she was a lovely lass ! After a natter with Lillian we went for a bit of a walk along the pier , said hello to Long John and made our way back to “Other Places” .

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We had a drive up the Mulindry Road which these days is remarkably quiet , especially of pigs ! Once reaching the High Road we headed into Bowmore to pick up a few Post Cards and try out the new “Taste of Islay” Bistro in the former distillery warehouse  . We’d heard mixed reports about it but decided to give it a go , you can get anything from a Sandwich (£8) to various dishes ( from £8 for Seafood ) , tea , coffee , cakes , wine , whisky , beer….

We went for a couple of Cream Scones and a Tea and Coffee . Things didn’t get off to a good start when one of the paper menus we were given had the remains of someone elses meal on it and for some reason the Scones took a good 10-15mins to arrive after the drinks . The other thing that spoiled it was the fruit scones were hot and the Jam and cream just melted and rolled off it….. The scones weren’t a patch on the ones we had at The Bridgend Hotel last week and the bill came to £3.30 more than the same drinks and cakes we have at The Celtic House Coffee shop . I’ll let you draw your own conclusion……

To finish the afternoon off we popped into the Distillery Visitors Centre , where the reception was the exact opposite of the Bunnahabhain one ! Now before anyone thinks we’ve got a downer on the Bowmore Distillery , we love the place , done loads of tours here , have stayed at their wonderful Cottages quite a lot recently (they are well recommended!) , it’s just that the Customer Service at the VC could do with improving , it’s always nice to get a friendly greeting when you walk in the door or some kind of acknowledgement ! (and this is not a new thing)

Anyway we headed back to the Cottage for a tea of Islay Venison Burgers and a few drams to finish the night……..   

 

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Christmas 2013

In the Bleak Mid-Winter…..

Friday 27th December

So we set off for an extra Islay visit this year – we won’t be having our usual Spring trip and won’t be back till summer 2014 , there’s a very good reason which we can’t go into right now…… so we decided to squeeze an extra visit in when we’re both on holiday – staying in the Excellent Bowmore Cottages , this time the Stillmans . Once again it was a 4.30am start , this time in atrocious weather , the forecast wasn’t too good and after the recent spate of ferry cancellations we didn’t hold much hope of getting onto the isle . Fortunately on the way up we got as text saying after the cancellation of the 7am ferry the rest would run to timetable……..

Some say we are creatures of habit , we say we just have traditions on trips to Islay we stick to…… So it was Breakfast in Balloch and Coffee and cakes in Tarbert ! It did get sunny on the way up at one point but we soon got over that when the rain started again . Our ferry would be the aging ‘Isle of Arran’ and it seemed to be having some difficulty with the weather , it’s ramps wouldn’t lie at the right angle in the very high sea (combination of a large swell and the westerly wind I would guess) , they had a go with the rear one , then turned around and had a go with the front one . They eventually decided to put some extra ballast in the nose (they said) and bingo ! We were on !

Assuming our usual positions in the bar , we settled down to a nice smooth crossing ( Melanie  wishes…..) , we also got to say hello to Jim McEwan who is on the ferry , hope the cold gets better soon !

I was going to have a ‘Malt of the Month’  but it was Bowmore 12 , Sooooo went for a Laddie 10 instead .

We eventually got on to the Isle at 4.30pm and headed for our place of residency , the Stillmans Cottage Bowmore Distillery , very nice it is too , probably the best of the 3 Distillery Cottages we’ve stayed in . After sorting out our stuff , getting a few supplies , having a Chinese Takeaway from across the road  and giving the Spa Bath a try , we hit the Lochside Hotel for a few drinks to end the night . Tonights Delights were Caol Ila 12 , Bunnahabhain 18 , Bowmore 15yo Darkest and ‘The Devils cask’ , I was very surprised about the last one as I was expecting to hate it after the recent hype .

We returned to the Cottage to have some well deserved rest after a long day……..

Part Two of the Visit
The Photographs….

Winter 2013 Visit

Just a short visit this time , a long weekend but every visit to Islay is worth it !

Thursday 28th February

Another early start to the day , very frosty and foggy on the way up to Glasgow but by the time we hit Lomond it was lovely and sunny , Just before getting to Kennacraig we had our customary stop at Tarbert for tea and cakes……

Tarbert(Took with a Blackberry Z10 and un-instagrammed !)

Melanie in tarbertThe Ferry across this time would be the Hebridean Isles as The Finlaggan was away on Winter Maintenance duty .

Hebridean IslesOnce on Islay we made our way to our residence this trip , the Bowmore Distillery Garden Cottage . After settling down and freshening up we made our way to The Lochside  to get a bite to eat and see the night out with a dram or two , unfortunately no Islay Ales tonight as they’d run and were waiting for new stock.

Friday 1st March

A new day , a new month ! A Beautiful morning , we went off down to Ardbeg leaving the car behind and getting the bus down (£4.70 return for those that are interested) . As it turned out this first time on an Islay visit we only used the car to get from the Ferry to the Accomodation then back to the ferry ! Bus and walked the rest of the time . It was good to catch up with everyone at Ardbeg , even though it was briefly with Jackie , after having a natter with Mickey and Emma we had lunch , the Cullen Skink was wonderful ! I won’t bother mentioning about the Ardbog as it’s been covered elsewhere on the web…… After lunch Margaret gave us a look around Ardbegs latest project , a holiday let ! You too could stay on the distillery site , it’s a beautifully furnished house (next to the managers ) , downstairs consists of 3 Bedrooms ( all ensuite , 2 doubles , 1 twin) and a rather posh bathroom . Upstairs there’s a combined Kitchen / Dining room with log burner and underfloor heating with a balcony with views across to Kintyre and Antrim , i’ll not say the price but it’s not your normal run of the mill holiday let……. details soon on the website…….

So it was back to Bowmore to freshen up and a look at the Japanese Garden we had access to from the cottage .

The Japanese Garden

The View down the garden (our cottage is the one with the patio doors)

Melanie at the Loch end of the Garden

Melanie at the Loch end of the Garden

Melanie on a stroll.....

Melanie on a stroll…..

Once again we headed out to the Lochside for a bite to eat and some refreshment…… The Islay Ales were back on ! A pint of Finlaggan if you please ! We finished off the night in the Schooner Bar of the Harbour Inn . Actually got to try the 2010 Feis Ile Caol Ila tonight , a cracking dram , wish i had a bottle…….

Saturday 2nd March

Quite an early start for a holiday , first up we were on the 10am tour of the Bowmore Distillery (in with the Cottage rental) , a very good tour by Heather , we also got to see Phil Gray working (some say a rarity……but i wouldn’t……) and became very popular with the tour , due to our presence ( i.e. cottage occupents ) the usual end of tour dram was changed from a 12yo to the 15yo Darkest as we get a bottle of it included in our let….. Lots of Woo-hoos all round ! So after making a few purchases in the Visitors Centre shop , great staff now btw after our experiences of a few years ago , we headed back to the cottage to change and go and meet Ella for Lunch at the Bowmore Hotel…….

The Bowmore Hotel was a place we hadn’t frequented a lot in the past (once in how many ever visits) and we got a bit of a shock this time when we went in , it’s been done out ! And very nicely too ! It was great to catch up with Ella , she’s doing really well after her recent hip replacement . The food was very tasty and flavoursome and it was good to see proper homemade chips ! After saying farewell we went off for a shop in Bowmore , some more supplies and bits and bobs purchased before heading back to the Cottage to get ready for the evenings fun and games .

Melanie ready to hit the Town !

Melanie ready to hit the Town !

We had a bite to eat in the Chinese Restaurant before heading off Back to The Lochside to watch Phil work , Twice in one day ! This’ll not do his reputation any good…… It was good to catch up with him and see him in action behind the bar , It turned out to be a really good night , Lots of Swedes (the people not the vegetables….. )in , had a good chat with Michael and  mob , and the patter was flying from behind the bar , we both said it ‘s the first time when we’ve been in the Lochside in recent years that it reminded us of when we stayed there under Alistair and Ann . After much 15yo darkest (i’ve took a shine to it….) we thought we best retire back to the Cottage as we had the morning ferry to get . Cheers Phil and Michaels Mob for the great night !

Sunday 3rd March

So it was off to Port Ellen for the 9.45am ferry , a lovely morning to end our flying visit . A Calmac Breakfast was on the menu to see us off on journey home , we didn’t really do a lot this visit ( apart from eat and drink by the look of it !) but it was a nice relaxing time without doing any walking or chasing photographs . Till the next time…….

For those that are intrested this is what the cottage looked like inside……..

The Sitting Room

The Sitting Room

The Main Bedroom

The Main Bedroom (there is another twin Bedroom)

The Kitchen

The Kitchen from the Patio Doors

The Kitchen

The Kitchen looking towards the pation doors

Details of the Cottages can be found at http://cottages.bowmore.co.uk/