Islay Classic Tours It's not just where you go, it's how you get there

It’s time to indulge yourself with a private guided tour of Islay, in the period luxury and comfort of a classic car, with a personal driver & tour guide. Sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Islay, the array of classic malt whisky distilleries, the historic sites and natural history of the Queen of the Hebrides. This is an experience to remember for a lifetime, let us take the strain! As your tour guide for your visit to Islay, we will take you on a journey, an adventure through Islay’s beautiful scenery, let you experience its ancient historical sites and it’s world famous whisky distilleries, with some general chatter on the history, current life and love for Islay along the way. Each our tour cars can take 3 or 4 people in comfort along with our fully insured driver/guide and are available to book for half-day, full day or multi-day hires as your holiday allows and can be tailored to your specific requirements. In addition, let us help you by providing luxury and comfort for your wedding day, with our stunning 1960 Vanden Plas Limousine, which can seat 6 passengers in comfort. As a small, family run company, we can easily devise bespoke tours, tailor made for you, which allows you to visit parts of Islay that are on your wish list and unique to you.

Classic Cars

Lord of The Isles , Queen of The Hebrides

Islay is an exceptional island. Once the ancestral seat of the Lords of the Isles, Islay is home to some of the worlds most famous whisky distilleries; iconic historic and religious sites and relics, it’s an ornithologists paradise and has striking beaches and natural beauty.

islay guided tours

Islay is the fifth-largest island in Scotland, it is 25 miles from north to south, and 15 miles from east to west. The most southerly of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, it is situated on the western side of the Kintyre peninsula.

Islay’s capital is Bowmore at the heart of the island (with its famous Round Church – which offers the Devil no corners to hide in) on the shore of Loch Indaal, with Port Ellen, Port Charlotte and Portnahaven the main other settlements. Islay has a population of just over 3,000 people – much lower than the 18,000 of the early 19th century!

islay guided tours

Enjoy Islay in Style

We have cars from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and the 1980s, which can be used for your classic adventure:

1959 Rover P4 100 The Rover P4 was classed as mid-sized luxury saloon car of its time. Produced from 1959 - 1962, only 16,521 cars were produced from the Rover production plant in Solihull in Warwickshire.. These 2.5L, 6 cylinder cars are a massive part of British car production history, the Rover brand is known worldwide, and were driven by professionals and royalty alike.

islay guided tours

1960 Vanden Plas Princess Limousine One of the most illustrious of Britain's coachbuilders, Vanden Plas, had been bought by Austin in 1946 and would be reinvented as a marque in its own right for 1960. The Vanden Plas Princess Limousine is a full six passenger car with extremely spacious rear accommodation, the princess is unsurpassed in offering a comfortable ride for the bridal party

1972 Vauxhall Victor FE The Vauxhall Victor is a larger than average family saloon of its time and were sold all over the world (it was originally christened The Transcontinental). General Motors, the American parent company definitely influenced the styling, with aspects of Buicks and Pontiacs appearing. A 2.3l engine provided plenty of power to carry a full family of passengers in smooth driving comfort. The FE was the last of the Victor models to be produced.

1983 Mercedes 230E No other car maker has stood the test of time as well as Mercedes-Benz. World renowned for their superb build quality, reliability and longevity. The Mercedes Benz 230E is one of a range of executive cars which were the most successful models made by the company. Highly configured for its time, these cars represented reliable luxury for the business professionals.

Please note: the cars we use are older vehicles and sometimes they get a little tired and need to spend some time recovering in the garage, getting some TLC and repairs. If your chosen car is not available on the day of your booking, we will look to substitute it with another vintage car, but failing that we will have a modern vehicle available to ensure your planned itinerary can still take place.

Customised Tours Looking for something unique? We can make that happen, with a specially created tour plan just for you! E-mail us your specific desires and we will send you a tour proposal which we can discuss and refine until it’s perfect for you. Ready to go Tours Planned tours which suit different durations and themes for your trip. Packed with local info to make the most of your trip. • Islay Distilleries tour • Islay Historic tour • Islay Scenic tour • Classic Islay Tour (combines elements of all the above)! • Wedding Hire Gift Tokens Buy your loved one a gift voucher to let them enjoy a half or whole day experience Get in touch to discuss in more detail for the duration of your trip. Islay Classic Tours is based on Islay, but offers bespoke tours all over Scotland – get in touch with us to discuss your requirements (see below). Visit us on TripAdvisor and leave a review: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction Review-g186582-d26688163-Reviews-Islay Classic Tours-Islay The Hebrides Scotland.html

Booking your tour

Its simple, either drop us an e-mail on [email protected] or give us a call on +44(0)7376702440 and let us know what you would like to do and when you would like to do it.

Additional Costs

Part-day and multi-day clients are responsible for their own overnight accommodation etc as required. Mainland tours require the charges of the driver/guide accommodation and subsistence on a per night basis, as per the client.

Cancellation Policy: Upon booking your tour, we require a non-refundable deposit to confirm the booking.

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Skye Travels

7 Distilleries on the Best Islay Tour with Highland Explorers

Highland Explorer Islay Tour at Ardbeg Distillery

I’ve always wanted to do an Isle of Islay tour, and attending the Whisky and Music Festival with Highland Explorer Tours was easily the best option. As I’ve stated before, I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, but I was really happy to sample different whiskies from seven of the nine distilleries on Islay, not to mention all the other attractions, food, and stories on the tour.

As good as the whisky and the island were, the 4-day Islay Whisky and Music Tour with Highland Explorer was so much more.

Table of Contents

Visiting the Isle of Islay from Edinburgh

As a quick geography lesson, the Isle of Islay is one of the southwesternmost islands of Scotland, only about 30 miles from Northern Ireland. In a nutshell, off the west coast of Scotland are the Hebrides, which are divided into the Outer Hebrides and the Inner Hebrides. The Outer Hebrides have the Isle of Lewis and Harris at the top and several more small islands extending to the south. The main island in the Inner Hebrides is the Isle of Skye, but there are plenty of more beautiful islands.

Some examples of prominent islands in the Inner Hebrides are the Isle of Mull, Isle of Iona, Isle of Jura, and Staffa Isle where you can find Fingal’s Cave. These islands can be reached by ferry leaving from Oban. The Isle of Arran is sheltered in a bay with a ferry from Ardrossan, just a bit west of Glasgow. And then there’s the Isle of Islay (pronounced eye-luh ), which you can get to with a ferry from Kennacraig.

It certainly is possible to rent your own car and get out to Islay, but expenses will quickly mount up. The car rental, fuel, ferry costs, accommodations, etc. aren’t cheap these days. As such, a much better option would be to take a bus tour. And I think the best Islay tour is with Highland Explorer.

If you’d like to book your tour , you can use booking code SKYETRAVELS10 to get a 10% discount.

Islay Whisky Distilleries

Currently, there are nine Islay distilleries – ten if you count Port Ellen which closed in 1983 but will re-open later in 2023. There are also two more distilleries scheduled to open in the near future, bringing the total up to twelve.

As part of our Islay Whisky and Music Festival Tour, we visited seven of the nine distilleries. For Fèis Ìle, or Islay Festival, each of the nine distilleries has an open day over nine days. As we were only on the island for three nights and two full days, we only made it to two of the open days (we missed the Bowmore open day by minutes), but we visited another five distilleries to see how they compared.

The only two distilleries we missed were Ardnahoe – Islay’s newest distillery (I don’t think they have any bottles for sale yet) and Caol Ila (pronounced cull-eeluh) – Islay’s largest distillery. After all, there’s only so much you can do in two days.

Ardbeg Stills

The first distillery we visited was Ardbeg, at the end of the Three Distilleries Walk. That’s a path from Port Ellen which passes through Laphroig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg. At the distillery, we received a full tour of the operations and got to sample three different Ardbeg whiskies. Annoyingly, I didn’t get the names of all three, but the last was called Uigeadail, which won best whisky in 2021. All three were quite smooth and a little sweet, which was rather different than others we tried on the tour.

We learned some interesting facts on the tour about how Ardbeg stands out from other distilleries. After all, as of this writing, there are 143 whisky distilleries in Scotland, all trying to do something different, but also working together with blended whiskies. One thing that’s unique about Ardbeg is that it’s owned by Glenmorangie, which in turn is owned by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy). In other words, the owners of Louis Vuitton also own this distillery.

I was particularly interested in visiting Ardbeg, as one of the stops I go to on the food tour I give in Edinburgh – The Whiski Rooms – is an Ardbeg Embassy. So I finally got a bit of reality on the distillery and its whiskies.

Lagavulin has been around since 1816, and now is part of Diageo. Diageo has 132 sites around the world, including Caol Ila on Islay, Talisker on the Isle of Skye, Johnnie Walker, and, of course, Guinness beer in Ireland.

As the distillation process is basically the same from one distillery to the next, we didn’t do a tour of the facilities. Instead, we went into the beautiful tasting room where and learned about their different expressions. This was the only distillery that didn’t provide a free sample, although a couple guests on the tour purchased a sample of a rare bottle.

This is the southernmost distillery on Islay, at least until the Port Ellen distillery reopens later this year. Laphroaig is a bit different from the other distilleries in the way it smokes peat over the malted barley to create a heavily peated whisky. Oddly, I found many distilleries are a bit secretive about how long they smoke peat over the barley, but Laphroaig says it’s over 17 hours per batch.

Kilchoman Open Day

Kilchoman (pronounced kil-ho-man ) is the only independent distillery on Islay. We arrived for their open day full of activities. With a bagpipe rock band playing in the background, we toured around the distillery sampling three different bottles, all of which were surprisingly nice. There was a large room with barley on the ground we could practice raking and evening out, and a photo spot with Cask #1 from 2005 when they opened.

My one regret was the regular cafe with their world-famous Cullen skink was closed and they had a separate food stand set up, which ran out of food just before we arrived. But the showroom was also really nice (bigger than any other distillery), and I liked learning how they keep their entire production on Islay, using barley from the nearby farms.

Vanesa at Bowmore

We just missed the Bowmore open day the evening we arrived, but I’m glad we returned later on for a quick visit. The Bowmore 12 turned out to be one of my favorite whiskies on Islay. It was super smooth and had virtually no burn at the back of the throat. All the flavor was at the tip of my tongue, which is my favorite kind of whisky.

The tasting room at Bowmore was also beautiful, with a fantastic view overlooking the bay. Technically every distillery on Islay (except for Kilchoman) overlooks a bay, but the open floor plan, historical information displays about the distillery, and great samples really stood out.

Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich (pronounced  brew-ick-la-dee ) was our first distillery stop on day two after we went to the American Monument. This distillery has four main brands – Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore whiskies, and The Botanist gin. Each brand is quite different. Bruichladdich is one of the only non-peated whiskies from Islay, and Octomore is one of the most peated.

The Botanist is an incredible gin (more to my liking than the whisky) with over 30 botanicals added, more than 20 of which are locally foraged on Islay. Vanesa also loved the Octomore 13.4, a whisky only available at the distillery and with a peat level of 180 parts per million. We got a little of both to take home with us, but the £200 bottle was slightly out of our budget.

Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain Distillery

Our final distillery was Bunnahabhain (pronounced bu-na-ha-vin ) for their open day. This is the northernmost distillery on Islay, located across the straight from the Isle of Jura. There were several activities, most of which had to be purchased. We missed out on the whisky workshop and chose not to go on a boat tour, exploring the distillery instead.

The Bunnahabhain Distillery is unique on Islay in that it isn’t peated (like the one brand at Bruichladdich). The flavor was surprisingly smooth. Unfortunately, after a couple dozen samples in two days, I was getting a little full of whisky. But I would have still loved to do that whisky workshop.

Other Attractions on the Islay Whisky Tour

While our Islay tour was focused on the distilleries, we had several other stops, particularly on the drive out to Islay and then on the way back. Many of the stops were places I’d never seen in all my other trips and tours around Scotland. As I keep saying, there’s just so much to see and do in this country.

Our first stop was the quaint village of Luss on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. I’ve passed by on the highway countless times but never actually stopped in the village, which only has a population of about 450. It’s your quintessential Scottish village with beautiful little cottages, an ancient church, a pier for boat trips, and a handful of cafes and a pub for snacks or a meal.

Inveraray feels more like a small town than a village, even though population-wise it’s almost as small as Luss. The difference is the establishments set up for tourists, and the stunning castle built on the outskirts of the town. This was the lunch stop of the tour. We’d heard about the world-famous Loch Fyne oysters served at the pubs, but we chose a traditional Scottish Breakfast for lunch at Brambles of Inveraray instead.

I would have loved to visit the castle, but we were in a rush to catch the ferry as the later departure had been canceled and we had to catch the earlier sailing. At least I had time to get a bit of drone footage.

American Monument

This is quite a unique site on Islay. In 1918, over 500 US servicemen lost their lives when two military vessels sank at sea, one from a German torpedo and the other from a collision with another ship in a thick fog. The monument is like a windmill without sails, looking out to sea. These were just two of the countless ships that sank around the perilous Western Isles of Scotland over the centuries.

After visiting Kilchoman on the second day, we went to the end of the single-track road to Machir Bay, a beautiful beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Everyone else went for the view, but I couldn’t help myself. I stripped down to my small clothes to go for a plunge in the waves. At least I had a towel with me.

Dunadd Fort

After a quick breakfast stop at Lochgilphead on the fourth and final day of our tour, we had a stop at Dunadd Fort. A fort was built at this site 2,000 years ago and was used until the mid-16th century by Gaelic kings. Historic Environment Scotland did a great job setting up information displays across the site, which is open year-round and free to visit.

Nether Largie Standing Stones

These standing stones make Dunadd Fort seem new. They were erected around 5,000 years ago, although the purpose of them is still hotly contested. I loved feeling the millennia of history here. If you’re an Outlander fan (as Vanesa is) or a lover of history, this is a great stop.

This is one of the best towns in western Scotland, and our lunch stop on the last day. There are plenty of places to go for lunch, but I think the best is the Oban Seafood Hut across from the ferry terminal. Some of the freshest seafood and also really good prices (the best combination). Just be prepared for a long line when you go.

If you have more time, you can climb to the top of the hill to see McCaig’s Tower, which looks like a mini Colosseum. My 5-Day Highlands Tour with Haggis Adventures also stopped in Oban and I have a full description of the town in that article.

Our final stop on our tour was in Glencoe, one of the most beautiful valleys in the UK. Nearly every tour passes through Glencoe and for good reason. The scenery is stunning. As usual, we only stopped for a few minutes for some photos. Someday I need to visit there for a few hours and hike up to the top of the trails.

Meals and Accommodations on the Islay Tour

The highlight of our Islay tour was certainly the distilleries, followed by the other attractions and sites, but room and board are also important. We had some great meals on our trip, plus all three nights at the same hotel in Port Ellen on Islay.

No. 1 Charlotte Street

Unlike any other tour I’ve had in Scotland, every night of our tour of Islay was spent at the same hotel – No. 1 Charlotte in Port Ellen. This is where the ferry should have arrived and departed from, but the fleet was minimized on our tour and we had to use Port Askaig at the top of the island instead.

The room was small but very comfortable. We slept like babes in the bed (or maybe that was the whisky). As with many old buildings in Scotland, the thick stone walls made our room completely soundproof, even with a bar downstairs. We had a lovely view of the bay, but the best part was the breakfast in the morning. A nice continental breakfast was laid out for us, and we had a form to fill out for a hot Scottish breakfast as well. In short, we were well fed before our whisky tastings.

On our first night, we went to Bowmore for dinner. We had a dinner booked at the Bowmore Hotel the following night so we searched for another option. That was the same day that Bowmore Distillery had its open day and the village was packed, but we managed to get some takeaway pizzas from Peatzeria to eat out on the pier. The pizzas were surprisingly good – more American style than Italian – and quite large. If you’re looking for some comfort food on Islay, this is your stop.

Bowmore Hotel

The following night, we had a very nice, three-course dinner at the Bowmore Hotel. I had a proper Scottish burger topped with black pudding and caramelized onions. But the highlight of the Bowmore Hotel was the whisky selection. The menu was several dozen pages long! If there’s any rare whisky you’ll looking to try, you’ll probably be able to find it at the Bowmore Hotel.

Bridgend Hotel

Our final meal on Islay was at the Bridgend Hotel, a finalist as Scotland’s Best Country Hotel in 2023. The meal was certainly on par with the award. You can usually get the best seafood in the coastal towns and islands in Scotland, and the fish and chips here were perfect. Yet still no Cullen skink. That’s for the next time I’m at Kilchoman.

Why Highland Explorer Has the Best Islay Tour

Renting a car to get to the Isle of Islay is always an option. It gives you the freedom of going where you want, when you want. On the other hand, having a tour guide makes all the difference, and Rich was incredible as a guide. He was a wealth of information, both historical facts and personal anecdotes, and made our Islay tour so much more fun.

Taking a tour with Highland Explorer is also far more economical. Except in a few circumstances, you will always get a better deal on a tour than paying for everything separately. The car rental, fuel, ferry tickets, accommodations, and some entrance fees really start to add up. Lastly, taking a tour takes the headache out of the planning, and you can just sit back and enjoy the experience.

While my tour was special for Fèis Ìle , the Islay Whisky Festival, Highland Explorer has other Islay tour packages . In 2023, there is a tour coming up on September 15th. The tours include everything I’ve detailed above, barring some change in circumstances if something isn’t available. The Islay tour price is variable, so check the website for the current information.

Further Reading

Looking for another tour of Scotland? Here are some other tours to consider with Haggis Adventures:

  • My Amazing Week on the Hebridean Hopper with Haggis Adventures
  • The Perfect 5-Day Highlands Tour with Haggis Adventures
  • An Honest Review of the Whisky, Warriors and Waterfalls Tour with Haggis Adventures

Hi, I'm Skye. Writer, photographer, adventurer, foodie, teacher, masseur, friend, dreamer, etc. I think "normal" sucks. Let's aim for extraordinary. SkyeTravels seeks to find the good around the world, focusing on adventures, food and wellness. Be inspired. Be yourself.

Is the Florence Food Tour a Great Value? – An Honest Review

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Old casks in Bowmore Distillery's vaults

ISLAY Whisky Distillery Tours + Map: Visit ALL 9

Interested in Islay whisky distillery tours? With 9 working distilleries – all with unique seasons, hours and tours – it’s a bit tricky to plan an efficient trip to tour them all. Here’s everything you need in one place: a helpful table with 2020 visitor information, distillery summaries and suggested itineraries to plan that amazing trip.

Interested in visiting other scotch whisky distilleries? Check out SPEYSIDE Whisky Distilleries: 16 to Visit and Why .

Islay is certainly well known for its smoky peated whisky. Many of its single malts are sought-after around the world, and many are prominent in famous blends like Johnny Walker. Islay also has experimental whiskies, a farm-to-scotch distillery, and a brand-new modern distillery. It’s a fun time for Islay whisky distillery tours!

Now, visiting Islay was my husband’s pick. But Islay stole my heart. Its rugged hills, covered in sheep and shaggy highland cows. Achingly beautiful shorelines lined with proud white-washed warehouses. 

And that peated whisky. Just like the locals, Islay’s scotch whisky warms you through and through, right to your soul. (I suggest sipping it. Slowly.)

ISLAY Scotch Whisky Distilleries: Visit them all!

  • MAP: Islay Whisky Distilleries, Sights and Accommodations  
  • TABLE: Islay Whisky Distillery Tours & Visitor Information
  • SOUTH Islay Whisky Distilleries: Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg

CENTRAL Islay Whisky Distillery: Bowmore

  • NORTH Islay Whisky Distilleries: Coal Ila, Ardnahoe and Bunnahabhain

WEST Islay Whisky Distilleries: Bruichladdich and Kilchoman

  • BONUS: Isle of Jura Distillery and Port Ellen Re-Opening

Summary and Resources

But first … 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

TIPS to tour all 9 Islay whisky distilleries:

  • Book tours/tastings in advance . All Islay (and Jura) whisky distilleries have interesting special tours. Pick your favorites and plan your trip around them. Note: children aren’t allowed into production areas, and some distilleries don’t allow them on tours at all. 
  • Best time to visit Islay is May to early July, during the week. In spring/early summer, Islay whisky distilleries are open more days and offer more variety of tours. Plus, the weather is sunniest and warmest. From mid-July to mid-August, some Islay distilleries close for maintenance and have reduced tour options. Also, many special tours are only offered on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Feis Ile/Islay Festival (last week of May): D istillery tours will change during this annual festival . If visiting during this week, check schedules in late March.
  • Flights from Glasgow to Islay (via Loganair): You typically have two daily options during weekdays (arriving by 9am or 6pm) and one daily on the weekend (arriving by 9am on Saturday or 4pm on Sunday). Flights depart shortly after these arrive.
  • Islay is a small island. No two distilleries are more than a 45-minute drive from each other. Bowmore is central, and the airport is about 10 minutes south of Bowmore.
  • Designate a driver. Scotland has lower legal blood alcohol levels for drivers compared to other areas of the UK and the US (at .05%). So, designate a driver, use Islay’s bus system, or hire a friendly taxi to take you around. Visitor centers often give DDs a 50mL miniature to enjoy later.

MAP: Islay Whisky Distilleries, Sights and Recommended Accommodations

Get a sense of where everything is with this Islay whisky distilleries map. It includes key tourist sights and accommodations to check out.

TABLE: Islay Whisky Distillery Tours – Visitor Information

*Note: Children are generally not allowed in production areas; check details before you book.

SOUTH Islay Whisky Distilleries: Laphroaig, Lagavulin & Ardbeg  

Lagavulin Distillery welcomes visitors to Islay

Let’s start in south Islay, as these Islay whisky distilleries are closest to the airport and likely among your must-do tours.

The Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg distilleries are collectively known as the Kildalton Distilleries and within 5 minutes of each other. From April through October, these three Islay whisky distilleries are open 7 days a week. They also offer some very interesting tours, like a bog walk, chocolate pairing, and a hike and picnic to their water source.

About 15 minutes up the road from Ardbeg is the pretty Claggain Bay. Along the way, stop at the Kildalton Church and Cross (the oldest Celtic cross in all of Scotland).

On your way back to central Islay, stop at Mull of Oa. Drive the rugged road to the end (don’t be deterred by the single-track road that leads to the car park!). Then, make the easy 15-minute hike to the American Monument tribute to WWI sailors. Breathe in the fresh salty air and rugged cliff views.  

Suggested itinerary for South Islay whisky distillery tours:

  • 10am distillers wares tour at Laphroaig (2hrs)
  • Lunch and 2pm table tasting at Ardbeg
  • 3pm sister whisky and chocolate tasting at Lagavulin (1hr)
  • Tour Claggain Bay, Kildalton Church and Cross, and Mull of Oa

islay guided tours

Laphroaig Distillery

Founded in 1815, Laphroaig Distillery (pronounced laFROIG) is now Islay’s best-selling scotch whisky. Its style has evolved over the years from fruity to tobacco. 

Laphroaig Distillery has a small but welcoming visitor’s center, tasting bar and museum. Its website is laphroaig.com .

Interesting special tours at Laphroaig Distillery include:

  • 4.5-hour malt, maturation and memories tour (maximum 8 people; distillery tour, tasting, bottling, hike and picnic lunch; £130), offered at 11:30am.

Lagavulin Distillery

Lagavulin Distillery (pronounced lagaVOOlin) was founded in 1816 as a direct rival to its neighbor, Laphroaig. Lagavulin’s distillation process makes a “rich and meaty” spirit, by running its stills very full (reducing contact with the copper) and with a slow distillation.

Check out Lagavulin Distillery’s virtual tour by Google Street View, below! Just imagine sipping a dram in one of their comfy lounge chairs (located behind the storefront; it’s truly as cozy as it looks). Explore the grounds, still house and one of the warehouses (it’s a treasure hunt looking for open doors). For more information on touring Lagavulin Distillery, visit malts.com .

Interesting special tours at Lagavulin Distillery include:

  • 1-hour sister whisky and chocolate tasting, offered Monday-Saturday at 3pm.
  • 1-hour sensory experience with tasting kit (5 whisky samples and 7 aromas/flavours), offered Tuesdays/Thursdays at 1:30pm and Saturdays at 10:30am.

Ardbeg Distillery

Ardbeg Distillery opened in 1815 and is famed for being one of Islay’s most heavily peated whiskies. After closures in the 1980s-90s, The Glenmorangie Company bought Ardbeg in 1997. Ardbeg continues to produce the heavily peated whisky it’s famous for.

Ardbeg Distillery provides a very personal-style of tour with many options, depending on the season. Its cafe is a great place to grab a bite to eat, and we really enjoyed the table tastings, available between 10am-noon/2-4pm.

Now you can stay right at Ardbeg! Formerly the manager’s house, up to 6 adults can stay in this renovated Seaview Cottage on Ardbeg grounds. 

Shut-down for scheduled maintenance is in December and January ; if coming during this time, check in advance on what’s available. Details are on ardbeg.com .

Interesting special tours at Ardbeg Distillery include:

  • 3-hour bog walk (includes picnic lunch; £65), offered Wednesdays at 11am.
  • 1.5-hour bus top tour (bus, tastings and chocolate; £65), offered Fridays at 5:30pm.
  • 1-hour C6H5OH smokin’ tasting (to learn about smoke; £35), offered Monday-Friday at 11:30am (spring/fall only).
  • Table tastings at the cafe, offered 10-noon and 2-4pm.

islay guided tours

Bowmore Distillery is the only distillery in central Islay and is located right in Bowmore. Founded in 1779, Bowmore is Islay’s first recorded distillery and second best-selling whisky.

Bowmore Distillery is one of the few distilleries in Scotland that malts some of its own barley and matures a lot of its whisky on Islay … including in the famous No. 1 Vaults that are below sea level. Its whiskies have a fruity character with light smokiness, plus a 1980s expression that’s floral.

Chances are, you’ll have to compromise one of the other suggested itineraries to tour Bowmore. This popular distillery’s 1-hour main tour and 3-hour vaults tour (weekdays only) are offered mid-morning and mid-afternoon, so you could start or end another itinerary at Bowmore. 

You can stay right on the Bowmore grounds in their very comfortable cabins. Once home to distillery workers, these cottages are now spacious and cozy 1-bedroom to 4-bedroom accommodations.

Shut-down for regular maintenance at Bowmore Distillery is mid-July to mid-August , but special tours are still available. For details, visit bowmore.com .

Interesting special tours of Bowmore Distillery include:

  • 5-hour laggan, lade and legendary no.1 vaults tour (hike to water source, lunch and in-depth tour; £130), offered on specific Wednesdays/Fridays from March to September at 10:30am.

NORTH Islay Whisky Distilleries: Coal Ila, Ardnahoe & Bunnahabhain  

Bunnahabhain Distillery on the waterfront from its pier

North Islay’s whisky distilleries are right along the Sound of Islay, with a rough rocky coastline and fantastic views of Jura. Be prepared to stop along the windy scenic road up to Bunnahabhain. On your way back to central Islay, take a 5-minute detour to visit the ruins along Loch Finlaggan, which was the seat of power for the Lords of the Isles. 

Suggested itinerary for North Islay whisky distillery tours:

  • 9:30am express tour and 10am blending experience at Ardnahoe (2.5hrs), plus lunch
  • 2pm maturation warehouse tasting at Bunnahabhain (1.5hrs)
  • Coal Ila: Contact distillery for tour times of chocolate and whisky tasting (1hr)
  • Jura: Consider the 3pm Wood, Casks and Whisky on Mon/Wed/Fri or 4pm Wee Look; give yourself about 30 minutes to get there
  • Stop at Loch Finlaggan on your way back to central Islay

Coal Ila Distillery

Coal Ila Distillery (pronounced COOL-eelah) was founded in 1846 but has literally rebuilt itself a few times since then. Its “light and flinty style” comes from low fills in the stills. The distillery is located down a steep bank from the road, with very pretty views of the Sound of Islay towards the Isle of Jura.

Coal Ila is the largest producing distillery on Islay. It produces both peated and unpeated single malts, and is a key ingredient in Diageo’s blends (i.e. Johnnie Walker). But, if you’ve had a chance to taste a Coal Ila whisky, you know its single malts stand strong all on their own.

After being closed for construction over winter, Coal Ila is re-opening to visitors in 2020. Find more information at  malts.com .

Interesting special tours at Coal Ila Distillery include:

  • 60-minute luxury chocolate and whisky tasting (5 expressions, including unpeated; £23); contact the distillery to reserve. 
  • 90-minute cask strength tour (2 exclusive distillery-only releases and 3 from cask; £27); contact the distillery to reserve. 

Ardnahoe Distillery

The newest of Islay’s distilleries is Ardnahoe Distillery, which opened to the public in April 2019. By November 2019, Ardnahoe already welcomed 24,000 visitors and received Visit Scotland’s five-star grading (one of only two distilleries on Islay). First runs of distillation began in October 2018 and the first cask was filled in November 2018. 

Its restaurant, The Illicit Still, is open every day, but with reduced afternoon hours on Sunday. This distillery is fully accessible, and various tours and tastings are available depending on the season and day. For more details, visit ardnahoedistillery.com .

Interesting special tours at Ardnahoe Distillery include:

  • 2-hour manager’s tour (in-depth tour with the distillery manager; £70), offered Tuesdays at 10am.
  • 2-hour blending experience (tutored session on how to blend whisky; £95), offered weekdays at 10am.
  • Tastings of whiskies from different regions, including a 1-hour (Monday-Saturday at 3pm; £70) and 90-minute (minimum 4 people, by appointment; £150).

Bunnahabhain Distillery

Bunnahabhain Distillery (pronounced boonaHAAven) is Islay’s most remote distillery. But, it’s at the end of a windy scenic road. This Islay whisky distillery was established in 1881, along with the nearby village of Bunnahabhain that was created for distillery workers. 

Bunnahabhain is best known for its unpeated whisky, but now has a well-received smoky whisky named Margadale. Learn more at bunnahabhain.com .

Interesting special tours of Bunnahabhain Distillery include:

  • 90-minute maturation warehouse tour (New Make Spirit, then 3yo, 7yo, 12yo and 20yo tastings; £75), offered daily at 2pm.
  • 90-minute ultimate Bunnahabhain tour (older whiskies, special releases and Warehouse 9 drams; £250), offered Tuesdays/Thursdays at 4:30pm or by appointment.
  • Fill your own bottle from the cask at the visitor’s center.

Bruichladdich Distillery beckons Islay visitors into its gates

From Bowmore, Bruichladdich is a 15-minute drive and Kilchoman a 25-minute drive. It’s about 15 minutes between Bruichladdich and Kilchoman distilleries. Kilchoman is tucked away on the west coast near Machir Bay, which is considered one of Britain’s best beaches and a fantastic spot to watch the sun set. But swimming isn’t advised because of the strong undercurrents.

South of Bruichladdich is Port Charlotte and Portnahaven, right at Islay’s southwest tip. It takes about 45 minutes to drive the loop back up to Port Charlotte. Give yourself time to stop at Portahaven’s An Tigh Seinnse (11 Queen St) and to watch the fishing boats. Another treat is making friends with the neighborhood sheep, horses and highland cows!

Suggested itinerary for West Islay whisky distillery tours:

  • 11am in-depth tour at Kilchoman (2.5hrs), plus a quick bite at the cafe
  • 2pm tour and 3pm tasting at Bruichladdich (1hr each)
  • Port Charlotte loop with dinner at Portnahaven, and sunset at Machir Bay

Bruichladdich Distillery

Since it was founded in 1881, Bruichladdich Distillery (pronounced BROOìch-LADDich) has changed owners many times and has been closed many times. In 2000, it was reborn as a fiercely local and independent operation. Local barley is used when possible; all of its whisky matures on Islay; and, bottling is done on Islay. Bruichladdich uses the original 1881 mash tun, longer fermentation and slow distillation.

Considering how peaty a lot of Islay’s whiskies are, it’s kinda hilarious to read a Bruichladdich scotch described as “ridiculously smoky” and “testing the limits of the barley-peating process.” If this is what you’re looking for, it’s called Octomore! Details are at bruichladdich.com .

Interesting special tours of Bruichladdich Distillery include:

  • 45-minute botanist tour (reclaimed whisky still to create Islay’s first dry gin), offered daily at 1pm. Combine this with a 1-hour cocktail-making class on Wednesdays/Saturdays at 2pm.

Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman Distillery was established in 2005 at Rockside Farm, and has a unique concept. Kilchoman grows its grain, malts it, uses it to make whisky, and even bottles much of it, too … Islay’s only farm-to-scotch distillery. Its farm doesn’t produce enough grain, so outside malt is used, too. BUT, unique to Kilchoman is its 100% Islay whisky.

Because of Kilchoman’s unique farm-to-scotch operation, it’s a terrific tour to take in. Consider the more in-depth 2-hour daily distillery tour at 11am (£35) or the special tour on Thursdays (details below). Its website is kilchomandistillery.com .

  • 2.5-hour whisky and wilderness tour (farm and distillery tour; £35), offered April to September on Thursdays at 11am.

BONUS: Isle of Jura Distillery and Port Ellen Re-opening

Isle of jura distillery .

Isle of Jura Distillery originally opened in 1810 but, like so many Islay distilleries, closed for quite some time. It reopened in 1963 and produces a style similar to Highland scotches, with some experimental peated scotches from the 1990s. Jura is a rugged island, with 200 locals and plenty of roaming deer.

It’s easy to combine a trek up to Isle of Jura Distillery with your visit to North Islay’s distilleries. Catch the ferry from Port Askaig (just south of Coal Ila Distillery) over to Jura, then head over to Isle of Jura Distillery in Craighouse. It’s a 5-minute ferry ride (less than £30 return for car and 4 passengers) and a 15-minute drive up to Craighouse.

Visitor information for Isle of Jura Distillery:

  • High season (Apr-Oct): Open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm; closed Sunday
  • Low season (Nov-Mar): Open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm; closed Saturday and Sunday; daily and tasting tours only
  • Tours: Daily at 11am, 2pm and 4pm (in winter, no 4pm); each day features either a tasting (10am) or special tour (3pm)

Note: Isle of Jura Distillery shuts down for summer maintenance from mid-July to mid-August ; if visiting during this time, connect with them on what’s available. Visit jurawhisky.com for details.

Port Ellen Distillery Re-opening

When this 1824 distillery closed its doors in 1983, its increasingly rare scotch whiskies became the most sought after in the world. And pricey. On thewhiskyexchange.com , the Port Ellen 1981 33 year old fetches and handsome £7000!

Port Ellen Distillery’s young spirits were rough. You were recommended to “put it down in a oner” and chase it with water to “put the fire out.” But, it matured into a highly-appreciated, complex peaty spirit. 

And soon, Port Ellen Distillery will be up and running again! In 2018, Diageo received approval to re-open Port Ellen Distillery. Plans include restoring original 1819 buildings and constructing a new still house, to retain Port Ellen’s character while enabling it to experiment. Port Ellen Distillery was originally slated to restart production in 2021. Although delayed, The Herald Scotland reports a new manager was hired to get production going in 2023.

Touring Ardbeg Distillery in Islay

Nine scotch distilleries on Islay … plus one on Jura. This is one delicious adventure!

I hope this has been helpful in planning your Islay whisky distillery tours. If at any time you feel a little whiskied-out, just pull over and start talking to the friendly island animals … they really are SO cute!

Here are some helpful resources in planning your Islay whisky distillery tours and Islay visit:

  • Islay tourism: IslayInfo.com ,  VisitScotland.com and Islay.com distilleries  
  • Whisky reviews: TheWhiskyExchange.com and ralfydotcom (YouTube)  
  • LostDistillery.com: Its Isle of Islay page lists 14 lost distilleries, some with ruins you can visit
  • TripAdvisor.com for reviews on activities and accommodations on Islay
  • Booking.com for hotels: Lochside Hotel is in central Bowmore, warm and super friendly with delicious food right on the water.  Machrie Hotel & Golf Links is a 4-star golf and spa resort in southern Port Ellen, with onsite restaurant, bar and afternoon tea in the lounge. 
  • Find pretty coastal hikes  in Islay on AllTrails .

For private guided tours of Islay whisky distilleries, check out:

  • Custom private tours of Islay’s distilleries: Both Islay Whisky Tours (through Bowmore Taxi Service) and Islay Taxis offer customized private tours of Islay to hit your priority distilleries and other local sights.
  • North Islay Whisky Tour (£125/person): Tastings, lunch and chocolate pairing (brilliant!) at North Islay’s 3 distilleries. Offered April to October on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. 
Remember to SHARE this post with your TRAVEL COMPANIONS!

Other posts you may be interested in:

  • SPEYSIDE Scotch: 16 Whiskey Distilleries to Visit and Why  
  • 36+ Fantastic Stops from LONDON to EDINBURGH  
  • How to Survive AFTER a RED-EYE to LONDON with your Partner   (but these tips work with other travel companions, too)

ISLAY Scotch Whisky Distilleries: Visit them all!

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Top Tours in Islay, Scotland

Islay tours.

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1. 4-Day Islay & Whisky Tour Including Admissions from Edinburgh

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2. 4-day Islay Platinum Whisky Tour - Whisky Included! With free pickup!

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3. 4 Day Islay Whisky Tour from Edinburgh

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4. 4 Day Islay Whisky Tour from Edinburgh

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5. 5 Day Islay Whisky Tour from Edinburgh

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6. 4-Day Islay Whisky Tour from Glasgow

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7. 9 Days Private Malt Whisky Tour in Scotland

Keep the fun going with other experiences in the area.

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GREENOCK (GLASGOW) SHORE EXCURSION: Scotland Adventure Sightseeing Day Trip Tour

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Oban Town Daily Walking Tour (10:30am)

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Scotland Lochs & Glens Day Tour

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Half Day Tour from Greenock to the Highlands and Loch Lomond

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Glasgow and Greenock day tours and shore excursions.

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Guided Hebridean Farm Hike near Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland

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Ballycastle Traditional Music Trail

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Surf Lessons

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Historical Tour and Seafood Experience

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One Day Private Sailing from Oban Marina with Lunch

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Full-Day Private Historical Tour in Glencoe from Oban

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Private Oban Town Tour

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Inverary Castle, Historic Sights and Scenic Beauty from Oban

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Glasgow Shore Excursions (Princess & Norwegian Cruise Ships)

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Under the Rope Bridge Tour

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Family Package (2 Adults, 2 Children)

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Giants Causeway Coast Sea Kayaking

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Elephant Rock Paddle (2 hours)

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Doon The Watter

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Shipwreck Hunters

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Full Day Private Hire

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Full Day Electric Bike Rental

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Half Day Private Hire

What travellers are saying.

Phil Bacon

  • 4-Day Islay & Whisky Tour from Edinburgh Including Admissions
  • 4 Day Islay Whisky Tour from Edinburgh
  • 4-day Islay Platinum Whisky Tour - Whisky Included! With free pickup!
  • 4-Day Islay Whisky Tour from Glasgow
  • Kayak Wild Islay
  • Islay Sea Adventures
  • Islay Tours & Private Hire
  • Islay Encounters
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  • Lagavulin Distillery
  • Islay Whisky Tours & Bowmore Taxi Service
  • Islay Woollen Mill

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Islay Island Tours & Trips

Find the right tour for you through Islay Island. We've got 16 adventures going to Islay Island, starting from just 4 days in length, and the longest tour is 17 days. The most popular month to go is October, which has the largest number of tour departures.

16 Islay Island tour packages with 21 reviews

4-Day Islay & the Whisky Coast Small-Group Tour from Edinburgh Including Admissions Tour

  • In-depth Cultural
  • Coach / Bus

4-Day Islay & the Whisky Coast Small-Group Tour from Edinburgh Including Admissions

Fantastic time! Billy did a great job of getting us to the distilleries without making us feel rushed. Plus, he was an excellent guide. I will recommend this to everyone!

4 Day Islay Whisky Tour Tour

4 Day Islay Whisky Tour

Great trip great guide.

Whisky Coast & Loch Lomond - 4 days Tour

Whisky Coast & Loch Lomond - 4 days

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Whisky Coast & Loch Lomond (Hotel) - 4 days

5 Day Ultimate Islay Tour

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Scotland: Land of Lore & Legend  (Glasgow to Edinburgh) (2023) Tour

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Wild Scotland & Whisky Explorer - 8 days Tour

Wild Scotland & Whisky Explorer - 8 days

Scottish Islands Encompassed - 17 days Tour

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Whisky Coast & Scottish Islands  - 12 days Tour

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The Scottish Isles – Highlights of the Hebrides Tour

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Remote Islands, Natural Wonders & a Diverse Coastline Tour

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My Week as a Distiller in Scotland including Certification Tour

My Week as a Distiller in Scotland including Certification

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Island Hopping in the Hebrides

What people love about islay island tours.

Amazing trip! Keith was an awesome tour guide and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Majit was a superb guide, extraordinary storyteller, and fabulous traveling companion. He made each whisky distillery tour special knowing the people at each one and a lot about the whiskies. The stay at the Bowmore bed and breakfast was delightful. The food was excellent and the room was clean, cozy and very comfortable. Andrew and Allison were perfect hosts. We enjoyed the cultural stops and the history talks as we drove. The country really came alive for us in ways we hadn’t expected!
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Here’s all you need for a great visit to Islay.

Discover where to stay ; search availability or browse our excellent accommodation. Find out how to get here , with useful travel details. See what to do , from exploring whisky distilleries to sublime walks. Learn more about Islay  and its history. Welcome to our special island.

Quick guides

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This site was founded by Ron Steenvoorden in 2003 and gradually became a very popular online destination for folk visiting the Isle of Islay. In 2021 Islay Development Initiative became the new owner. Ron now runs the Islay dot Scot website where he sells his beautiful Islay Photo Prints .

Islay Tours & Private Hire

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Welcome to Islay Tours & Private Hire

Fancy a walk on the wild side or a drive that takes you off the beaten track? Then you're in the right place.

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Dougie at Islay Tours and Private Hire is an Ileach (someone born on the island of Islay) through and through.  He has an intrinsic and intimate knowledge of the island's natural, social and ancient history, and a burning desire to share it with you.  Let him take you on a guided walk to visit some of the more remote landmarks on the island, or join him for a drive along the winding roads and tracks that lead to hidden gems most locals don't even know exist.  A visit to Islay would not be complete without visiting at least one of the nine whisky distilleries on the island.

If you can't find anything on this site that appeals to you, just ask and Dougie will do his utmost to accommodate your needs.  Use the "Get in Touch" form below to tell him what you want and he will customise a tour to suit you.

Or, if you just want a ferry or airport transfer, a visit to the shops, a lift up the road, or going out to dinner, contact Dougie on 07474 686367.

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Abandoned Townships and Population Clearances

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Churches, Chapels and Crosses

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Lords of the Isles

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Stones old and not so old!

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Nature in all her glory

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Islay Distilleries

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Other interesting places to be and things to do:

Port Ellen Lighthouse

Nerabus Old Graveyard

Fly fishing

Islay Woollen Mill

Portnahaven and Port Wemyss villages

Coultoon Stone Circle

Gruinart RSPB Reserve

Skeet shooting

Dun Nosebridge

Canoeing and kayaking

Claggain Bay . . . . . . .and much, much more.

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Get in Touch

[email protected]

07474 686 367

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Islay & The West Coast Whisky Trail

This island-hopping whisky tour blends incredible scenery with unforgettable wildlife and wonderful single malt whisky for a truly unforgettable holiday in the islands of Scotland. Explore the natural beauty of the West Coast on this self-drive tour.

Click here to find out more about our Islay & The West Coast Whisky Trail self-drive tour.

Selected highlights:

  • Experience the beautiful Isle of Arran and sample The Arran Malt
  • Explore the world-famous distilleries on Islay, including Laphroaig, Ardbeg & Lagavullin
  • Visit Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull

Established in Scotland in 2004, Absolute Escapes is an award-winning specialist in self-drive tours of Scotland. Our exceptional reputation has developed through a deep passion and knowledge of Scotland - we firmly believe that your visit should be truly unforgettable.

Our self-drive tours offer complete freedom of choice. The itineraries and accommodation on our website is designed to give you a flavour of what is possible and can be tailored to suit your preferences. This allows you to explore your interests at your own pace, and stay in your preferred style of accommodation - with our specialists' knowledge always at your disposal.

Fair Prices

While many travel companies like to promote low prices, we believe that value for money is more important. This translates into charging a fair price for your holiday - whether staying in simple guest houses or luxurious hotels - and not compromising on quality. We want you to travel with us again and know that you will not do this if you feel that you paid too much for your arrangements.

Creating Your Perfect Trip

If you would like us to contact you with a proposal for your tailor-made holiday in Scotland, please get in touch with us via the following methods. Our holiday suggestions are individually designed to suit your personal requirements, so the more detail you can provide us with, the better.

Complete our Online Enquiry Form

Email us at [email protected]

Phone us on +44 (0) 131 610 1210

Price on Request

Departure days.

  • W Wednesday

January — December

Contact details

Tour information

  • Aberdeen Airport
  • Edinburgh & The Lothians
  • Edinburgh - City Centre
  • Edinburgh Airport
  • Glasgow Airport
  • Glasgow City Centre
  • Greater Glasgow & The Clyde Valley
  • Inverness Airport
  • Loch Lomond Area
  • Loch Lomond, The Trossachs, Stirling & Forth Valley
  • Stirling Area

Absolute Escapes

Tour company information

Absolute escapes.

Absolute Escapes is a leading specialist in self-guided walking holidays and tailor-made travel to Scotland. We offer self-guided walking holidays on some of the finest long-distance trails in Scotland, including the West Highland Way, Great Glen Way, Speyside Way, and Skye Trail. We also specialise in tailor-made travel to Scotland including self-drive itineraries and escorted tours. We customise all of our itineraries to your exact requirements based on our experience and intimate knowledge of Scotland.

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Our office is open Monday to Friday from 10.00 to 17.00.

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Bird Watching

Islay is renowned across the world for its enormous variety of bird life.  It possesses the richest variety of birdlife in the Hebrides with 180 recorded species of which 100 breed on the island!  There’s something for the birdwatcher all year round.  In autumn, thousands of white-fronted and barnacle geese arrive on the island from Greenland.  It’s a truly spectacular sight.  Wading birds take centre-stage in spring when you can see the courtship displays of snipes, lapwings, redshanks, and curlews.  In summer, you can hear corncrakes in the evening, or search out treecreepers, willow warblers, hen harriers, and golden and sea eagles.   Wild sea cliffs and open moorland make it the perfect habitat for birds of prey.  Look for golden eagles soaring over the cliffs, peregrines hunting, and rare chough feeding by the highland cattle.  Off the coast, watch gannets and guillemot diving for fish.

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A Guide to Whisky Distillery Tours on the Isle of Islay

islay distillery tours

Slated as the ‘Queen of the Hebrides,’ the Isle of Islay is a popular destination for whisky enthusiasts and a mecca for lovers of single malt Scotch.

The island is part of the Southern Hebrides and is situated off the west coast of Scotland, where it’s famous for its peaty, smoky whiskies, which are a result of the local peat and water used in the distillation process by distilleries such as Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, and Ardnahoe.

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Islay Whisky Distillery Tours Map

Google Map of cluanach islay

  • Bruichladdich
  • Bunnahabhain

Islay Whisky Distillery Tours

All of Islay’s whisky tours offer more or less the same experience, so which ones you visit will depend on your love for the spirit. Expect to pay a minimum of £10 per person, which can rise to £60 or more depending on the number of tastings you’ll get afterwards, with the cheaper tours offering a sample from the distillery’s core range and the upper-tier tours offering additional samples from more expensive bottlings.

Tours generally last around an hour, but some distilleries like Laphroaig and Ardbeg include island walks where you’ll get to explore the surrounding landscape with a guide before grabbing a bite to eat, in addition to being shown around each stage of whisky production.

My advice here is to choose your favourite distillery and go for the most expensive tour, as you’ll gain an insight into Islay that you’ll never forget. But if you’re intending to visit other distilleries afterwards, either go for the cheapest tour or just stick to the shop and café.

You honestly won’t see anything new if you do a tour at every single distillery, and by the 3rd or 4th, you’re going to get a bit bored unless you’re a die-hard whisky fanatic. That said, if I were pushed to say what my favourite tour was, I’d have to go with Ardbeg.

islay guided tours

They have a set-up that’s a little more polished than the other distilleries and the coastline is lovely in either direction, so you can go for a good walk afterwards, which is perfect for blowing out the cobwebs and clearing whisky-infused brains.

If you’re intending to do a whisky pilgrimage, there are four parts of the island where you’ll find the distilleries:

  • Port Ellen is on the southeast corner of the island.
  • Port Askaig is on the northeast corner of the island.
  • Port Charlotte is on the northwest corner of the island.
  • Bowmore is near the centre of the island.

All of them are easy to get to, but you’ll need a car to fully explore Islay, which makes having a drink and driving to the next site a complete no-no (there’s a zero-tolerance drink-driving policy in Scotland). However, the three most-visited distilleries of Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg are located quite close to each other, and as there’s a walkway from the town of Port Ellen to each distillery, you can easily mix a hike along Islay’s gorgeous coastline with a selection of drams along the way.

One last thing to note with all of these Islay distillery tours is that although children are permitted on most of them, you’ll find some have minimum-age restrictions, especially those that offer experiences like the tours at Bruichladdich, where you get to create your own cocktails.

Ardbeg Distillery Tour

  • Founded: 1815
  • Pronounced: Ard-beg.
  • Flavour: heavily peated. Citrus-fruit character.
  • Recommended whisky: Ardbeg Ten Year Old
  • Address: Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA42 7DU
  • Website: Ardbeg

Ardbeg Distillery Islay

Ardbeg distillery is worth a visit not only for its tours but also for The Old Kiln Café which serves generous portions of reasonably priced food. Not only that, but the distillery offers the most generous whisky samples of all the distilleries I visited on Islay, plus they give you money off gifts purchased in the shop after you’ve taken the tour.

The location of the distillery at the southern tip of the island is stunning, and there are some amazing coastal walks between Ardbeg and Ardmore, with the elevated views from Ardmore Point being one of the most memorable moments of my time on Islay. If I had a bit more (ok, a lot more) money, I’d love to go back and book a week at the distillery’s Seaview Cottage, which is a fully renovated house that used to be the manager’s home but is now a holiday rental.

The cottage overlooks the sea and features a lovely private garden, but at well over £1,000 a week, it’s a lot more expensive than the cottages you’ll find elsewhere. My recommendation? Check out Airbnb instead, as you’ll often find bargain luxury holiday homes for a fraction of the price of an equivalent hotel stay.

Bowmore Distillery Tour

  • Founded: 1779
  • Pronounced: Bow-mor
  • Flavour: light smokiness. Fruity character.
  • Recommended whisky: Bowmore 15 Year
  • Address: School St, Bowmore, Islay, PA43 7JS
  • Website: Bowmore

bowmore visitor centre islay

Bowmore is the biggest and busiest village on Islay, and it’s also the island’s administrative capital, so it has more things to do than in many of the other distillery villages. From the centre, you’ll find a few grocery shops and gift shops along with essentials like a chemist, so it’s a good place to stock up on supplies before venturing elsewhere.

Located almost in the centre of the village, the Bowmore distillery is a terrific place to visit. If your partner or kids are tired of distillery tours, they can have a splash in the 25-meter pool at the Bowmore Leisure Centre, which is just a 5-minute walk up the road.

Inside the visitor centre you’ll find a shop and a museum, but the highlight is the tasting bar upstairs, which features big, comfy chairs and an enormous window that opens up to a spectacular panorama across Loch Indaal. I splashed out on my visit and got myself a tasting tray flight, which included four drams paired with handmade chocolates, which were delicious and a great appetiser for the tour.

Perhaps the best thing about the tour was being able to try a couple of drams straight from the cask in Bowmore’s legendary No. 1 warehouse, and they’ll even fill a 100-ml bottle so you can take a sample home with you as a reminder of your visit.

Bruichladdich Distillery Tour

  • Founded: 1881
  • Pronounced: Bru-e-clad-e
  • Flavour: lightly peated. Caramel sweetness.
  • Recommended whisky: The Classic Laddie
  • Address: Islay, Argyll, PA49 7UN
  • Website: Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich Distillery Islay

The Bruichladdich distillery is located opposite Bowmore on the other side of Loch Indaal, which is very easy to get to as you just have to follow the A847 towards the village of Port Charlotte. The distillery sits on the roadside overlooking the sea, and there’s a small area on the shore where the kids can go rooting about in rock pools if you’re hoping to get a bit of peace and quiet during the all-important whisky tasting.

One suggestion for whisky-weary partners is to drive a couple of miles down the road to Port Charlotte, which has a museum about Islay that’s full of interesting little knick-nacks and collections of artefacts from the island’s past. The displays chronicle island life over the course of the first human inhabitants 12,000 years ago to the present day.

Bruichladdich, meanwhile, is worth a visit for both whisky and gin drinkers as they produce two of Scotland’s favourite tipples: Octomore whisky and The Botanist gin. The Botanist is absolutely delicious with a healthy dash of tonic and works incredibly well in a cocktail, but it pales into insignificance against the mighty Octomore, a whisky that’s proudly touted as being the most heavily peated whisky on the market.

The tour takes you around the Victorian buildings, where you’ll discover the process of making these spirits, and just like all the other distilleries on this list, you’ll get a history lesson and a whisky tasting session afterwards.

Aside from the spirits, Bruichladdich has done an excellent job with their merchandising which is sold in the best gift shop on the island. The collection includes T-shirts, hoodies, backpacks, coats, and much more. You’re bound to find something you like, but be warned, it’s quite expensive.

Bunnahabhain Distillery Tour

  • Pronounced: Bun-a-hav-an
  • Flavour: unpeated—soft and fruity. Peated: heavy smokiness.
  • Recommended whisky: Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old
  • Address: Port Askaig, Isle of Islay, Argyll, A46 7RP
  • Website: Bunnahabhain

islay distillery bunnahabhain

You’ll find Bunnahabhain at the northwest end of Islay, 5 miles north of Port Askaig. It’s not the easiest distillery to find and you’ll have to navigate a narrow single-track road to get there, but the drive is stunning, and once at the end of the road you’ll find stunning views of the Isle of Jura from Bunnahabhainn Bay.

Its remoteness means that a visit to this distillery feels more like a pilgrimage than a visit to a tourist attraction, and it certainly feels less touristy than a visit to Bowmore, which is perhaps why they’ve priced the tours a few pounds cheaper than the others on this list.

Fans of this whisky will be pleased to know you can fill your own bottle from the cask in the visitor centre and even add your own label (although you can also do this at Bowmore).

There are several wallet-friendly options including a Distillery Production Tour that lasts 50 minutes for around £15 per person, as well as a Cask Strength Tour, which costs around £40 for four premium drams.

For the ultimate experience, you might like to join the most expensive tour which presents samples of some of the distillery’s most exclusive drams. I’ve heard from someone who took this tour that the whisky is nothing short of spectacular, but you’ll need deep pockets as it’s currently (as of 2024) around £275 for a 1-hour session.

Caol Ila Distillery Tour

  • Founded: 1846
  • Pronounced: cull-e-la
  • Flavour: unpeated—smooth and sweet. Peated: light smokiness.
  • Recommended whisky: Caol Ila 12 Year Old
  • Address: Port Askaig, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA46 7RL
  • Website: Caol Ila

isla distillery caol ila

Caol Ila is the nearest distillery to Port Askaig and is easily reached from a single-track road off the A846, where you’ll get fantastic views of the ‘Paps’ (mountains on the Isle of Jura) once you reach the shores of the Sound of Islay.

Although Caol Ila still produces single malts, other whisky producers use the majority of the spirit in their blends so they don’t quite have the same cult following as traditional whisky producers like Ardbeg. Even so, their single malts are absolutely delicious, if a little on the expensive side, and you’ll get the chance to sample a couple of drams on the Caol Ila tour, where you’ll also be given a complimentary Glencairn glass at the end.

I have to say that out of all the tours I did during my visit to Islay, Caol Ila had the most enthusiastic tour guides. It’s not quite as polished as some of the other tours, but it’s definitely a wee bit more enjoyable, even if some of the buildings are a bit bland in that boring, grey, 1960s office-block style.

One suggestion I’ve got for you is to combine a visit to this distillery with a ferry ride over to Jura. The journey takes less than 10 minutes, and as the ferry operates throughout the day, you can hop on and hop off at your leisure. To get there, simply head to Port Askaig and follow the signs to the ferry terminal, where you’ll also find the ticket office.

Jura is a lovely wee island that’s quite different from Islay as it’s more barren, but it’s scenic in its own way and has a whisky distillery which you’ll find in the village of Craighouse on the island’s eastern side. You can learn more about Jura here: Isle of Jura .

Kilchoman Distillery Tour

  • Founded: 2005
  • Pronounced: kil-ho-man
  • Flavour: rich and fruity smokiness.
  • Recommended whisky: Kilchoman Machir Bay
  • Address: Rockside Farm, Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA49 7UT
  • Website: Kilchoman

kilchoman malting room islay

You’ll find Kilchoman on the western peninsula of Islay, midway between Machir Bay and Loch Gorm, which makes for a nice change from the usual sea-battered warehouses you’ll find elsewhere.

Although there’s not a huge amount of activity in the parish of Kilchoman, it’s located in a lovely area that’s a mix of rugged coastline, wild grassland, and fertile farmland. To make the most of a visit, I recommend a walk from Saligo Bay and along the coastline before heading back inland towards the loch and the distillery.

Kilchoman is the only farm distillery on Islay, which means they perform the entire whisky-making process on-site, from growing the barley to malting it, fermenting it, distilling it, and bottling it. It’s a whisky-making style that became a lost art once commercialization took over Scotch whisky in the 1800s, so it’s inspiring to see a team dedicated to reviving the traditional methods of whisky production.

Because Kilchoman is a new distillery, you don’t get quite the same sense of history that you do when taking tours at places like Ardbeg and Bowmore, but it’s as interesting due to the fact that you get to see the entire process, from grain to bottle, in one visit.

The tour is pretty good, as is the gift shop, which is small but has good-quality gifts, while the cafe has a great selection of home-cooked food. The Cullen Skink, in particular, is excellent (the best I’ve tasted outside of Cullen ) and the coffee is delicious, plus you can get a drop of Kilchoman whisky stirred in for good measure.

Book a 4-day tour of Islay & the whisky coast

Lagavulin Distillery Tour

  • Founded: 1816
  • Pronounced: lag-a-voo-lin
  • Flavour: seaside smokiness.
  • Recommended whisky: Lagavulin 16 Year Old
  • Address: Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA42 7DZ
  • Website: Lagavulin

islay distillery lagavulin

Lagavulin distillery is located just down the road from Ardbeg in Lagavulin Bay, and it’s impossible to miss as it’s sited right on the side of the A846, and I mean that literally – the main building sits inches from the roadside. It’s not the biggest distillery on Islay by any means, but it oozes character and history.

As soon as you walk through the entrance, you’re hit with a wood-panelled corridor that looks like those 1920s-style train stations you sometimes see in the Highlands, and you can easily imagine what it must have been like 100 years ago.

From the entrance, which houses the gift shop and ticket desk, you head to a tasting room, which basically looks like an old-fashioned living room with big, comfy chairs, bookcases, and an old coal burner. On a cold and miserable day, I can’t think of a better place to sit with a warming dram in hand. There are a few samples to try, but you won’t go far wrong with a Lagavulin tasting kit which offers samples that you won’t find in the shops and is a great introduction to this historic distillery.

The tour is good and you get a complimentary nosing glass as a keepsake, as well as a discount in the shop. There’s no café at Lagavulin, but you can easily combine a visit with nearby Ardbeg which has a great café, or you can drive down the road in the opposite direction to Port Ellen, which has a decent food store.

At the end of a tour, you might like to explore the bay, which is a haven for wildlife. There’s a small ruined castle on the northern side that looks out across the sea towards the small islands of Texa in the near distance and Gigha near Jura, or you could just as easily drive to The Oa, which is a wild promontory that’s home to a windswept RSPB nature reserve.

Laphroaig Distillery Tour

  • Pronounced: La-froyg
  • Flavour: heavy medicinal tang.
  • Recommended whisky: Laphroaig Quarter Cask
  • Website: Laphroaig

laphroaig distillery isaly

Laphroaig hardly needs an introduction as it’s one of the most famous single malts in the world that’s easily up there with Glenmorangie and Macallan for cult status. Accordingly, the distillery runs some of the best tours on Islay, and you can choose from general overviews that take less than an hour to four-and-a-half-hour excursions that take you on a journey into the surrounding landscape as well as give you an in-depth look inside the distillery and warehouses.

You’ll find Laphroaig on the southern edge of Islay, overlooking a small bay with a forest backdrop halfway between Port Ellen and Lagavulin. This is one of the biggest distilleries on Islay, and it’s unusual in that it has its very own water supply at the Kilbride Reservoir as well as its own peat bog.

These two elements – peat and spring water – are what give Laphroaig whisky its medicinal taste due to the peat having a very high ratio of Sphagnum moss . You’ll see these multi-coloured living carpets of moss all over Islay, and there’s a giant plot of it on the opposite side of the road from the distillery where you can go and stake out your very own honorary square foot of land at the end of your visit.

It’s a nice touch, and it means you’ll own a piece of the distillery for years to come, plus they’ll give you a complimentary dram if you ever return to see it. In addition, they hand out free tea and coffee to anyone who doesn’t want a taste of whisky.

There’s no restaurant at Laphroaig, but then, just like at Lagavulin, you can easily head in either direction up the A846 to Ardbeg or Port Ellen if you’re after a bite to eat, and The Oa is just a few miles away if you’re looking for a nice walk along the coast. The icing on the cake is that they’re very generous with their free samples. I was given a free 5cl bottle when I arrived, as I’d previously joined their Friends of Laphroaig club, another free welcome whisky in the lounge before the tour, and another 3 tasters after!

Ardnahoe Distillery Tour

islay whisky barrels

I haven’t yet visited Ardnahoe so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but it looks like it could become a very interesting distillery. This is a family-run business that only started operations in 2016, with the first runs of distillation in late 2018. But even though it’s such a new distillery, from what I’ve heard, they’re already making some very exciting spirits from their brand-new purpose-built buildings a few miles north of Port Askaig on Islay’s eastern side.

The location of the distillery is pretty much perfect, as they have their own water supply at Ardnahoe Loch across the road, and the stretch of coastline near the distillery offers stunning views across the Sound of Islay towards Jura. To take advantage of this, they’ve opened a restaurant with panoramic windows that provide uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape.

An Introduction to Islay

The Isle of Islay (pronounced eye-luh) is the southernmost island in the Southern Hebrides on Scotland’s west coast, lying close to the Isle of Jura and to the west of the Campbeltown peninsula. At 239 square miles, it’s quite a big island when compared to other west-coast tourist destinations like the Isle of Tiree , but it pales in comparison to Scotland’s most-visited island, Skye, which is 639 square miles and has a population of over 10,000 people.

Islay has a much smaller population of approximately 3,200, many of whom work at the nine currently operational distilleries. The rest of the islanders work in the fishing, agriculture, and tourism sectors, the latter of which has grown significantly in recent years (admittedly as a result of the popularity of the island’s distillery tours).

Unlike the barren, windswept islands of the Outer Hebrides, Islay is home to large areas of forest, and there’s a surprising amount of wildlife to see inland. Meanwhile, the beautiful golden beaches and the quaint picture-postcard villages add to the feeling that it really is Scotland in miniature.

Islay

During a visit, you’ll find that not only are there hill ranges to climb (Beinn Bheigier rises to a point of 456 metres along an undulating ridge on the east side), but there are also lots of stunning beaches to explore, like those on the impossibly scenic Machir and Saligo bays.

The majority of the islanders live in the villages from which the distilleries take their name, and although the majority of settlements don’t have much to offer tourists other than the distilleries, the island’s largest village, Bowmore, has quite a few shops in addition to lovely walks along the shores of Loch Indaal.

If you’re not too bothered by whisky, there are plenty of other things to see and do on Islay, so you don’t need to even set foot in a distillery to have a great time. Two highlights that I recommend are the Oa Peninsula, which features incredible clifftop walks, and The Big Strand which, at 7 miles, is one of the longest beaches in Scotland.

Isle of Islay lagavulin distillery

Islay Tours

The Isle of Islay is one of the best places in Scotland to experience everything that makes the country such a magical destination for tourists. There are beautiful coastlines to walk around, incredible wildlife-watching opportunities around every corner, and, of course, some of the world’s finest whiskies to taste.

It’s certainly possible to head off in any direction and hope for the best, but it makes more sense to leave the driving to a professional tour guide who can take you to the main attractions as well as the hidden gems that only the locals know about.

While there are dozens of tour operators willing to take visitors around Islay, the pick of the bunch has to be Rabbie’s. This company specialises in small group tours using mini coaches that seat no more than 16 people, so occupants get to make new friends as they explore each new destination without feeling like they’re lost in the middle of a big crowd.

Check out the itinerary below to get a feel for what you can see on a Rabbie’s tour of Islay.

Islay & The Whisky Coast 4-day Tour

Itinerary day 1:

  • From Edinburgh, head to the Highlands and stop at the Trossachs National Park for food.
  • Continue through the West Highlands towards the coastal town of Oban.
  • Take a tour around the Oban distillery and have a seafood lunch.
  • Visit Kilmartin Glen to see the ancient standing stones.
  • Take the evening ferry to Islay.
  • Once on Islay, head to Bowmore for overnight accommodation.

Itinerary day 2:

  • Take a tour of the Bowmore distillery.
  • Visit Ardnahoe Distillery for a tour and lunch.
  • Visit Kilchoman distillery for a tour and a whisky tasting.
  • Return to Bowmore.

Itinerary day 3:

  • Visit the Ardbeg distillery for a tour and lunch.
  • Visit the Laphroaig distillery.
  • Explore Kildaton Church and Dunyvaig Castle.
  • Visit the Lagavulin distillery for a tour and a tasting.

Itinerary day 4:

  • Take the ferry back to the mainland and drive south through the Highlands.
  • Stop at the village of Inveraray on the banks of Loch Fyne.
  • Continue to Loch Lomond and stop for photos.
  • Return to Edinburgh.

Facts About Islay Whisky

First things first, not all whiskies are created equally. Scotch is unique in that it can only be called whisky (not whiskey – note the lack of the letter e) if it has been distilled in Scotland and matured in an oak barrel for at least three years, and it can only be called a single malt if it’s produced in one distillery.

This might seem a little snobby, but for purists, it’s essential to the character of what makes Scotch what it is. That’s understandable when you consider that this spirit has been made in Scotland for over 500 years and is now one of the country’s biggest earners, accounting for 70% of all food and drink exports.

While the exact origins of Scotch whisky are unknown, it’s believed that it all started on Islay when Irish monks travelled there sometime in the 13th century, but whether or not they were the first people to use peat to dry the grain (which gives Islay whisky it’s unmistakable smokiness) is unknown.

The earliest known distillery was Bowmore, which opened its doors in 1779. Laphroaig and Lagavulin, which opened their doors in 1815 and 1816, respectively, followed Bowmore a few years later. It’s amazing when you think these distilleries are still going strong today and show no sign of losing their popularity.

Peat Scotland

The smokiness in Islay whisky comes from using peat in the malting process, and the distilleries on Islay are some of the few in Scotland that still carry out this labour-intensive task in-house. As the barley grains are spread onto grids inside hot kilns, dried peat is added to the fire which creates plumes of thick smoke that infuse with the grains (think along the lines of cooking food over a wood-burning barbeque).

The grains are then milled into a coarse flour before being mixed in hot water, with the resulting liquid distilled in giant copper pots to produce whisky. That’s a very brief overview, so see this article, The Scotch Whisky Regions , for a more in-depth explanation of the process.

There are lots of other variables that make Islay whisky so distinct, including the water source and the type of barrels used during maturation (usually American ex-bourbon casks or Spanish ex-sherry casks), but even the shape of the still can make a difference to the final taste.

In fact, the process of making Islay whisky is so exact that if a copper still has to be replaced, the exact same dings and dents in the old one are knocked into the replacement! I guess it’s this attention to detail that makes Islay whisky so difficult to copy.

islay guided tours

Related Posts About Islay and Whisky

I’ve listed a few related posts below that you may find useful when choosing your next Islay adventure. You’ll learn a few good tips about whisky as well, so you don’t need to feel like a complete novice when you arrive on the island.

  • The complete guide to visiting Islay.
  • The complete guide to visiting Finlaggan.
  • The complete guide to the single malt Scotch whisky regions.
  • The complete guide to visiting Jura.
  • The complete guide to Scotland’s airports.
  • 10 easy and delicious recipes that use Scotch whisky.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the isle of islay.

Islay is the southernmost island in the Southern Hebrides on Scotland’s west coast, lying close to the Isle of Jura and to the west of the Campbeltown peninsula.

What are the whisky distilleries on Islay?

Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Ardnahoe.

How much do the whisky distillery tours on Islay cost?

Expect to pay a minimum of £10 per person, which will go up to £60 or more depending on the number of tastings you’ll get afterwards, with the cheaper tours offering a sample from the distillery’s core range and the upper-tier tours offering additional samples from more expensive bottlings.

Where are the whisky distilleries on Islay?

Ardbeg : Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA42 7DU Bowmore : School St, Bowmore, Islay, PA43 7JS Bruichladdich : Islay, Argyll, PA49 7UN Bunnahabhain : Port Askaig, Isle of Islay, Argyll, A46 7RP Caol Ila : Port Askaig, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA46 7RL Kilchoman : Rockside Farm, Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA49 7UT Lagavulin : Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA42 7DZ Laphroaig : Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Argyll, PA42 7DU Ardnahoe : Port Askaig, Isle of Islay, PA46 7RN

Related Posts

Tourist Advice for Visitors to the Isle of Islay

Tourist Advice for Visitors to the Isle of Islay

A Guide to Whisky Distillery Tours on the Isle of Islay

Finlaggan Visitor Guide

Isle of Islay Visitor Guide

Isle of Islay Visitor Guide

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest , Facebook , and YouTube .

islay guided tours

Islay & the Whisky Coast 4 day tour

Isle of Islay Tours

Savour the distilled essence of Scotland’s fine landscapes and exquisite whisky on this delectable tour.

Tour Highlights

Oban - This Victorian harbour town offers excellent seafood and a charming intimacy.

Kilmartin Glen - Return to the past at one of the richest areas in the UK for Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland.

Bowmore* - Journey to the home of Islay’s oldest distillery, this charming place lies on the shores of the picturesque Loch Indaal.

The Islay Single Malt Whiskies* - There is a regal quality to the distinctly peaty style of single malt whiskies on this island known as ‘The Queen of the Hebrides’

Sandy beaches of Islay - Stroll some of the most beautiful and rugged beaches in the UK along Islay’s West Atlantic coast.

Inveraray - Explore the fabulous home town of the Duke of Argyll and the stunning ancestral castle.

Loch Lomond National Park - Enjoy the dramatic splendour of one of Scotland’s most famous lochs and the beautiful national park that surrounds it.

Your journey

You may know a thing or two about whisky.

Like how taxes forced distillers to produce whisky at night, or how the Scots once called it the ‘water of life’.

But even if you’re knowledgeable about whisky, you’re going to learn a lot more on this four day whisky tour .

You discover the smoky flavours of Islay’s single malt whiskies, explore the historic sights of Islay, and spend your time trading notes with fellow whisky lovers.

So join this tour, explore distilleries without having to drive, and enhance your knowledge of whisky, Scotland , and Islay, ‘Queen of the Hebrides’.

Tour Details

Students, and seniors over 60

  • Pack your waterproof clothing and walking shoes
  • Unfortunately we don't carry anyone under 18 years old on this tour
  • Access to distillery production areas may not be possible
  • Some distilleries offer tutored tastings instead of tours
  • Distilleries may be substituted
  • Some attraction tickets can be purchased in advance when you book your tour. You’ll have the option to add at check-out. Other attractions will not be available to book beforehand, instead you can purchase those while on tour.
  • All ferry and bridge crossings
  • Transport in a 16 seat Mercedes mini-coach
  • Air conditioning as standard
  • The stories and services of an English-speaking driver-guide
  • Tour accommodation
  • Attraction entry tickets
  • Sample the sights and seafood of Oban
  • Venture through the legends and landmarks of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park
  • Explore Scotland’s ancient past in Kilmartin Glen

You escape the city of Edinburgh and head straight for the Highlands. Your first stop of the day is in the Trossachs National Park. Here, you can admire Scotland’s scenic beauty and enjoy some local delicacies.

Your driver-guide may regale you with tales from Scottish folklore as you travel through the mountainous landscapes of the Western Highlands to Oban.

This port town was once the strategic heartland of great feuding clans. But today, Oban is famous for seafood sourced fresh off the boats. It also boasts its own distillery where you can sample whisky that’s been perfected for 200 years. Here, you will have time to enjoy a dram and indulge in delicious local seafood for lunch.

You then venture through the Kilmartin Glen where you see standing stones and strongholds that are over 1,500 years old.

At Kennacraig, you catch the evening ferry to Islay. The sail is around two hours; and if you peek out to the ocean, you may see the Paps of Jura. These mountains mark the way to Islay, Queen of the Hebrides.

Once you’ve arrived on the island, you settle into your accommodation in Bowmore.

  • Sample Scotland’s most heavily-peated whiskies
  • Admire Islay’s rugged coastline
  • Explore the town of Bowmore

We know whisky tasting can be hard work, so you begin the day with a little sleep in.

After you’ve had an ample amount of breakfast, you enjoy a tour of Bowmore Distillery*, one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. You have time for a tour and a whisky tasting here before you continue exploring the island.

Next, your driver-guide takes you to Kilchoman Distillery for a tour and a lunch of local treats. Kilchoman is known as Islay's only Single Farm Single Match Scotch Whisky, reviving traditional farm distilling of barley to bottle, making their whisky 100% Islay.

After trying local larder, you travel through the beautiful countryside to the third distillery of the day. On Thursday and Saturday, you visit Bruichladdich, the progressive distillery specialising in unpeated whisky. On Tuesday, you taste the unpeated and salty notes of Bunnahabhain in the most remote distillery on Islay.

You head back to Bowmore where you can either stumble back to your room for the night or relax and explore the village.

*Please note that Bowmore Distillery is observing their Silent Season between 11th July and 12th August 2024. Guests will be offered a digital tour instead, with a cask tasting experience in the warehouse. 

  • Discover the Island’s ancient religious past
  • Taste the most famous whiskies of the island

Today you explore the southern side of the island, home to a few of the most famous whiskies in all of Scotland: Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg*.

After you’ve made it out of bed and eaten your breakfast, you visit Ardbeg*. You stay here for a tour, tasting, and lunch*. The restaurant here is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy fine Scottish produce as you sip upon delightful drams.

You then visit Laphroaig**. This 200-year-old whisky distiller is a favourite with the British royal family and bears the seal of the Prince of Wales to prove it.

Throughout the day, your driver-guide takes you to historical spots such as the ruins of Kildalton church and Dunyvaig Castle. And you can also stop at Lagavulin for some intensively flavoured, rich and smoky whisky.

You return to Bowmore for your last evening of the trip.  

*Please note that if your tour departs before 1st May, your lunch today will be at Ardbeg Distillery. However, if your tour departs after 1st May 2024, lunch will be either at an outdoor food truck at Ardbeg (weather dependent) or in Port Ellen. 

*Please note that Ardbeg Distillery is observing their Silent Season between 10th June and 8th July 2024. Guests will be offered a more in-depth tasting with a guide from the distillery, who will discuss the history of the distillery and the process. 

**Please note that Laphroaig Distillery will be observing their Silent Season from 13th July to 5th August 2024. Guests will be offered a walk around the Laphroaig Museum, and a sensory tasting in the bar with several drams.   

  • Get a sense of the old history of Inveraray
  • Wander along the banks of Loch Lomond

This morning, you take the ferry back to the mainland and replace the intoxicating fumes of whisky with the replenishing fresh air of Scotland’s West Highlands.

You travel through coastal scenery to the beautiful village of Inveraray on the banks of Loch Fyne. The town is adorned with historic buildings, old boats, and a great whisky shop.

Your trip continues to Loch Lomond where you have a chance to admire Great Britain’s largest body of water by surface area.

You arrive in Edinburgh in the early evening. 

*Itinerary and distillery visits are subject to change.

Attractions

Tour Attractions

You are able to pre-purchase entrance tickets to the following attractions at the time of booking:

  • Ardbeg Distillery
  • Kilchoman Distillery
  • Laphroaig Distillery
  • Bowmore Distillery

Other attractions may be booked and paid locally during the tour.

Accommodation

Where does this tour stay overnight.

On the tour departing on Monday and Friday, we reserve rooms in the beautiful Bowmore Distillery Cottages.

The cottages have between three and six twin bedrooms. Due to the shared nature of the accommodation, individual bedrooms don't have lockable doors.

The kitchen and lounge facilities are shared with other passengers, and basic self-service breakfast ingredients are provided. Full Scottish breakfasts are available at the nearby hotels if you prefer, payable locally.

Prices are as follows:

  • March to May  - £72.50 per person per night for Twin Share, and £125.00 per night for Single Occupancy.
  • June to September  - £82.50 per person per night for Twin Share, and £145.00 per night for Single Occupancy.
  • October  - £72.50 per person per night for Twin Share, and £125.00 per night for Single Occupancy.

Family Rooms are limited at Bowmore Cottages. Groups of 3 or more may need to stay in 2 or more rooms. Please budget accordingly.   For this option, please select 'B&B en-suite' as your first choice when booking the tour online. When these rooms are full, we book you into a nearby B&B. Rooms at the cottages are limited and are reserved on a first come first served basis. Local B&B charges are £40 - 60 per person per night based on shared accommodation for a standard room (shared bathroom). 

On the tours departing on Wednesdays , we reserve rooms in the 3* Lochside Hotel. Prices are between £90.00 - £120.00 per person per night for Double or Twin Occupancy and between £160.00 - £240.00 per night for single occupancy. For this option, please select three star hotel as your first choice when booking.

We contact you afterwards to arrange payment for the accommodation.

If you would prefer to book your own accommodation, please see information on how to do this under the ‘Accommodation’ tab on FAQ page HERE .

Alternatively, please email us your questions at [email protected] or call us on +44(0)131 226 3133.

Do you offer hotel pickups in the departure cities?

The UK and Ireland's historic city centres are full of narrow streets and winding roads. So, to speed up your departure, we only pick up from our central meeting points. What's more is leaving the city using the most direct route also reduces the carbon footprint of our tours.

Is there parking close to the departure point?

We don't recommend bringing your car into the centre of our departure cities. It can be hard to find parking, and there are excellent public transportation services.

When should I get to the departure point?

Arrive 15 minutes before your departure time. Due to waiting restrictions, we can't wait for you if you're late.

What happens if I'm late or miss the tour?

If you're late for your tour, our cancellation policy applies. 100% charges are applicable, and you will not be entitled to a refund or alternative.

What are your cancellation policies?

For one-day tours: You'll receive a full refund if you cancel 24 hours or more before the tour departure

For tours of between two and nine days: You'll receive a 90% refund if you cancel 15 or more days before the tour departure

For tours of 10 or more days: You'll receive a 90% refund if you cancel 21 or more days before the tour departure

For all European packaged tours: You'll receive a 90% refund if you cancel 42 days before the tour departure.

If you cancel inside these notice periods, full charges will apply and no refunds will be issued.

To cancel your booking, email [email protected] as soon as possible. The effective date of cancellation will be the date we receive written confirmation from you.

Click here to view terms and conditions

Can Itineraries change?

Your tour will always follow the itinerary as closely as possible. Your driver-guide will keep you up to date on the road, and we'll try to get in touch about any large changes prior to your departure.

Can I pre-book a specific seat?

Due to logistical reasons, we're unable to let you pre-book a seat on the bus. But our comfortable 16-seat mini-coaches have huge windows. So, you'll always get a good view.

Are there toilets on the bus?

Unfortunately, we have no on-board toilet facilities, but you'll have regular comfort breaks.

How do you cater for people with accessibility needs?

We aim to accommodate everyone. To read more information on how we do this, click here to go to our accessibility guide.

Do you take children on your tours?

We regret we don't carry children under the age of five on our scheduled tours.

You can ask us about the tours we recommend for younger children. And if your child is less than 1.35m tall, you should let us know, so we can provide them with a suitable booster seat.

How much time do I get off the bus?

We want you to enjoy Britain and Ireland. And we believe the best way to do this is to get you off the mini-coach and out exploring. So, we give you plenty of time to take photos, go walking, and explore ancient ruins.

Why do you exclude visitor attractions?

We exclude visitor attractions in your tour price because it lets you travel your way. It means you can pamper yourself with a luxury lunch or skip an attraction whenever you feel like it.

Do we need to bring our own lunch?

You don't need to. We stop in small towns, villages, and rural eateries where you can choose whatever meal pleases both your taste buds and your budget.

Should I tip the driver-guide?

Let's be honest, our driver-guides would never refuse a cheeky bonus. But it's up to you, and the amount is entirely at your discretion.

What about travel insurance?

We advise you take out travel insurance.

What is ABTOT?

You're protected by ABTOT when you chose to let us reserve your accommodation on a multi-day tour. This means you can claim back anything you've paid us if we become bankrupt. Read our terms and conditions for more information.

I have more questions, who can help me?

If you have any more questions, call us on +44(0)131 226 3133, email [email protected] , or check out our full FAQs .

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Explore Islay & Jura

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Home > Directory > Things to Do > Jura Island Tours

Jura Island Tours

islay guided tours

About Jura Island Tours:

George Orwell once famously described Jura as a very unget-at-able place, but we’ve moved on a lot since his day. Now it’s not only easy to get to Jura, but getting around the island is also stress-free with Jura Island Tours and Private Hires.

Whether you want to know more about the nature and history of the island, see the spectacular scenery, or just get from A to B why not do it in comfort and style with Jura Island Tours.

Join our friendly tour guide Alex on his luxury Mercedes mini coach to discover the delights of Jura.

We offer short tours and full island tours with a range of tour stops taking in the history, culture, wildlife and stunning beauty of the Isle of Jura and offering plenty of fantastic photo opportunities. We also offer bespoke tours and private hires.

Atlantic Destinations

Best single malt whisky tours on Islay, Scotland for 2023

islay guided tours

Years ago in an email, my father gushed that he and 14 others had just been on a bus tour around Scotland’s Whisky Trail, including the famous Bowmore distillery on the island of Islay (pronounced “eye-la”) in the Inner Hebrides. 

Though he was 1400 miles away in Canada, his enthusiasm was palpable. The Bowmore Distillery invited them to stay three more days at their Islay cottages. He said: “(It) was like offering the keys of Fort Knox to Al Capone”. 

Years later I got to follow in his footsteps and it was magical. Even though I had not been much of a whisky devotee up until that point, our tour group tasted world-class single malts at each of the distilleries — and that started to awaken my taste buds to the pleasures of single malt. And so it is for whisky lovers around the world: Scotland and Islay are the Mecca for devotees of the distinctive smoky whiskies that come from the island’s nine distilleries.

My favourite multi-day whisky tour

whisky tours on Islay

Don’t have time to read about all the whisky tours on Islay?  No worries  — our favourite multi-day whisky tour is the 4-day Islay and the Whisky Tour from Edinburgh .

As the only tour with customer ratings, this four-day trip covers seven distilleries and many of the other sights on the island.

Outstanding rugged scenery and multi-day whisky tours on Islay

So where to start to plan your Islay whisky-tasting vacation? You can either plan them yourself or you can take advantage of guided tours where professionals have done all the planning for you.

Many of the guided whisky tours on Islay take you to multiple distilleries and as you visit each one, you’ll learn about whisky making and enjoy samples of their most popular brands.

Each distillery is known for its distinct and unique whisky style, its signature character, and flavour profile. Many pack a smoky punch, and this is based on the peat that is used during production to dry the barley during fermentation. But there are also barley-based concoctions for those that aren’t into the peaty flavour, like my lovely wife.

To help you cut through all the noise, here’s a look at several multi-day guided whisky tours on islay that run the gamut from a very specific tour to Islay to one that pretty much tours all over Scotland and takes you to 15 different distilleries!

#1 – 4-day itinerary: Islay and The Whisky Coast from Edinburgh

islay guided tours

▶︎ BOOK: 4-day itinerary: Islay and The Whisky Coast from Edinburgh

  • RATING:  5 out of 5 Stars — With 21 positive reviews.
  • TOUR LENGTH:   4 days (8:30 am start)
  • Starts and ends at:  St Andrew Square, Edinburgh

Why choose this  whisky tour ?  Pick up your luxury Mercedes minicoach in Edinburgh and enjoy the stunning scenery in Loch Lomond National Park, Arrochar, Loch Fyne, and Inveraray on the way to Tarbert and Kennacraig for the ferry to Islay. During your 4-day stay on Islay, you’ll tour the island’s distilleries and try their famous single malt whiskies. You’ll also be able to explore Islay’s sandy bays, stay in the charming village of Bowmore, visit Kildalton church, and see the ancient Kilmartin standing stones. On the last day, you’ll take the ferry to Argyll, enjoy lunch at Kilmartin, and spend some time in Oban (known as the gateway to the Isles) before returning to Edinburgh.

4-day itinerary: Islay and The Whisky Coast from Edinburgh includes : 

  • Maximum of 16 passengers per tour.
  • Services of a professional driver/guide.
  • All ferry and bridge crossings.
  • 3 nights en-suite accommodation.

Does NOT include :

  • All meals and refreshments
  • Entrance fees to all distilleries and visitor attractions.

What past guests have said:

“This whisky tour was great. We had a nice group of 16 of different ages and from different countries. The bus was comfortable. Our accommodation at Bowmore Cottages was excellent. Right at the distillery and steps to everything in town, Our guide replenished our breakfast supplies every day. We visited 7 distilleries and lots of ruined castles, beaches, overlooks and rest stops. I would do this tour again.”

— Joseph (see   more reviews )

▶︎ Check details, availability, and prices now!

#2 – four-day itinerary: islay whisky tour from glasgow.

islay guided tours

▶︎ BOOK: 4-Day Islay Whisky Tour from Glasgow

  • RATING:  unrated
  • TOUR LENGTH:   4 days (8:00 am start)
  • Starts and ends at:  Georges Street, Glasgow (hotel pickup offered)

Why choose this  whisky tour ?  On this private tour, you and your guests will travel to Islay on the ferry from Kennacraig Ferry Terminal, passing Loch Long and Loch Fyne, and stopping at the Rest and be Thankful for photos and a wee Dram of Whisky. There’s lunch at Inverary before boarding the ferry. Once at Islay, you’ll visit eight of the nine distilleries on Islay over the course of your stay: Caol Ila (pronounced “Cool-eela”), Bowmore, Kilchoman, Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Bunnahabhain. The tour allows about 1.5 hours for each or about 4-5 hours of touring each day, leaving you some free time to see the rest of the island’s attractions.

This private tour is for you and your guests (only your group participates) and the price includes up to seven seats for your group .

The 4-Day Islay Whisky Tour from Glasgow includes: 

  • Shortbread, Water & a wee Dram of Whisky
  • Up to seven travellers can be included for this group price.

Does NOT include:

  • The cost of meals and accommodation
  • Entry fees at the whisky distilleries (usually between £7 and £15 each)

— unrated tour, so there are no testimonials to share.

▶︎ Check availability and prices now

#3 – 9-day itinerary: private malt whisky tour throughout scotland.

islay guided tours

▶︎ BOOK: Nine-day itinerary: Private malt whisky tour throughout Scotland

  • TOUR LENGTH:   9 days (10:00 am start)
  • Starts and ends at:   Your guide will meet you at Edinburgh airport.
  • This is a private, premium tour (only you and your guests participate)

Why choose this  whisky tour ?  This is not your normal tour — it’s a private, personal tour that takes you throughout much of Scotland to many notable whisky distilleries — 15 in all, plus the Scottish Whisky Experience in Edinburgh — that’s 16 opportunities to explore the different signatures of well-known Scotch whiskies.

There is more time allocated at each stop than on normal tours, allowing you to soak in all that each distillery has to offer. You’ll see Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, take the ferry from Kennacraig Ferry Terminal to Islay, stay at the 4-star Machrie Hotel and Golf Links with access to miles of immaculate Inner Hebrides beaches. As well as the Islay distilleries (including Ardbeg , Lagavulin , and Laphroaig ), you’ll visit Kildalton Cross, a monolithic Celtic cross that was probably carved in the second half of the 8th century AD.

From Islay, you’ll travel by ferry to Kennacraig and then on to Campbeltown, once known as the whisky capital of the world, and visit Springbank ,  Glen Scotia , and Glengyle distilleries , and stay at the luxurious yet historic Ugadale Hotel, with views of the Atlantic and the Islands of Islay and Jura.

Discover Inverary Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, chief of the Clan Campbell and then on to visit the Oban distillery , founded in 1794, for a taste of their whisky. Your guide will drive you through some of Scotland’s most majestic landscapes to Boath House, near Nairn in northern Scotland. Visit Glencoe Village, Fort William, home of the famous Ben Nevis, and Drumnadrochit, home to the famous Urquhart Castle.

A visit to Cawdor Castle and the Culloden battlefield will steep you in Scottish history, and then travel on to Aberlour Distillery , Benromach Distillery in Speyside, and Macallan Distillery , and then finally on to the remote glen to see the Glenfiddich Distillery , and to Glenfarclas .

Travel through the Cairngorms National Park and stay at The Fife Arms, a creatively restored Victorian Inn. Visit Lindores Abbey , which is again producing whisky after 523 years, and on to St. Andrews and the Kingsbarns Distillery . Stay in the five-star Old Course Hotel adjoining the famous St. Andrews golf course.

On towards Edinburgh, visit the Glenkinchie Distillery and Edinburgh Castle, and then enjoy the Scotch Whisky Experience at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, for a tour and tasting of multiple regional single malts. 

For the last evening of the tour, stay at The Balmoral Hotel, truly a landmark in the centre of the city.

The Nine-day itinerary: Private malt whisky tour throughout Scotland includes:

  • Transportation
  • Pickup at Edinburgh airport (although pick up at your location/hotel can be arranged)
  • All arrangements for dining and accommodation.
  • Admission to distilleries
  • The cost of meals and accommodations.

▶︎ Check availability and prices now!

Other available whisky tours on islay.

  • Slinte Scotland Islay and Jura Whisky Tour Package
  • Whisky Tasting on Islay and Jura
  • Islay and Whisky Tour Itinerary

Booking your own tour of Islay

If none of the guided tours strike your fancy, you can always organize your own stay on Islay. The key to a successful vacation plan is to realize that Islay is very popular and you’ll need to plan far enough in advance to book the dates you want.

After the lull in travel during the pandemic, things are hopping on the island again. All the festivals are back including the Fèis Ìle at the end of May. Accommodation for the festival was mostly booked last year at this time, so definitely plan ahead.

Getting to Islay

There are two ways to get to Islay — by plane or by ferry.

islay guided tours

Ferry: we flew into Glasgow airport and picked up our rented/hired car and took the CalMac “Island Hop” ferry from Ardrossan to Arran (and stayed the night at Auchrannie), then to the Mull of Kintyre, and finally to Port Ellen on Islay.

As you can see from CalMac’s illustration (left) you can also take the ferry directly from Kennacraig (if you’d like to take the scenic tour and drive there) or from Oban although that ferry doesn’t run as often.

The advantage of the ferry is that, once you get to Islay, you have your car to get around. It’s also cheaper than flying. You’ll need to remember to pre-book your car’s spot on the ferry (see the CalMac linked page above).

Air: The most direct flight to Port Ellen Airport (Glenegedale Airport-ILY) is from Glasgow (GLA ). It takes around 45 minutes. Loganair flies twice a day to Islay and once a day on weekends. Flights can range between £68 – £111 (and as they say, depending on when you book, your mileage may vary…).

The advantage of flying is that you get there quickly, but you’ll need either rent a car at the Islay airport (book ahead!) or rely on public transportation.

Where to stay on Islay

Islay is a major tourist destination and there are lots of accommodations available although they tend to be booked up well in advance. Here’s a sample of some of the more well-known places:

islay guided tours

  • When our little group visited Islay, we stayed in the Bowmore Distillery Cottages. Originally built in the 1840s for Bowmore distillery workers, these cottages have been renovated to the 4-star Visit Scotland standard. There are five cottages with between one and four spacious and nicely-finished bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom. There’s also a sitting room and a large self-contained and completely outfitted kitchen, which became our evening haven for catching up with each other.
  • The Machrie Hotel & Golf Links made the UK’s Top 30 Hotels list in Condé Nast Traveller Reader’s Choice Awards last year. It also has a world-renowned championship golf course that is ranked 75 th  in the world in Golf World’s Top 100 and No 6 in Europe by Leading Courses. Stunning sea views and a seven-mile beach cap the experience at this outstanding modern hotel.
  • There’s AirBnBs, independent Bed & Breakfast establishments, hotels, cottages, campgrounds and caravan (trailer) hookups, and something called self-catering rentals which means a vacation rental with facilities for guests to prepare their own meals.

Here’s a map that can help you to see what is available on the dates you want to travel:

  • Hover over the “star” icons to get distillery info. Click on it to go to their website.
  • Hover over the hotel icons to see info. Click on it to book.
  • You can also investigate the many AirBnB options on the island, including the Yellow Rock Cottage run by Christine Logan, also known as “the Lady of the Isles”.

The distilleries of Islay

Here’s a quick look at each of Islay’s distilleries:

islay guided tours

Ardbeg — In operation for more than 200 years, Ardbeg whiskies have won many prestigious titles for its spectacular single malt. Compared to other Islay Malts Ardbeg  doesn’t focus on the sea and salt tastes . They rather focus on aromas of spices, malt or sweet tones like vanilla and chocolate. The core range of Ardbeg consists of the Ardbeg TEN, Uigeadail and Corryvreckan.

Ardnahoe — Ardnahoe is the youngest distillery on the island, started in 2018. Whisky icon Jim McEwan, who had previously led the Bruichladdich Distillery to great success, was recruited as production manager and advisor. Situated on the north east coast between Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain, it has a whisky bar, a cafe, and dining for lunch ( book ahead ).

islay guided tours

Bowmore — As the first and oldest licensed distillery on Islay, Bowmore has been in operation for more than 240 years and has the oldest Scotch whisky maturation space in the world. We invest more time than necessary at every stage of our process.  We have our own proprietary malt barns, hand-turning our barley .

Bruichladdich — Esquire magazine says Bruichladdich is “tough to say, easy to drink”. Located on the southwestern tip of the island, the distillery is known for being blessed with some of the best spirit in Scotland, helped by the tall, narrow-necked stills which produce an elegant, floral and fruity house style. Bruichladdich is our personal favourite for a number of reasons.

Bunnahabhain — Bunnahabhain means ‘mouth of the river’ in Gaelic. Bunnahabhain’s whiskies have a signature unpeated style. With the tallest stills on the island and the only distillery to use water from a natural spring, Bunnahabhain single malt whisky is known for its sherried, delicate, complex and unpeated taste.

Caol Ila — Turning out more whisky than any other Islay producer, Caol Ila manages to combine  a fresh pear note, grassiness, a hint of juniper, and distinct notes of the seashore – lobster shells, crab creels and gentle smoke in the flavour of it’s whisky. Caol Ila translates to ‘ Sound of Islay ‘.

islay guided tours

Kilchoman — as one of the six Scottish distilleries still working with traditional floor-maltings, Kilchoman is unique in  completing all parts of the whisky making process – growing barley, malting, distilling, maturing and bottling – on Islay.

Lagavulin — Perched in the picturesque town of Port Ellen, the Lagavulin distillery celebrated its 200th birthday in 2016, although illicit distillation started in 1742. Peated malt, lengthy distillation, and long maturation together make sure Lagavulin develops its distinctive flavour that has won many awards.

islay guided tours

Laphroaig — Established in 1815, Laphroiag distills peated whisky that is renowned for its bold, smoky taste, followed by a hint of seaweed and a surprising sweetness — full-bodied with a long finish.

Port Ellen — Port Ellen actually closed operations in 1983. But it is still a successful whisky company as it provide maltings to all of Islay AND releases whisky from the reserves still maturing in their casks. In fact, in 2022, a rare 1979 cask of Port Ellen whisky was auctioned by Sotheby’s for £875,000.The distillery does not offer tours year round, but it does provide the opportunity to be given a tour of the maltings and warehouse facilities during the annual “Feis Ile” Islay Whisky festival; you just have to be sure to book in advance to reserve a place. As of 2022, plans are for the distillery to reopen in 2023 .

islay guided tours

Portintruan — Islay’s newest distillery under construction is Portintruan, a name taken from the historic farm estate where the distillery is located and means ‘place of the stream.’ The correct pronunciation of this is Port-nah-truan. In addition to facilities to product whisky and rum, Portintruan will include a visitor’s centre with a bar, a restaurant, a tasting room, and space for an apprenticeship program. Portintruan plans to begin distillation in 2024. 

FAQ (frequently asked questions) about whisky tours on Islay

Commonly asked questions that might help you plan your whisky-tasting vacation.

What is the biggest town on Islay?

islay guided tours

Bowmore is Islay’s administrative capital. With a population of just over 700 people, it’s the island’s largest town. Bowmore town sits on the southeastern shore of Lochindaal, a sort of loch that’s open to the sea. Just south of Bowmore, there’s a 5-mile stretch of sandy beach, called the Big Strand — one of the best beaches on Islay for relaxing, walking, and watersports.

Port Ellen is the next largest and is situated in a sheltered part of the island, offering views to the Oa Peninsula and to Kilnaughton Bay, which is named after the chapel ruins and burial ground at the end of the bay beside the road to the Oa peninsula.

What’s the best single malt whisky on Islay?

That’s like asking which of your children is your favourite, or which Beatle song is your favourite — it’s really hard to choose and it depends on two things: your tastes and your pocketbook. That’s one reason the whisky-tasting tours are so helpful — you get to taste each of the whiskies and determine which is your favourite — if that’s possible!

How many distilleries are on Islay?

There are currently nine working distilleries on Islay, and Port Ellen is due to re-open over the next couple of years. The first recorded distillery was Bowmore, founded in 1779; the most recent was Ardnahoe, which was established in 2018.

Are Scottish distilleries open for tours?

In line with the end of Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland, visitor attractions including Distillery Visitor Centres are open again.

How did the whisky trade on Islay get started?

The history of the whisky industry on Islay is fascinating — they should make a movie as it seems to have everything: it was begun by monks in the 14th century then revived by the island’s Duke and tenants in the 1700s. There’s been crop failures, prohibition, illicit distilling, wars with the Excise people foiled by lenient magistrates, the intervention of big business, and economic struggles to get where we are today. All interesting stuff — if you’d like to read more, ScotchWhisky.com has this detailed story about Islay’s turbulent whisky history .

Can Scotch whisky be made in other countries?

Scotch Whisky can only be made in Scotland and can’t legally be called whisky until it has matured for a minimum of three years in oak casks. Prior to this, the spirit is referred to as P.B.S. (Plain British Spirit).

What is the Islay Whisky Festival?

The Islay Whisky Festival is one of several that occur each year on the island:

islay guided tours

  • Fèis Ìle, a 10-day gathering of whisky and Islay fans from around the world (May, 2023).
  • Cantilena festival , a celebration of chamber music put on every July by students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. 
  • The  Islay Agricultural Show happens on the second Thursday of every August. and has been going since 1838. It promotes the advancement of agriculture on the islands of Islay, Jura and Colonsay.
  • The Islay Book Festival  as originally started by a small book club in Port Ellen, and is now part of Islay’s busy annual events calendar has brought a colourful mix of authors, poets, and storytellers to the Hebrides.
  • The  Islay Jazz Festival  brings world-class musicians to play at various venues around the island. Sponsored by Lagavulin, it takes place in the autumn over the course of one week.
  • The  Islay Sessions  is a smaller music festival held in November, that brings Scottish traditional and folk musicians to Islay for a weekend of concert performances, pub sessions, and workshops.

Which is the oldest distillery on Islay?

Bowmore is the first recorded distillery on the Isle of Islay and one of the oldest in the whole of Scotland, dating back to 1779.

What do you wear to a distillery tour?

It is acceptable to wear casual, comfortable clothing on any of the whisky tours on Islay, but you may want to dress in layers. You can take off your jacket or sweater if it gets too warm. It also is not a bad idea to wear close-toed shoes since you will be around heavy machinery.

What time of year is best to go to Islay?

The driest months (and a good time to visit Islay) are April, May and June. Islay receives 50 inches of rain every year, double that of London, with January and October the wettest months. We visited in September and had very good weather throughout our stay.

How do you get to Islay?

islay guided tours

Islay is accessible  by air or by ferry . There are regular flights from Glasgow to Islay that take about 45 minutes. You can also fly from Oban with Hebridean Air Service. There are two rental car companies at the airport: Cresswells and Urquharts.

There are also regular ferry services from Kennacraig that sail to Port Ellen and Port Askaig. We took the scenic ferry route from the mainland near Glasgow to Arran where we stayed for the night at Auchrannie, and then continued by ferry to the Mull of Kyntire, and then on to Islay.

How long is the ferry crossing to Islay?

From Kennacraig on Kintyre, the journey to Port Ellen will take 2 hours 20 minutes. Alternatively, if you make land at Port Askaig it’ll be slightly shorter at 1 hour 55 minutes. Making reservations for your ferrying your car/vehicle is recommended.

Do you need a car on Islay?

We rented a car and brought it to Islay by ferry. But once we were there, we barely used it and, instead, used a personal tour service run by Christine Logan (known as Lady of the Isles). Unfortunately, Christine’s service no longer runs, but there are buses available.

There are two bus routes, both of which use the main roads on the island. The 450 runs from Bowmore in the centre of the island to Portnahaven in the south west, while the 451 runs between Port Askaig in the north-east down to Port Ellen and Ardbeg in the south. The bus timetable and routes are limited, and it may affect which distilleries and other sights you can visit.

Taxis, and private tours/shuttles, and community alternative transport options are more flexible alternatives. Googling “taxi transportation on Islay” will get you a list of companies that offer transport.

How long does it take to drive around Islay?

You cannot drive around the perimeter of Islay as there is no ring road, but it is possible to drive to most parts on the mainly single-track roads. Port Ellen to Port Askaig: 19 miles, approx 30 minutes. Port Ellen to Portnahaven: 26 miles, approx 40 minutes.

Is it true that the Woollen Mill on Islay made the tartan for the movie Braveheart?

That is true! The Islay Woollen Mill designed and produced the tartan fabric as worn by Mel Gibson  and others for the blockbuster movie Braveheart. Owned and run by  Gordon and Sheila Covell , the Woollen Mill has also produced designs and fabric for Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks and  Rob Roy  starring Liam Neeson.

Yes, we know the movie was not always factually correct. Wallace was the son of a knight and since he was not a highlander;  he did not wear a kilt .

But, for me, that didn’t make the movie any less exciting and led me years later to wear a Braveheart costume at Hallowe’en and yell “Freedom” with a helium-powered voice! 

The mill produces an excellent range of top quality woven fabrics, and is located just off the main Port Askaig road near Bridgend. If you’re interested in high quality tweeds and tartans you need to visit upstairs at the mill!

islay guided tours

Are there midges on Islay?

If you are considering a trip to Islay in summer, please don’t let midges put you off. It really is few and far between occasions that these wee beasties cause any irritation. And so you are sure to happily enjoy our beautiful island year-round without any problems!

Conclusion: choose your favourite whisky tour on Islay

Choose your favourite from the many whisky tours on Islay and make it part of your whisky bucket list. Ours is the 4-day Islay and Whisky Tour from Edinburgh based on the overwhelmingly-positive customer ratings, the coverage of Islay distilleries, and value for the money.

From the smoky and peaty notes of Laphroaig to the maritime flavours of Lagavulin, there are plenty of experiences to be had, both in tasting these delightful drams as well as learning how they are made.

If you think that whisky isn’t for you, why not challenge yourself? With each distillery offering multiple tour options, educational tastings and more, you’ll soon find yourself hooked on this beloved spirit from Scotland’s western Hebrides. So go ahead and let your hair down a bit—it’s time to explore the fantastic world of Islay single malt whisky.

Slàinte mhath!

Thanks for joining us on this new adventure! Got a question or a comment? Go to the contact page and send a message using the form.

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Adventures Scotland

South Hebrides : Arran, Islay and Jura

Discovering the southern hebrides in 9 days: arran, islay and jura..

An ideal trip for those who love the freedom of the islands, the sea and the mountains. A concentrated taste of Scotland without a lot of driving. This is a trip for nature lovers but also for whisky connoisseurs who will have the opportunity to visit and taste the famous peated single malts from Islay.

Lochranza (©Leading Lines)

You will like...

Beautiful mountains.

The mountains of Arran and Jura.

The best whiskies

Prestigious whiskies from Islay and Jura as well as the local produce.

Trek the best landscapes

The beaches and cliffs of Islay.

Nature and Fauna

The feeling of total escape just two hours from Glasgow.

Trip Itinerary

Check out or itinerary, don't forget we can customize this trip ! We can’t wait to show you around!

Itinerary map

Book with us and get a travelbook with detailed and customized points of interests

Pricing Chart

Our “from” price is based on mid-season prices and for a group of 8 people.

What's included ?

  • Trip organisation (customisation and bookings)
  • Accomodations
  • Fully qualified guide
  • Breakfasts and Lunches
  • All ferry crossings
  • 24/7 emergency telephone support

What's not included ?

  • Entry fees to attractions such as distilleries or museums

islay guided tours

Related Guided Tours in Scotland

Check out some of our tour ideas to discover Scotland. We can’t wait to show you around!

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Speyside whisky trail

Quiraing landscape on the isle of Skye in Scotland

The Big Highlands tour

islay guided tours

The Celtic Trio : Wales, Ireland and Scotland

islay guided tours

Islay & The West Coast Whisky Trail

  • Fully customisable itinerary
  • Prices from: £1135 per person
  • Best time to go: April - October
  • Transport: Rental car included (optional)

islay guided tours

Isle of Arran

Known as “Scotland in Miniature,” Arran has a little bit of everything, boasting steep mountains, glorious beaches, deep glens and shimmering lochs.

islay guided tours

Isle of Islay

Islay is the most southerly island of the Hebrides archipelago and is a wildlife watcher’s dream, with more than 250 recorded species of bird. It has a wild and spectacular coastline and some of the most immaculate and deserted beaches to explore and wander along.

islay guided tours

World famous distilleries

Islay is most famous for its smoky, single malt whiskies. Explore its world-famous distilleries, including Laphroaig, Ardbeg & Lagavulin.

islay guided tours

Isle of Mull

Enjoy the outstanding scenery of the Isle of Mull and its pretty harbour town Tobermory, with multi-coloured houses and the Tobermory Distillery.

islay guided tours

Known as the hub of the southern Hebrides and the Seafood Capital of Scotland, Oban is home to the 5-star Oban Distillery and Visitor Centre overlooking the sea.

islay guided tours

Isle of Iona

Follow in the footsteps of St Columba and 14 centuries of pilgrims by visiting Iona Abbey on the tiny and tranquil Isle of Iona, steeped in history.

An Amazing Island-Hopping Whisky Tour

A whisky adventure awaits you in the Scottish Islands and on the scenic West Coast. This island-hopping whisky tour blends incredible scenery with wonderful single malt whisky for a truly unforgettable holiday experience which will leave you enchanted with your new favourite dram.

Explore the natural beauty of the West Coast on this self-drive tour as you island-hop to Arran, Islay and Mull, discovering the secrets of malt whisky-making and enjoying some of Scotland’s finest scenery.

The Isle of Arran is your first stop, and its reputation as “Scotland in Miniature” is well deserved. With deep green glens, tranquil lochs, dramatic mountains, and of course, the Isle of Arran Distillery, it’s hard to know where to start! 

Known as the “Queen of the Hebrides,” the Isle of Islay may only be 25 miles long, but it boasts 8 world-famous distilleries, including old favourites such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Laphroaig.  These smoky, peaty malts are a dream for the experienced whisky fan. 

From your third and final stop at the beautiful seaside town of Oban, you can explore the magical Isles of Mull and Iona, with peaceful harbours, stunning wildlife and – you guessed it – another whisky distillery! The perfect dram might just be waiting somewhere along this Islay & The West Coast Whisky Trail.

Suggested Itinerary

The holiday ideas on our website are just examples of the amazing trips we offer.  Think of this itinerary as a starting point which can be tailored into something completely unique to you by our award-winning specialists.

We love the opportunity to use our first-hand knowledge and experience to design and deliver the perfect, bespoke holiday experience for you.

Day 1: Arrive Glasgow and travel to the Isle of Arran

Travel west to catch the ferry to the Isle of Arran. Known as “Scotland in Miniature,” this is Scotland’s most southerly island and boasts dramatic mountains, deep glens and shimmering lochs. Overnight – Isle of Arran

Day 2: Isle of Arran Sightseeing

Your whisky tour begins with a visit to the Isle of Arran Distillery, Scotland’s newest distillery and home to The Arran Malt. Sample some of the Island’s other great produce – Arran Cheeses, Creelers Smokehouse and Arran Aromatics. Climb the rugged mountains or play golf on one of the island’s many courses. Overnight – Isle of Arran

Day 3: Isle of Arran to Islay

Depart Arran by morning ferry and travel across Kintyre where your next ferry will take you to beautiful Islay. Known for its magnificent beaches and fertile lands, Islay is most famous for its smoky, single malt whiskies.

With eight distilleries all running guided tours, a visit to the island will give you ample opportunity to taste Scotland’s national product. This is traditional whisky making in its full glory – from the malting of the barley, to the peat fired kilns and famous warehouses by the shores of Loch Indaal. Overnight – Isle of Islay

Day 4: Islay Sightseeing

Along the south coast of the island you will find the Islay whiskies for the true aficionado – the uncompromising full bodied malts of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. At Laphroaig Distillery they still cut their peat by hand, and Lagavulin is renowned for its long maturation and complex, rich, peaty character.

Ardbeg is the most peaty malt whisky and is now one of the fastest growing Islay malts. Enjoy a warming dram and delicious lunch in the Old Kiln Cafe, under the old pagoda roofs. Overnight – Isle of Islay

Day 5: Islay Sightseeing

Bowmore Distillery has enjoyed a stunning setting on Loch Indaal since 1779 and is widely recognised as one of the finest single malt whiskies in the world. On the northern shores of Islay is Caol Ila Distillery where you see distillers at work tending the six copper stills, and a magnificent view across the Sound of Islay to the spectacular Paps of Jura.

It is a short ferry journey over to Jura, renowned for its magnificently wild landscape and the most remote distillery in Scotland. Overnight – Isle of Islay

Day 6: Islay to Oban

Depart Islay and travel along the wonderfully scenic west coast and on to Oban, the beautiful hub of the Southern Hebrides. Visit Oban Distillery before enjoying dinner at an award winning seafood restaurant overlooking the Sound of Kerrera. Overnight – Oban area

Day 7: Isles of Mull & Iona Sightseeing

Take a day trip over to the magical Isles of Mull and Iona. Mull is home to magnificent sea cliffs, white sandy beaches and mountains that rise from the crystal clear sea. Famous for its stunning wildlife, you could get acquainted with whales, otters, puffins and basking sharks.

Visit pretty Tobermory, with its multi-coloured houses scattered around a peaceful harbour. Here you will find Tobermory Distillery, home to the sweet and peaty malt of Ledaig and the excellent 10 year old Tobermory. Overnight – Oban area

Day 8 - Oban to Glasgow

After breakfast it is a wonderfully scenic journey along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond back to Glasgow.

What's Included?

Your holiday includes:

  • Carefully selected en-suite accommodation for 7 nights including traditional Scottish breakfast
  • Comprehensive information pack
  • Personalised itinerary with our recommendations for the best places to eat and drink and sightseeing suggestions
  • Map of Scotland with our recommended driving route
  • 8 days rental of an Economy car (other vehicle categories available) including comprehensive insurance
  • All ferry crossings (as per your itinerary)
  • 24-hour emergency contact number
  • Full financial protection

Your holiday doesn't include:

  • Travel insurance
  • Lunches and evening meals

Accommodation & Prices

Special Places to Stay

We know that after a busy day of sightseeing an exceptional place to stay makes all the difference. That’s why all of the accommodation we select is hand-picked using our first-hand knowledge of the best places to stay.

Our discerning team has a wealth of experience, and we extensively research and regularly review all of the accommodation we select for our clients.

Please choose from one of our accommodation categories below. If you wish to combine these categories or perhaps upgrade for a special occasion let us know in your enquiry.

islay guided tours

Tastefully decorated and furnished, these properties are generally owned and operated by locals who have a genuine passion for their region which they are keen to share with you. Their warm hospitality is sure to be a highlight of your Scottish experience.

islay guided tours

It also comprises larger 4* Hotels selected for their high standard of accommodation, exceptional service, and great location. These range from traditional luxury to contemporary Hotels.

islay guided tours

From award-winning luxury Hotels to unique country retreats, all of which offer exceptional accommodation with superb facilities and outstanding service.

These are truly magical places and amongst the best Scotland has to offer. The perfect choice when you would like somewhere really special which can be a treat for the night or for your entire holiday.

Our packages include car rental and comprehensive insurance for the duration of your holiday. Absolute Escapes has an excellent relationship with a number of car hire operators and we are able to offer quality vehicles and great value for money.

If you plan to bring your own vehicle, we are also able to offer this itinerary without a rental car.

All our packages include:

  • Collision Damage Waiver
  • Super Damage Excess Waiver
  • Third Party Insurance
  • Theft Waiver
  • Good for 2 people
  • Maximum of 4 passengers
  • 2 large suitcases
  • Manual or automatic transmission
  • Good for 2 – 4 people
  • Maximum of 5 passengers

Intermediate

  • Good for up to 4 people
  • 3 large suitcases
  • Good for 5 people
  • Maximum of 7 passengers
  • 3 – 4 large suitcases

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islay guided tours

The Isle of Islay: A Spirit of its Own

The Isle of Islay on Scotland's west coast is renowned for its world-class peaty whiskies, but with turquoise bays, wonderful wildlife and excellent walking opportunities - there's far more than just the whisky! Sine from the Absolute Escapes team hopped on a ferry to explore Islay ... Read more

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How to Drink Scotch Whisky: A Beginner’s Guide

With fifteen years' experience of offering self-guided Whisky Trail holidays in Scotland, we think we know a thing or two about Scotch whisky. Read on for our top tips as we answer your most frequently asked questions about 'The Water of Life'. Read more

A wee dram of Scotch whisky

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2-Day Self-Guided Islay Whisky Tour: Visit the Distilleries

If you’re a whisky fan, you’ve likely smelled the peaty, smoky whisky made exclusively on the Isle of Islay (pronounced eye-la). It’s the southernmost island of the  Inner Hebrides  of Scotland – the fifth-largest of the Scottish isles, and it’s known for its peaty whisky.

Islay is one of five areas in Scotland where whisky distilling takes place and is protected by law. There are nine distilleries on the island currently that you can visit on an Islay Whisky Tour.

Lagavulin Distillery

The island is small, but it can still be challenging to envision the Islay distilleries map and make a plan for visiting them when it’s your first time. We spent hours putting together our itinerary and researching all the various options.

As always we wanted to share our itinerary with you, so you have everything you need to plan your trip, from transport to accommodations, so you can just focus on having a great time tasting authentic Scottish whisky.

On a 2-Day Islay distilleries tour that you put together your self, you can make it to six of the top distilleries. It’s a lot of whisky and a bit of driving, but each of the distilleries gives a take-away option so you can sample the whisky when the driving is done.

If you’re adding a few days to your Scotland itinerary to visit Islay, you can choose which of these distilleries sound fun and learn a bit about this tiny island that’s serious about its craft.

Bunnahabhain Distillery view

Best Affordable Luxury Hotel in Islay

Need to get your accommodations booked? We think the all-around best choice is the…

Machrie Hotel & Golf Link

» If you’re visiting Scotland , check out our 7-day itinerary that covers the west of Scotland and the Isle of Skye, or this week-long itinerary to the east. You’ll also love visiting Edinburgh .

Table of Contents

Should I Book an Islay Whisky Tour?

A group tour takes all of the planning off your shoulders. This is great for beginner travelers or those who want a more structured itinerary.

This private 4-Day Islay Whisky Tour from Edinburgh is perfect for true whisky enthusiasts. It will introduce you to many of Scotland’s top distilleries—including every distillery on Islay. Accommodation and transport are included in the cost and are a great way to take the planning off of you.

However, you don’t have to book Islay tours with a company to enjoy your tasting experience. Self-guided tours are a great way to explore the location on your own time, add stops, and get to know the locals a bit more.

You can hire a private driver to take you from location to location (best to ask your hotel for recommendation) or you can drive yourself around and keep the tasters for the end of the day.

Islay distillery

How to Plan Self-Guided Islay Whisky Tours

It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit. Tours of the distilleries are available throughout the year. However, in winter, some distilleries may only have a limited number of tours a month, so it’s best to check their websites ahead of time and make a booking to ensure you can get in.

We found that all of the tours filled up by the time we got there, so if we hadn’t made reservations in advance we wouldn’t have gotten in to any of them!

How to Get to Islay

No matter where you’re coming from, to get to Islay, you’ll need to take a ferry from Kennacraig. There are two ferry ports on the island, Port Ellen and Port Askaig. The ferry ride should take about two and a half hours.

Islay Ferry

The earliest ferry ride is at 7:00 from Kennacraig, with the last ones leaving Port Ellen at 12:45 and Port Askaig at 18:00. You can find the ferry timetable here . You can take your car on the ferry, but make a reservation early, especially in summer to guarantee a spot.

One more thing about the car ferry – it can break down. It does pretty often in fact. When we visited, we got on the ferry no problem, but the very next ferry broke down and no cars could be transported to the island for 2 days. This can dramatically affect your trip, so be prepared with a backup plan, if possible.

There are also daily flights from Glasgow that take about 45 minutes. You can also take a bus from Glasgow to the ferry port. This will leave you without a car on the island though, so you’ll need to look into rentaling on the island from Islay Car Hire Company .

How to Get Around Islay

We thought it would be possible to get a taxi to take us to the distilleries, but quickly found out there are only a few taxi drivers on the whole island. As there was a wedding going on that weekend, there were absolutely no taxis available.

We also tried to take the bus but found the schedule to be quite prohibitive, as well as how far it is to get to the distilleries from the bus stop. In my opinion, the best way to get around is to take your own car or rent a car on the island.

Here are the best ways to get around the island for your self-guided tour.

Islay Coaches is the island’s bus service and has two bus routes — bus 450 and 451. These are a great way to save a bit of cash if you’re not in a hurry. However, there are a few downsides.

Buses aren’t frequent and don’t run on Sundays. They run between 8 am to 5 pm as these are also the school buses in the area. The stops are not exactly convenient to the distilleries.

The easiest way to get around Islay is by car — whether you drive yourself or get a taxi. This is also needed for the distilleries in the north, as there are no bus routes.

If you take a taxi, you’ll have to book your ride well in advance (about a day or two) as cabs are few in this area. There are Ubers available on the island, but, like taxis not many, and since the signal can be poor, it’s best to book these ahead of time too.

Private Driver

If you’d like to visit these distilleries on your own time, consider getting a private driver instead. Not only will you be supporting local businesses and learning insights from locals, but you’ll also be eliminating the chance of driving under the influence.

The best way to find a private driver is to ask your hotel for recommendations or do a Google search.

three distilleries path

It’s good to note that there is a walking trail that connects all of the south distilleries. If it’s nice enough outside, you should definitely consider walking it. We were hoping to take a taxi to Ardbeg and walk the way back to Port Ellen, but that didn’t work out since we couldn’t get a taxi. If you can though, give this a try.

It’s a 3-mile walking path that connects Ardbeg, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig, to Port Ellen. If you’re staying in or new Port Ellen, this is a fantastic way to spend a day. You walk right along the coast line on a very nice path. It’s gorgeous.

Self-Guided Whisky Tours in Islay

Day 1: south islay.

South Islay has the most popular distilleries on the island. I would suggest staying in a hotel in that area, like the Machrie Hotel , which is a 7-mile drive from Ardbeg.

Morning: Ardbeg Distillery

Ardbeg Distillery

The earliest tour starts at 10:00, so you can have a leisurely morning and only start moving to the first location around 9:00.

Ardbeg Distillery sits along the crashing shore on Pier Road. Since its opening in 1815, this distillery has been through many trials and owners. In 1987, production even subsided to nothing. But, as you can see, it came out kicking to become the award-winning distillery it is today.

For that reason, it is worth visiting on this Islay distillery tour, don’t you think? There are a few variations of the distillery tour, with different tastings added. The most basic tour is the 10:00 ‘Tour And Wee Taste’ , which costs $15 (£12) and includes a tasting of a dram of whisky of your choice.

Ardbeg tasting

While there, you can also enjoy Ardberg cocktails or ‘rocktails’ for as little as $6 (£5). But it’s probably a good idea to have something in your stomach first. Luckily the Old Kiln Cafe is not too far away and serves sandwiches, soups, and home-baked goods between November and March.

From April to October, The Ardstream Trailer takes over and serves a selection of wood-burn pizzas, salads, and paninis.

Note: While tours still run in winter, they are reduced to Mondays and Fridays only.

Noon: Lagavulin Distillery

Lagavulin Distillery

Not too far from Ardberg is Lagavulin Distillery. To get here by bus, you’ll need to take bus 451 from Farm Road End, Ardbeg, to the Lagavulin Distillery stop. It is less than a five-minute drive by car.

Like the previous distillery, Lagavulin also has a fascinating history. It started as an illegal still in the 18th century before officially opening in 1816. Since opening, the distillery has won several awards locally and internationally ( San Francisco loves them).

Lagavulin tasting

The Lagavulin Classic Tour starts at 13:00, so you can take your time at Ardbeg Distillery filling up on their treats. And, seeing as Lagavulin doesn’t have an eatery, it is recommended. The tour costs $27 (£22) and is about an hour and a half long.

On it, you’ll get to see the long process of how this award-winning whisky is made. You’ll also get an expert-guided tasting of a selection of whiskies, including a taste of the Distillery Exclusive bottling. Don’t forget your complimentary Lagavulin branded glass souvenir.

Note: Please arrive 15 minutes before your reservation.

Late Afternoon: Laphroaig Distillery

Laphroaig Distillery

You can take bus 451 from Lagavulin to the Laphroaig Distillery or take the short three-minute drive. There are no restaurants on-site, so you’ll have to make a booking in Port Ellen for dinner.

Laphroaig Distillery is the oldest distillery on the itinerary for day one, opening in 1810. It was also illegitimate for a while before Scottish laws were relaxed. But, unlike the other distilleries in the area, this has the royal seal of approval.

After visiting in 1994, Prince Charles gave this whisky his Royal Warrant. He liked it so much that he visited again in 2008 for his 60th birthday celebration.

Laphroaig whisky

The Laphroaig Experience Tour starts at 14:30, which means you’ll have to either leave the previous tour a bit early or call ahead to say you’ll arrive about five minutes late. On the experience, you’ll get a peek into its secrets by walking through the floor maltings and museum. From there, you’ll get to pick a dram to taste and also get a few souvenirs.

This is the last distillery for the day and very near to Port Ellen, where you’ll most likely retreat for the night. Take bus 451 in the direction of Bowmore to get to the Charlotte Street stop, about a five-minute walk from your accommodation.

Day 2: North Islay

As mentioned, there aren’t many bus lines in the North of Islay. So, arranging a taxi beforehand or getting a private driver to take you around would be best.

Morning: Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman Distillery

It should take a 36-minute drive from Port Ellen to Kilchoman Distillery. This tour starts at 10:00, so you can choose to eat breakfast at your hotel or look for a lovely eatery in town before making your way over.

However, there is a cafe if you’re feeling peckish around lunchtime. Kilchoman Distillery Cafe serves cakes, soups, paninis, and drinks with a drop of whisky. Don’t forget to try the Northern Scottish favorite of Cullen skink — a thick smoked haddock soup with potatoes and onions.

Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman Distillery is a family-run business run by the Wills Family. They opened it in 2005 and have seen great success since. You can learn how they achieved this success by taking the one-hour Classic Tour which starts at 10:00 and costs $12 (£10). This will take you through the distillery production alongside an expert guide and finish with a dram at the Visitor Centre.

Noon: Bunnahabhain Distillery

Bunnahabhain Distillery

It is another 36-minute drive to Bunnahabhain Distillery from Kilchoman Distillery. This spot opened in 1818 thanks to the pier, which not only allowed for supplies to be brought in but also allowed shipping.

But, it wasn’t until 1961 that the distillery got a road for easy access that it started to grow. Today, this Single Malt Whisky Collection attracts many visitors and connoisseurs.

The Production Tour starts at 12:00 and costs $19 (£15). It takes you through the entire process of what it takes to make this Single Malt Whisky. After a lesson on the production and history, you’ll head to the Boathouse for a dram tasting of your own.

Late Afternoon: Ardnahoe Distillery

Ardnahoe Distillery

It is a short five-minute drive from Bunnahabhain Distillery to Ardnahoe Distillery. This distillery is still quite young, having only officially opened in 2019. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing, as this family has been in the biz for over 60 years.

If you want a tour of the process of this particular distillery, take The Spirit Of Ardnahoe tasting tour. It costs £10 and takes about 45 minutes to complete. There are a few time slots for the distillery tour. The afternoon time slots have one tour at 14:00 and the last tour of the day at 16:00, so you don’t have to rush over from Bunnahabhain Distillery.

The Illicit Still Café is an on-site eatery. It is laid-back and serves treats, light and hearty meals, and vegetarian and vegan options. It is important to note that it only serves food until 15:45, and bookings are required.

Ardnahoe Distillery is about a 30-minute drive to Port Askaig. As mentioned before, the last ferry ride to Kennacraig is at 18:00, so you won’t have to rush to catch your ferry. So, you can either have a bite to eat at the distillery cafe or grab an early dinner at the Port Askaig Hotel.

Where to Stay in Islay

As the Isle of Islay is tiny, it doesn’t have a city center. However, Port Ellen is the island’s biggest town, so it will be your base for your stay.

Machrie Hotel & Golf Links

This four-star hotel is exactly what you need after a long day of lifting the elbow. It sits on the beach and has a wellness spa offering all kinds of beauty treatments. The rooms are spacious and modern, with some of the best views on the island.

There are also two restaurants on-site that serve hearty Scottish and British meals. We ate dinner twice at the 18 Restaurant & Bar and really enjoyed the food. In the low season, you might find it’s easiest to eat the hotel because there tends to be more demand than there is supply in town.

⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor

No. 1 Charlotte Street

Cozy and close to the Port Ellen Ferry terminal, No. 1 Charlotte Street is the perfect place to be after a long day. Each room has a sea view and a double bed, a seating area, and a private bathroom.

While it doesn’t have an on-site restaurant, it is in a prime location and only a few steps away from a selection of eateries.

Islay Whisky Festival

Another great way to get to try a lot of Islay’s whiskies and have a great time doing it is to go to the Islay Whisky Festival , which takes place in the last week of May.

The festival is 9 days of music, song, dancing, chatting, meeting friends old and new and perhaps having a wee bit of Islay whisky along the way.

Ready to Visit the Top Islay Whiskey Distilleries?

As you can see, Islay has a range of amazing whisky-producing stills. While this list only takes you to six of the nine distilleries, you can always add another day or two to visit the rest.

Now that you know everything for a successful self-guided whiskey tour in Islay, what’s stopping you?

If you loved this tour, you might enjoy this Speyside Distilleries Malt Whisky Trail too.

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2-Day Self-Guided Islay Whisky Tour in Scotland

Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.

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A Scotch Whisky Brand and Aston Martin are Inviting Guests to Tour Islay in Luxury — and Tickets Cost $1,000

A Scotch Whisky Brand and Aston Martin are Inviting Guests to Tour Islay in Luxury — and Tickets Cost $1,000

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  1. A guided tour of Islay

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  2. Islay & Jura Whisky Trails

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  3. Islay Sea Adventures

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  4. Isle of Islay : Scotland Travel Guide : Nordic Visitor

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COMMENTS

  1. Islay Outdoors

    Our Tours. Discover the island's best on a guided day tour! Tours are bespoke and tailored to guests' requirements whether booking on your own or in a group. Tours normally begin at 09.30 hrs and finish around 17.00 hrs. Half day tours can start at 10.00 hrs and finish at 13.30 hrs. Mode of transport is a Toyota Hilux 4x4 which DJ is ...

  2. THE 5 BEST Islay Tours & Excursions for 2024 (with Prices)

    Inverary Castle, Historic Sights and Scenic Beauty from Oban. Historical Tours. 5-6 hours. Explore the rich history and stunning beauty of the Scottish Highlands with our expert guide. From grand castles to unique…. Free cancellation. from. $1,149. per group.

  3. Islay Classic Tours

    It's time to indulge yourself with a private guided tour of Islay, in the period luxury and comfort of a classic car, with a personal driver & tour guide. Sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Islay, the array of classic malt whisky distilleries, the historic sites and natural history of the Queen of the Hebrides.

  4. 7 Distilleries on the Best Islay Tour with Highland Explorers

    Ardbeg. The first distillery we visited was Ardbeg, at the end of the Three Distilleries Walk. That's a path from Port Ellen which passes through Laphroig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg. At the distillery, we received a full tour of the operations and got to sample three different Ardbeg whiskies.

  5. ISLAY Whisky Distillery Tours + Map: Visit ALL 9

    On your way back to central Islay, take a 5-minute detour to visit the ruins along Loch Finlaggan, which was the seat of power for the Lords of the Isles. Suggested itinerary for North Islay whisky distillery tours: 9:30am express tour and 10am blending experience at Ardnahoe (2.5hrs), plus lunch.

  6. THE 5 BEST Islay Tours & Excursions (from £636)

    4. 4 Day Islay Whisky Tour from Edinburgh. Historical Tours. 3+ days. Experience an extra small group tour of up to only 8 Clients Drink Scotch Whisky at some of the most iconic Whisky Distilleries…. Free cancellation. from. £625. per adult.

  7. 10 Best Islay Island Tours & Trips 2024/2025

    Edinburgh, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Oban, Kilmartin, Bowmore, Islay Island, Port Askaig, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Inveraray +10 more Age Range 18 to 95 year olds Country Region Argyll Operated in English Operator Rabbie's Tours This operator has high review ratings and responds promptly to enquiries

  8. Guided Tours

    t: 01496 850 643 / 07985 403 537. e: [email protected]. Full Details . Islay Sea Adventures

  9. Islay

    How to travel to Islay, where to stay & eat, what to see & do. ... Quick guides. Book a ferry. Find accommodation. Distilleries & tours. Islay weather. What's on. Special events. This site was founded by Ron Steenvoorden in 2003 and gradually became a very popular online destination for folk visiting the Isle of Islay. In 2021 Islay Development ...

  10. Islay tours

    Let Dougie at Islay Tours and Private Hire guide you on a walk or drive around Islay's glorious landscape taking in many natural and man-made wonders, or visit the 9 (and counting) whisky distilleries that grace this magical whisky island. ... Let him take you on a guided walk to visit some of the more remote landmarks on the island, or join ...

  11. Isle of Islay

    Join us on a journey to the beautiful Hebridean island of Islay, one of the most wildlife-rich locations on the west coast of Scotland. Home to some of the most incredible spectacles, including Barnacle Geese, which flock to Islay in their thousands each year. Here, you will experience the incredible wealth of birdlife and marine life that seek ...

  12. Isle of Islay Bespoke Wildlife Tours

    Islay Outdoors. Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay, Scotland, PA49 7UN Book Now: 01496 850643 or 07985 403537 [email protected]

  13. Islay & The West Coast Whisky Trail

    Complete our Online Enquiry Form. Email us at [email protected]. Phone us on +44 (0) 131 610 1210. This island-hopping whisky tour blends incredible scenery with unforgettable wildlife and wonderful single malt whisky for a truly unforgettable holiday in the islands of Scotland. Explore the natural beauty of the West Coast on this ...

  14. Bespoke Bird Watching Tours of Isle of Islay

    Fishing. Jura and Colonsay. Other Tours. Islay is renowned across the world for its enormous variety of bird life. It possesses the richest variety of birdlife in the Hebrides with 180 recorded species of which 100 breed on the island! There's something for the birdwatcher all year round. In autumn, thousands of white-fronted and barnacle ...

  15. A Guide to Whisky Distillery Tours on the Isle of Islay

    An Introduction to Islay. The Isle of Islay (pronounced eye-luh) is the southernmost island in the Southern Hebrides on Scotland's west coast, lying close to the Isle of Jura and to the west of the Campbeltown peninsula. At 239 square miles, it's quite a big island when compared to other west-coast tourist destinations like the Isle of Tiree, but it pales in comparison to Scotland's most ...

  16. 4 Day Islay & the Whisky Coast Tour from Edinburgh

    You discover the smoky flavours of Islay's single malt whiskies, explore the historic sights of Islay, and spend your time trading notes with fellow whisky lovers. So join this tour, explore distilleries without having to drive, and enhance your knowledge of whisky, Scotland, and Islay, 'Queen of the Hebrides'.

  17. Jura Island Tours

    Join our friendly tour guide Alex on his luxury Mercedes mini coach to discover the delights of Jura. We offer short tours and full island tours with a range of tour stops taking in the history, culture, wildlife and stunning beauty of the Isle of Jura and offering plenty of fantastic photo opportunities. We also offer bespoke tours and private ...

  18. Best single malt whisky tours on Islay, Scotland for 2023

    Outstanding rugged scenery and multi-day whisky tours on Islay. #1 - 4-day itinerary: Islay and The Whisky Coast from Edinburgh. #2 - Four-Day itinerary: Islay Whisky Tour from Glasgow. #3 - 9-day itinerary: Private malt whisky tour throughout Scotland. Other available whisky tours on Islay.

  19. Guided tour in the southern hebrides : Arran, Islay, Jura

    On the programme: - Island tour. - Visit the Machrie stone circles, Brodick Castle and Arran Aromatics, and taste the island's specialities (fish and seafood, Arran cheese, oatcakes, chutney, not forgetting the famous "Arran" beer brewed on the island). - Goatfell hike (5-6 hours, altitude difference 874 m), the highest point of the ...

  20. Islay Whisky Trail

    With eight distilleries all running guided tours, a visit to the island will give you ample opportunity to taste Scotland's national product. This is traditional whisky making in its full glory - from the malting of the barley, to the peat fired kilns and famous warehouses by the shores of Loch Indaal. Overnight - Isle of Islay. Day 4 ...

  21. 2-Day Self-Guided Islay Whisky Tour: Visit the Distilleries

    Self-Guided Whisky Tours in Islay Day 1: South Islay. South Islay has the most popular distilleries on the island. I would suggest staying in a hotel in that area, like the Machrie Hotel, which is a 7-mile drive from Ardbeg. Morning: Ardbeg Distillery Ardbeg Distillery (photo by Savored Journeys)

  22. A Scotch Whisky Brand and Aston Martin are Inviting Guests to Tour

    A Scotch Whisky Brand and Aston Martin are Inviting Guests to Tour Islay in Luxury — and Tickets Cost $1,000. ... The guided tour of the distillery will take place after lunch at the Bridgend ...

  23. Search Results for Isle

    Vacations And Tours Private Chauffeur Family Adventure On The Emerald Isle. Adventures that are shared, meaningful and uplifting have a lifelong impact on all the family. ... Isle of Islay. Scotland's Isle of Islay is a land of dramatic coastal scenery, vibrant bid life, and fine seafood, but it's Islay's distinctive smoky whiskies th

  24. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Yeysk

    San Pantaleo Market Station Brugge Junkanoo Beach Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep Waterfall Red Reef Park Mount Kilimanjaro Patong Beach Great Sand Dunes National Park Museum of Failure Sandy Beach Park From Tromso all-inclusive Bird and Arctic Wildlife Sightseeing cruise River Trip on Pranburi River The Florida Aquarium in Tampa General Admission Atacama Salt Flat & Piedras Rojas Tour from San ...

  25. Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

    Upload a photo. Suggest edits to improve what we show. Improve this listing. The area. Prigorodnaya, 8, Krasnodar 350900 Russia. Full view. Best nearby. Restaurants. 80 within 3 miles.