There are many other things to do and see on Islay, and a busy calendar of events throughout the year! Some of the highlights include the annual Whisky Festival, Fèis Ìle, held in the third week of May every year, during which each of Islay’s eight whisky distilleries hold open days with food, live music, tastings and special collectible bottlings for sale.
In June, Islay is home to the Beach Rugby tournament, and in July, Islay hosts Cantilena, a classical music festival with performances around the island. In August, there is the Islay Half-Marathon and the famous Agricultural Show for the three neighbouring islands of Islay, Jura and Colonsay; in September, there is the Islay Jazz Festival, which attracts internationally famous musicians; and in October, the Islay Book Festival.
For a full and up-to-date list of happenings on the island, have a look at the Islay Info Events page.
All of this is in addition to the amazing landscape and its walking opportunities, and the important local wildlife that Islay is home to throughout the year – not to mention fishing (permits required) or watersports such as kayaking and surfing/windsurfing. You can take an excursion with Islay Sea Adventures to look at grey seals, dolphins, shipwreck sites or to go diving; or play golf at the Machrie Golf Links, currently being expanded to an 18-hole course.
You can also make a short ferry crossing to the neighbouring island of Jura, where writer George Orwell stayed in 1947 and wrote his famous novel, 1984, at one point nearly drowning in the Corryvreckan Whirlpool. Jura is famous for its 6000-strong population of deer, and for the Paps of Jura, the cluster of three mountains, all over 2000 feet, which can be seen from Islay and miles around. If you are up for a challenge, you can join the Jura Fell race in late May every year, which covers 16 miles and 7 summits, including the Paps! Jura also has its own small-batch whisky distillery, a Music Festival in late September, and you can join some of the regular wildlife tours led by local RSPB staff.
Another wonderful excursion from Islay is a visit to Colonsay, the island to the north, again home to amazing landscapes and beautiful walking. At low tide, walk across a mile of strand to the connected island of Oronsay, run as a nature reserve by the RSPB and home to the ruins of a medieval priory; to the north of the island, visit the gardens of Colonsay House with their amazing collection of rhododendrons, and have delicious home-made cakes in their café; a short drive further on are the beautiful golden sands of Kiloran beach. Colonsay has its own micro-brewery producing award-winning beer, and a busy calendar of cultural, food, sporting and nature festivals throughout the year: these include the Book Festival in April, the Spring Festival in May, a Rugby Festival in July, the Folk Festival in September, and Connect with Colonsay in October.
For more information and images of Islay and its surroundings, follow some of the links below:
Lovely photos at the Islay Photo Gallery
There is also a very helpful Tourist Information point in the centre of Bowmore, where you can find out more information to help you plan your holiday.