August 27, 2014

GrapeScot Islay Whisky Tour, Scotland, August 23rd to 30th 2015

Islay and tour overview

Islay is a beautiful Hebridean island off the west coast of Scotland, and one of five official Whisky regions of Scotland (the others are Highland, Lowland, Speyside and Campbeltown). Just over 600 square kilometres in size, it is nevertheless home to 8 working distilleries - Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman and Bunnahabhain. Construction starts this year on Gartbreck, Islay’s newest distillery. Bowmore (1779) is Islay’s oldest distillery. Ardbeg and Laphroaig both celebrate their bi-centenaries in 2015. The island has a rich history, diverse landscapes, and a friendly population of about 3000 residents, augmented by some 60,000 annual visitors. There are no big highways and no malls; road trips are often slowed down by sheep. It is a wonderful, marvellous place that all whisky lovers should visit. It will touch your heart.
Our 2015 Islay tour will include wonderful tastings and experiences at each of the distilleries, including a trip to the neighbouring island of Jura to visit that distillery. Jura, larger geographically than Islay, is home to about 200 people and 7000 deer! Time and weather permitting, we will also visit a number of important sites, including the 8th century Kildalton Cross, Finlaggan –  an important meeting place for the Lords of the Isles, the pristine beaches of Machir Bay, and the Mull of Oa for a beautiful walk, and cliffs that fall 200 metres to the sea. We’ll stay in a fine establishment, enjoy some of Islay’s best food, and meet some wonderful, iconic whisky people. In late August, we can expect highs and lows of 15C and 10C.
Our home for the week will be in the town of Bowmore, Islay’s centrally located capital. With a population of around 900, it’s home to Bowmore Distillery, a number of restaurants, pubs and cafés, the island swimming pool, and some great little shops and historic sites. We will stay at The Bowmore House, where we will enjoy comfortable accommodations, great breakfasts and Islay hospitality.


Sunday 23rd August 2015

The 8 day, small group tour will start in Glasgow. There are various routings from Ottawa to Glasgow, and starting the tour there allows participants to join from anywhere. From Canada, you can recover from jet lag, or explore other parts of Scotland, elsewhere in the UK, or the rest of Europe, before or after the Islay Tour. The Edinburgh Festival takes place in August and some might wish to take in a few events.

In Glasgow we will board our mini coach for the week around 9am to enjoy the journey to Kennacraig, where we’ll catch the 1pm ferry to Port Askaig in the North East of Islay. The 2hr ferry crossing offers wonderful views of the Paps of Jura and Caol Ila Distillery. From Port Askaig, we head south west across the island to centrally located Bowmore, the capital of Islay, where we’ll be based for the week. We’ll arrive around 4pm, leaving you time to settle in or explore the town, before a group dinner in Bowmore.

Accommodation will be at The Bowmore House, where we’ll enjoy comfortable rooms, wonderful breakfasts and great hospitality. The Bowmore House is the #1 guest house on Trip Advisor.

Monday24th August 2015

 Bruichladdich Distillery – We’ll start our whisky week with a custom tour and warehouse tasting
Lunch at Kilchoman Café
Kilchoman - custom Manager’s tour with a range of Kilchoman drams
Visit beautiful Machir Bay on the west coast of Islay
Return to Bowmore
Free evening

Tuesday25th August 2015

Bunnahabhain Distillery – a custom tour with Distillery Manager Andrew Brown, and a number of exceptional Bunnahabhain drams
Ferry and bus to Jura Distillery, Craighouse
Lunch (not included) available at The Antlers or The Jura Hotel Restaurant, both beside the Distillery. (Ferry schedules might necessitate a packed lunch)
Jura Distillery – for a custom tour and tasting of Jura’s wide range of whiskies
Return to Islay, Dinner at The Bridgend Hotel 

Wednesday26th August 2015

Bowmore Distillery –the very special Craftsman’s Tour
Lunch (not included) in Bowmore
Visit to Gartbreck Distillery, possibly in production by 8/15
Visit to the beautiful Mull of Oa, and 1 ½ hr hike
Return to Bowmore
Free evening

Thursday27th August 2015

Caol Ila – Custom tasting and whisky and chocolate pairing
Lunch (not included) in Port Askaig
Visit to Finlaggan
Return to Bowmore
Dinner at Yan’s in Port Charlotte

Friday28th August 2015

Lagavulin – Warehouse and tasting experience
Mini bus or walk (optional) to Port Ellen
Lunch (not included) in Port Ellen
Port Ellen Malting Works and/or visit Kildalton Cross
Dinner at Islay Hotel in Port Ellen  

Saturday29th August 2015

Laphroaig Distillery - in depth tour, warehouse & cask tasting, bottle from your favourite cask
Lunch  at The Old Kiln Café at Ardbeg Distillery
Ardbeg Distillery – a special experience with rare dram tastings from several decades
A very special evening at The Bowmore House with dinner, and whisky pairings by Martine Nouet, one of the world’s leading authorities on food and whisky.

Sunday 30th August 2015

Our final day. Breakfast, mini coach to Port Ellen for the 1pm ferry back to Kennacraig, and onwards to Glasgow.
From the southern ferry, and weather permitting, spectacular views of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig can be seen.

Tour Price (Canadian Dollars)

Based on double occupancy, $4200 per person
Single supplement $600

The tour price includes

  • Accommodations for 7 nights at The Bowmore House, rated #1 on Trip Advisor.
  • 5 dinners (3 courses, 2 glasses of wine) in some of Islay’s best restaurants, to which some special guests will be invited.
  • 7 wonderful Scottish breakfasts at our home for the week.
  • 2 lunches at both of Islay’s famous distillery cafés – Kilchoman and Ardbeg.
  • Exceptional customized distillery and whisky experiences at 9 distilleries.
  • Cultural/walking outings to Kildalton, Mull of Oa, Finlaggan, Machir Bay, and more as time permits.
  • All ground transportation, in a comfortable mini coach, with a professional, local Islay driver, from and to Glasgow, and on the island for the organized part of the tour, i.e. most of the week. On the 2 free evenings, there are many dining establishments in Bowmore and numerous taxi companies, should you wish to travel to one of several other towns for dinner.
  • All ferry costs to and from Islay.
  • All taxes and gratuities.
  • Travel agency fee.
  • Carol, born and raised in Scotland, Ottawa based independent whisky ambassador and Islay lover, accompanying the group to guide, translate, facilitate, talk whisky and extol the virtues of Islay.

Not included in the price

  • Air fare
  • Transfers pre and post tour
  • Travel insurance, cancellation and medical insurance

Reservations, cancellations and refunds

  • GrapeScot is pleased to be partnering with TravelOnly, an exceptional Canadian travel agency, which will manage all sales, registrations and payments, and assist participants with any other trip related travel requirements. Mary Lynn Villeneuve, ACC, Travel Consultant, will be happy to assist you with all your travel needs. +1.613.924.1404 TICO #4316071
  • A deposit of $500 per person is required to reserve a place on the tour.
  • Final payment of the remaining balance is due by 75 days before departure.
  • Cancellations made before final payment is due are liable to a forfeit of the entire deposit of $500 per person
  • Cancellations made between 75 days and 45 days before departure are liable to a further charge of $1500 per person.
  • Refunds cannot be made to any passenger who cancels after 45 days before departure or to any passenger who does not complete the tour for any reason.
·         The above itinerary is as planned, however we reserve the right to make adjustments depending upon weather, distillery schedule changes, ferry time changes, and other constraints.

GrapeScot articles on Islay and the distilleries

Islay   Bowmore   Lagavulin   Ardbeg   Bruichladdich  Caol Ila   Laphroaig   Bunnahabhain   Kilchoman  Jura   Feis Ile 2014   Ardbeg at Feis Ile  Laphroaig at Feis Ile  Bunnahabhain at Feis Ile  Lagavulin at Feis Ile  Caol Ila at Feis Ile  Bruichladdich at Feis Ile

Coming soon – Gartbreck Distillery and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival on the blog