The fertile, largely treeless island of ISLAY is famous for one thing – single malt whisky. The smoky, peaty, pungent quality of Islay whisky is unique, recognizable even to the untutored palate, and most of the island’s distilleries offer fascinating guided tours, ending with the customary complimentary dram. In medieval times, Islay was the political centre of the Hebrides, with Finlaggan, near Port Askaig, the seat of the MacDonalds, lords of the Isles. The picturesque, whitewashed villages you see on Islay today, however, date from the planned settlements founded by the Campbells in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Apart from whisky and solitude, the other great draw is the bird life – there’s a real possibility of spotting a golden eagle, or the rare, crow-like chough, and no possibility at all of missing the scores of white-fronted and barnacle geese who winter here in their thousands.

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