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Exploring Islay

After a pretty lazy week really we decided to do a bit more sightseeing on our last full day on the Island. First we headed to the lovely little village of Portnahaven, which is at the south end of the peninsula that Port Charlotte sits further up. It's a very pretty little village, with views across to the lighthouse on Orsay and across the little harbour where several seals were playing. I think our dog Ludo would have liked to head out and join them for a swim!

After a good wander round we then headed to Finlaggan, which is the ancient seat of the Lord of the Isles and close to where we'd landed on the Islay at Port Askaig. It's an interesting spot and also a location for an excavation by Time Team a few years back. Now it's mostly a cluster of ruined buildings on a couple of small islands accessible by a wooden walkway but from the reconstructions (including the option of a VR tour in the visitor centre) you could see it'd once been rather more grand.

The weather took a turn for the worse when we're there, but it didn't bother Ludo who had a great time splashing around in the puddles and having a paddle in the loch. Not quite as pleasant for humans though!

We then travelled across the island, through Bowmore and past the airport to get to Port Ellen. The petrol station there (call the filling station, probably due that also being the term for where the whisky barrels are filled in the distilleries) as recently been set-up as an overnight spot for motorhomes. For £15 per night you get an electric hook-up, a water point as well as places to drop grey waste and toilet waste. It's right in the village as well - walking distance to pubs and shops. This time we didn't take Ludo for a pub visit but all the places we checked allowed dogs in the bar, which is useful knowledge for a future visit there.

Port Ellen is very well served with distilleries and there is a signposted walk called the "Three Distilleries Walk" which visits Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg - all whiskies I have as it happens (I like the peaty ones!). We headed out for a wander and ended up walking along to Laphroaig, which is perhaps my favourite of the Islay whiskies (although a bit too peaty for some).

Fiona popped into the visitor centre to check if there was availability on the next tour and their was, so booked me onto that. Not only that but the staff in the visitor centre said to bring the dog in and to have a seat in their lounge area - with free tea and coffee - while I waited for the tour to start. Very hospitable and also very typically of what is a very friendly (and very dog friendly) island.

I hadn't really planned to be on a tour so not only did I only have my point and shoot camera with me (although it is a good one - a Sony RX100) but I hadn't charged the battery or brought a spare so ended up running out of battery part way through the tour so don't have as many pictures as I've have liked!

As with Bowmore the Laphroaig tour was excellent and definitely worth doing as the distillery is quite different from Bowmore, including being a bit more modern (stainless steel tanks in places where Bowmore had wood for example). Also like Bowmore it was excellent value at £10. For that you got the 1 hour tour, a free glass (including lanyard) and 3 tokens to exchange for drams at the end of the tour. There were different levels available - one token got you a dram of the Select, 10-year old or Quarter Cask, two tokens got you a dram of one of three slightly higher value whiskies including the 10 year old cask strength, or three tokens could be exchanged for a dram of an even higher value whisky. I've already got bottles or the 10 year old and the Select so exchange one token for a measure of the Quarter Cask and the remaining two tokens for a dram of the 10-year old Cask Strength (which is 58% alcohol). The latter I took away in a little bottle but the Quarter Cask I drank as I was thinking about getting a bottle. It was very nice so I headed to the shop and bought myself a bottle as well as one of their t-shirts for my son.

Being close to more services for the first time on the trip meant that, after a visit to the Co-Op, we decided to pick up pizzas from Sea Salt which is a bistro and take-away in Port Ellen. And very tasty the pizzas where too. We were staying overnight at the Filling Station as it was close to the ferry and saved us from an early start in the morning, so only had a short walk.

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