Pictures of Islay Beaches and Coastline

Kilchiaran Bay on Islay's West Coast
Kilchiaran Bay on Islay's West Coast

It is undoubtedly for its world famous single malt whiskies that the Isle of Islay off the West Coast of Scotland is best known. If you are visiting Islay, however, you will find there is much more to see, do and enjoy than tour distilleries and sample the water of life. The scenery on Islay is just one feature that you are likely to find breathtaking, especially the coastal scenery viewed on a beautiful summer's day. The beaches and coastline features on this page include examples from the east, south and west coasts of Islay, all of which are easily accessible by car.

Note: The videos featured on this page were shot at the same time as the photos were taken in July 2013.

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Pictures of The Sound of Islay

Looking from Islay out over the Sound of Islay and on to the Isle of Jura
Looking from Islay out over the Sound of Islay and on to the Isle of Jura

The Sound of Islay is the narrow strip of saltwater (Atlantic Ocean) which separates the Isles of Islay and Jura. The ferry which travels to Islay from Kennacraig on the mainland comes in to one of two destinations, one of which is Port Askaig on the Sound. As this is also the easternmost part of Islay, closest to the mainland, it seems like a logical place to start this Islay coastline exploration.

Pictures of Port Askaig on the Sound of Islay

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Port Askaig as seen from the deck of an approaching ferryThe Port Askaig Hotel as seen from the deck of a docking ferry
Port Askaig as seen from the deck of an approaching ferry
Port Askaig as seen from the deck of an approaching ferry
The Port Askaig Hotel as seen from the deck of a docking ferry
The Port Askaig Hotel as seen from the deck of a docking ferry

The small village of Port Askaig is not only a ferry terminal for the mainland. It is also the terminal for the ferry across the Sound of Islay to the Isle of Jura. As well as private houses, it has a hotel, a small shop and is home to the Islay Lifeboat Station.

Video of the Sound of Islay from Caol Ila Distillery Pier

Pictures of the Sound of Islay Coastline from Caol Ila

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Looking north from Caol Ila distilleryView across the Sound of Islay from Caol IlaLooking south down the Sound of Islay from pier at Caol Ila
Looking north from Caol Ila distillery
Looking north from Caol Ila distillery
View across the Sound of Islay from Caol Ila
View across the Sound of Islay from Caol Ila
Looking south down the Sound of Islay from pier at Caol Ila
Looking south down the Sound of Islay from pier at Caol Ila

Caol Ila is one of Islay's eight working whisky distilleries. It is found further north up the coast of the Sound of Islay from Port Askaig. It is reached by a narrow road leading off the Port Askaig to Bowmore road. The views from outside the distillery, up and down the Sound, are magnificent, particularly on a fine, sunny day. The distillery area affords a fine view of the Paps of Jura across on the neighbouring island.

Views of the Sound of Islay from Hilltop near Bunnahabhain

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Looking north along the coast of the Sound of Islay towards Bunnahabhain (unseen)Looking northwards up the Sound of IslayLooking south and down the Sound of Islay
Looking north along the coast of the Sound of Islay towards Bunnahabhain (unseen)
Looking north along the coast of the Sound of Islay towards Bunnahabhain (unseen)
Looking northwards up the Sound of Islay
Looking northwards up the Sound of Islay
Looking south and down the Sound of Islay
Looking south and down the Sound of Islay

The cut off for the Bunnahabhain distillery is also on the Port Askaig to Bowmore road. Prior to reaching the distillery, however, you will reach a hilltop which affords magnificent views of the Sound of Islay from height. It is more than worth stopping the car and making the fifty yard (at most) walk to the crest of the hill for views like those shown above.

Pictures of The Sound of Islay from Bunnahabhain Distillery

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Looking north up the Sound of Islay coastline from Bunnahabhain DistilleryThe beach at Bunnahabhain and the Paps of Jura are seen in this south-easterly view
Looking north up the Sound of Islay coastline from Bunnahabhain Distillery
Looking north up the Sound of Islay coastline from Bunnahabhain Distillery
The beach at Bunnahabhain and the Paps of Jura are seen in this south-easterly view
The beach at Bunnahabhain and the Paps of Jura are seen in this south-easterly view

Reaching the Bunnahabhain Distillery will bring you back to sea level and within a couple of miles of the most northerly point of the Isle of Islay. The views of the Sound of Islay are slightly different again, with the famous Paps of Jura now seen from a totally different angle.

Pictures of Port Ellen on the South Coast of Islay

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Beach at Port Ellen HarbourCotttages at Port Ellen HarbourSmall boats moored at Port Ellen HarbourPleasure craft moored at Port Ellen MarinaMainland ferry docked beside tall sailing ship at Port EllenLooking seaward from beach at Port EllenLooking west along Port Ellen beach
Beach at Port Ellen Harbour
Beach at Port Ellen Harbour
Cotttages at Port Ellen Harbour
Cotttages at Port Ellen Harbour
Small boats moored at Port Ellen Harbour
Small boats moored at Port Ellen Harbour
Pleasure craft moored at Port Ellen Marina
Pleasure craft moored at Port Ellen Marina
Mainland ferry docked beside tall sailing ship at Port Ellen
Mainland ferry docked beside tall sailing ship at Port Ellen
Looking seaward from beach at Port Ellen
Looking seaward from beach at Port Ellen
Looking west along Port Ellen beach
Looking west along Port Ellen beach

Port Ellen is the other mainland ferry port on Islay, along with Port Askaig. It is found on the south coast of the island. The ferry docks just outside the small harbour and can be seen in one of the pictures above with a tall sailing ship moored alongside. A fine nautical example of past meets present.

The inner harbour at Port Ellen has a fine sandy beach, with a second beautiful beach found on the outskirts of the town, heading in the direction of Bowmore. There are a number of Bed and Breakfasts in Port Ellen, in addition to two hotels, The Islay Hotel and The White Hart Hotel.

Map of the Featured Beaches and Coastal Areas of Islay

show route and directions
A markerPort Askaig -
[get directions]

B markerBunnahaiban Distillery -
[get directions]

C markerCaol Ila Distillery -
[get directions]

D markerPort Ellen -
[get directions]

E markerPortnahaven -
[get directions]

F markerKilchiaran Bay -
[get directions]

G markerMachir Bay -
[get directions]

Pictures of Portnahaven on the South-West Coast of Islay

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Portnahaven Harbour at low tideMouth of Portnahaven HarbourCottages on the east side of Portnahaven HarbourCottages on the west side of Portnahaven harbourOK corner at Portnahaven, Islay
Portnahaven Harbour at low tide
Portnahaven Harbour at low tide
Mouth of Portnahaven Harbour
Mouth of Portnahaven Harbour
Cottages on the east side of Portnahaven Harbour
Cottages on the east side of Portnahaven Harbour
Cottages on the west side of Portnahaven harbour
Cottages on the west side of Portnahaven harbour
OK corner at Portnahaven, Islay
OK corner at Portnahaven, Islay

Portnahaven is a small village in the south-west of Islay. It is part of the Rhinns of Islay, the peninsula which forms the south-western part of the island. The harbour in these images is seen at low tide on a beautiful summer's day but the storms and huge waves which can strike this little village - particularly in the winter months - can be powerful and severe.

There is one curious story about Portnahaven which has to be mentioned. There is a photo above of a stone wall at the head of the village with the white letters, "OK," painted on the side. It is not known why or by whom those letters were painted but the road junction is now widely known as the, "OK Corner".

Video Footage of Kilchiaran Bay on the West Coast of Islay

Pictures of Kilchiaran Bay on the Rhinns of Islay

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Approaching the West Coast of the Rhinns of IslayApproaching Kilchiaran Bay from the southKilchiaran Bay seen from a car by the roadsideSandy beach at Kilchiaran BayWaves sweeping in to Kilchiaran BayKilchiaran Chapel is seen in the distance (slightly right of centre) from the road above Kilchiaran Bay
Approaching the West Coast of the Rhinns of Islay
Approaching the West Coast of the Rhinns of Islay
Approaching Kilchiaran Bay from the south
Approaching Kilchiaran Bay from the south
Kilchiaran Bay seen from a car by the roadside
Kilchiaran Bay seen from a car by the roadside
Sandy beach at Kilchiaran Bay
Sandy beach at Kilchiaran Bay
Waves sweeping in to Kilchiaran Bay
Waves sweeping in to Kilchiaran Bay
Kilchiaran Chapel is seen in the distance (slightly right of centre) from the road above Kilchiaran Bay
Kilchiaran Chapel is seen in the distance (slightly right of centre) from the road above Kilchiaran Bay

When leaving Portnahaven, if you turn left at the OK Corner on to Church Street - rather than taking the right fork on to the main A847 - you will reach the West Coast of the island. This road eventually rejoins the main road at Port Charlotte. Along this road, you will soon come to Kilchiaran Bay. This part of Islay is believed to be where St Columba landed in the 6th century, en route to Iona, where he founded the abbey which did much for introducing Christianity to Scotland.

Pictures of Machir Bay on the Rhinns of Islay

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Approaching the expansive sandy beach at Machir BayCurious metal ruin/wreck/structure in the sand at Machir BayLooking south-west along the beach at Machir BayLooking out to sea and towards Canada from Machir BayLooking north-west along the beach at Machir Bay
Approaching the expansive sandy beach at Machir Bay
Approaching the expansive sandy beach at Machir Bay
Curious metal ruin/wreck/structure in the sand at Machir Bay
Curious metal ruin/wreck/structure in the sand at Machir Bay
Looking south-west along the beach at Machir Bay
Looking south-west along the beach at Machir Bay
Looking out to sea and towards Canada from Machir Bay
Looking out to sea and towards Canada from Machir Bay
Looking north-west along the beach at Machir Bay
Looking north-west along the beach at Machir Bay

Machir Bay is a wide strip of sand and often sees huge Atlantic breakers being driven in by strong winds. Even on a beautiful day such as the one upon which these photos were taken, the noise of the surf was still moderately strong. Heading straight out to sea from Machir Bay, there is nothing to be encountered until you reach the shores of Canada.

The curious metallic remains featured in one of the above photos represented a bit of a mystery on the occasion of this visit. They are fixed in place and extremely solid. They gave the impression that they are part of some much bigger object or structure, largely buried in the sand.

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8 comments

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 3 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thank you, tastiger04. Glad you like Islay. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


tastiger04 profile image

tastiger04 3 years ago

What a gorgeous place....I am a huge fan of all beaches and coastlines, love the ocean. Looks like a great vacation spot! Voted up and beautiful :)


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 3 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Thank you, randomcreative. I hope you get to visit Islay for yourself some day.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Just gorgeous! I would love to visit sometime. Thanks for the detailed overview.


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 3 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, Seeker7 and thank you for visiting and commenting. I hope you get to visit Islay soon. It's a wonderful island and place in so many ways.

Yes, the OK corner is a mystery. There are several theories/explanations but no-one seems to know the definitive truth. All that is known for sure is that it has been there for many decades, since at least the 1950s.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland

What a beautiful hub this is and sadly to say Islay is one of the islands that I haven't visited as yet but it looks absolutely stunning! I voted that I would visit for the scenery, but I enjoy good food, so I would definitely love to savour the cuisine as well.

I also loved the curious story about the 'OK' corner - this kind of thing keeps me awake at nights wondering who or what is responsible.

Beautiful and very informative hub + voted up!!


Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 3 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom Author

Hi, Attikos and thank you. Yes, it is certainly a great place to get away from things. Island life is very different and very laid back. I have been to Islay many times but I will certainly never get tired of visiting. I hope you make it there some day.


Attikos profile image

Attikos 3 years ago from East Cackalacky

Beautiful, and it looks like a good area to get away from everything for a while. I have to put Islay on my list of place to go some day.

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