Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Islay 2

There are so many wildlife opportunities on Islay that almost anywhere is good. We visited the RSPB reserve at Loch Gruinart in the north west of the island.

The centre has some information and overlooks fields to the south of the loch. It also has a hot drinks dispenser – perhaps not the best coffee and hot chocolate, but very welcome after being out in the wind and rain.

I decided, as the weather was not too good and the birds would be too far away to get any decent photos, to take the scope but leave my camera in the car.

We had good views from the hide of scores of teal, curlew, black tailed godwit, grey plover, and it was good to see the early part of the migration of Barnacle geese from Greenland.

My decision to leave the camera appeared well justified as the nearest birds were too far away to appear as more than specks in a photo. Many of the ducks and waders were disturbed by a distant female hen harrier which came a bit closer to the hide, then closer, ….. and closer!

Fortunately my wife did take her camera and got these photos, which I think are pretty good considering the conditions.

If the weather is really bad on Islay the island provides a few other places to shelter. These are the distilleries and you have the choice of nine.

I recommend visiting all to appreciate the differences. We managed only eight because Caol Ila was closed. Each distillery has something different to offer in whisky, location and information.

Bruichladdich was the most welcoming with four whiskies and their own gin lined up for tasting. I recommend the tour around the distillery – interesting and well paced.

It was good to see the process from start to finish and the clear liquid being collected prior to testing and putting in barrels.