this post continues the details of our trip round Bute, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Arran. All very different islands with their own character, and crucially, pubs, bars and beers.
On our way from Bute we sailed from Rubodach to Colintraive and then headed for Glendaruel. We had hoped to nip in the Glendaruel Hotel, not neccessarily for real ale, but just a drink - alas this seems to have closed down sometime ago, now a weed surrounded relic of more prosperous times. Whilst in the village we stopped to look at the carved stones and then headed for Otter Ferry and the Oystercatcher pub and restaurant. The GBG said it was open Friday and Saturday only but this was a Monday. Luckily it opens all day on a Monday - thank God we tried it.
Two real ales on the bar, one Scottish craft keg and an astonishing range of Scottish brewed ales in bottle, along with an extensive whisky list, was what we found. Two real ales, Fyne Ales Lismore Red IPA at 5.5% and their Cloudburst at slightly less, with the excellent Sanda Blonde IPA on keg. All three were tried and the Lismore and Sanda were both excellent. We also ate - WF had a house cured Gravalax, Matty had local oysters, Tash soup and myself calamari. WF bought a box of bottles to take home as well - all in all this was a fantastic first stop on the Cowal peninsula.
We headed next for Kames and the Kames Hotel. This sells two real ales and we had Jarl once again, on excellent form. We then sailed from Portavadie to Tarbert and stopped in the Harbourside Inn for a half of Jarl each. Tarbet is quite a large place so we stocked up on food before heading to Kennacraig to get the ferry to Port Askaing on Islay.
Although Islay like Bute and Arran has its own brewery, Islay is very different to Bute. Its harder to get to, less well populated, and perhaps as a result is mre expensive. It also has nowhere near as many pubs., and less of those sell real ale. On our first night we stayed in Bowmore and we went to the Harbour Inn for a drink. Two pints of West Lager (at least its craft...?) a whisky for Wee Fatha and a large sauvignon blanc for Tash came to over £22.00. Luckily, despite not selling real ale, the guy running the bar was able to advise where we might get some, and was also a good person to chat to about the Island. The bar shuts at 22.45 so me and Matty had raced round the corner to find WF and Tash and get them in, and even with the door locked we were only able to order one more drink - these were both whiskies for us all to try.
The next day we went to Jura - more of that in the next blog, and then on a tour of the distilleries. Not actually visiting them, rather to photograph them in the bright sunshine. That night we went to the best place to drink real ale on Islay, the Port Charlotte Hotel. We managed to get a table despite not having booked and all tried, except Tash, pints of the Islay Ales Finlaggan. This was a disappointing beer - tasting slightly but not nicely of whisky, it was a tired ale with an unusual aftertaste which sadly none of us really liked. Luckily they also sold Fyne Ales Jarl so Matty and then I had a pint of that to accompany our wonderful meals - mine was seared Islay scllops for starters and a main of lamb shank in a drambuie sauce, sharing a cheeseboard for afters. The Port Charlotte is not cheap but you get what you pay for - the food quality is amazing. The real ale, for info, is £4.10 a pint.
The next day we went to Colonsay details of which will follow in the next post, then when we got back to Islay we went for a drive to some more distillerys includng Lagavulin and Ardbeg, before heading to Kildonan cross and then to Port Ellen, where we went ion the Ardview Inn on the seafront. The pub does not sell real ale but did serve bottles of whisky from all the Islay distilleries, so we had Kilchoman and Caol Ila whilst sat in the front bar.
We drove back from here to Bowmore and this time we did go in the Lochside Hotel, formerly Duffy's, and they did sell real ale. A favourite in bottles on the last few ferries the Islay Ardnave Extra at 5.5% was on sale. It was lovely - but it should have been at an eye watering £4.95 a pint. The Lochside still carries a wide range of whiskies - there is a whisky book - and many sell at over £500.00 a shot. The real ale is expensive, but it went down well, and they serve til midnight.
Our final full day on Islay involved another lengthy drive and a coffee in Ballygrant past Bridgend. We visited Finlaggan in the rain (still worth it) and then headed to Kilchoman distillery for a tour, a taste and for WF to buy me a bottle of the 100% Islay limited Edition whisky. An expensive but incredibly enjoyable present! We then headed down what seemed like a road to nowhere - we found it - and then returned to the Port Charlotte Hotel for more Jarl, plus cans of BrewDog and excellent food. The Port Charlotte was definitely the best pub or bar we tried on Islay.
We finished our day at the An Tigh Seinnse in Portnahaven, which translates as "the Public House". Bottles of Ardnave were supped in here, although they do have a single Islay Ales handpull - when I asked, they said they sold real ale when its busier - so am guessing that means August.
So ended our trip to Islay - the next day we drove to Port Ellen via the Oa Peinsula, and caught the ferry to Kennacraig for a short journey to Claoneig and the ferry to Arran.