Thursday, June 4, 2009

On Islay!

This post is from 31 May:

Oops, missed yesterday! A live connection is hard to find around here. And the ones we do find are well-protected. What's that about? There's hardly anyone around.

Yesterday (30 May): We had breakfast at our B&B on the harbour in Tarbert, then shot over to Kennacraig to make our ferry. We had a lovely crossing, it was uncharacteristically sunny and warm.

I was tired! I napped in the sun for much of the trip. The fine weather made for clear skies and we could even see Ireland at one point in the journey. We arrived in Port Ellen (one of two of Islay's ports; the other is Port Askaig) which we drove through quickly and then made our way to Bowmore where we checked in at visitor information and then went on a tour of the Bowmore distillery. A fantastic tour.

Our guide, Isabael, was extremely knowledgeable and seemed to have more than a passing knowledge of the inner workings of whisky making [this is in fact true - we still don't know what her position is, but we saw a picture of her in the local paper handing over a donation check to the area high school]. The most surprising part of the tour for me was near the beginning where we went to the malting house and the malt (germinated barley) was just lying there on the cement floor. She told us about wetting the grain and then laying it out on the floors (Bowmore has three floors for this purpose). She walked right on to it and showed us how it is partially germinated when it is put down and then it is turned every four hours. [Other tours in further postings will describe other parts of this process.]

We picked up some groceries at the Co-Op in Bowmore and then went on to try to find our cottage. I never got directions. I didn't think to ask for them, and the estate office we rented from did not provide them. They must just assume we all know where it is. I wasn't too concerned since "Eallabus" is marked on my OS maps, but it is a label for a group of buildings. Which one is the cottage? In any case, I had an idea where to go, but I wasn't specifically sure. I had glimpses of fear of having to sleep in the car for two nights, not being able to find the cottage, and not being able to get to the estate office until it opened on Monday. Not to worry, Robin's navigational skills prevailed and, since we were well familiar with the pictures of the cottage from the website, we were able to find it without too much trouble. As promised, the keys were in the door.

It's a lovely place. It's just outside the small village of Brigend which is about 3 miles north of Bowmore. The cottage is part of a group of what look to be former farm buildings. It is tucked away amongst lovely plants and trees.

Today, sunday, our weather has also been good, so the cottage really does look like its promotional photographs. The road we're on sees hardly any traffic. While we've been "at home" we've seen probably less than 5 vehicles. We've also seen a mama bunny and her young one, and a fawn, as well as (what I can only guess, not being a practised birder, but having seen a picture on an information board) a blue tit (boys, insert your own joke here).

Today we slept in til after 11 and cooked ourselves a full breakfast before driving back to Bowmore to stock up properly on groceries for our week. The shop, the largest "supermarket" on the island, is pretty well stocked but has very narrow aisles; you're always in someone's way and vice versa. We have probably bought enough food to last us the week. Hopefully if we need anything else, we can pick it up at the small Spar shop in Brigend.

We went on a couple walks today, both close to home, so we could begin to get a sense of our neighbourhood. First one was to Skerolls Loch. This is only about 20 minutes away (by foot) from our cottage and has a couple row boats moored to a small dock. How nice if we could find a canoe somewhere to enjoy some time on the water! Perhaps we'll remember to ask when we stop in at the estate office tomorrow to pay our remaining balance of 14 pounds 16p.

Back home for crumpets with jam, then out again, this time in the other direction. Strange beaches around here, we haven't figured out why they're like this. The sand extends out for at least a couple hundred yards. And it's flat. As we were passing along the beach we saw in an inlet a family of swans! Mum, Dad, and 5 swanlings (help here on what baby swans are called). They are such elegant birds. We stopped and sat and watched them. Dad swam ahead and Mum stayed back with the little ones, dipping their heads in the water to eat what looked like seaweed. As we are watching this, believe it or not, a herd of cattle made their way from one end of the beach to another. It was so bizarre to see this along the beach. There were about 2 dozen cows and probably about as many (maybe a few less) calves.

And that was about all for our first day on the island. We walked home via the brewery; we'll probably go there tomorrow or the following day. We found a ruin of a watchtower and a sculptured stone nearby.

As we were making dinner we started hearing sheep noises so I went outside to investigate. Indeed several sheep had made their way (I don't know if they were herded or what) into the field about 50 feet down the road from us. As sheep do, they ran away when I approached.

We enjoyed our dinner of pasta even though the only spices we had were salt, pepper and some smoked garlic we got from tourist information in Balvaird.

No comments:

Post a Comment