For lovers of whisky and birds, Islay will need no introduction. This lovely, fertile, unspoiled island with its fine beaches is world famous for its peaty malts, and for not only its native breeds of eagles, corncrakes etc. but the thousands of white-fronted and barnacle geese who winter here in their thousands.
Almost right in the middle of the island, just outside the village of Bridgend and only three miles from the 'town' of Bowmore (shops, pubs, leisure centre and, of course, distillery) is Springbank, an imposing and substantial farmhouse of whitewashed stone which stands in 2 acres of its own grounds with wonderful views to Loch Indaal.
Inside, the house is comfortable, spacious and very well appointed. Perhaps its hub is a modern, well-equipped kitchen with free-standing units and gas range, a cosy living room with open fire, and up the elegant curved staircase there are four bedrooms and a bathroom. All the rooms have original hardwood floors, with the exception of the tiled kitchen and utility room.
The house is sheltered on two sides by mature woodland. Outside, there are stables and outbuildings, a riding arena, and a dog run; a raised lawn forms an ideal play area for children.
This is the most perfect of islands for a family holiday. In addition to the wonderful beaches, the comparative flatness of many parts of the island make it ideal for cycling (cycles may be hired at Bowmore). There are splendid coastal walks, while there are some hills on the east of the island rising to about 500m for those who prefer something more vertical.
Islay is a compact island. The pretty harbour of Port Ellen, where you may land if you come by ferry, is just 17 miles from the cottage (Port Askaig, the other ferry terminal is 8m in the other direction), and just along from there it is well worth taking the little road across The Oa past Loch Kennabus. At the end, there is an RSPB reserve, and an American Monument, erected in memory of those who perished in two Naval disasters in 1918. Here you stand an excellent chance of seeing golden eagles, choughs and buzzards, to say nothing of feral goats and seals basking on the rocks. There is good fishing in the island's lochs, and an excellent 18 hole golf course at Machrie. Take a day trip across to Jura, the island of deer, where many of them will even pose for you to take their pictures (they'll be demanding payment, next!) And when you're driving around, don't forget to lift a hand in salute to every car you meet. It's a charming local custom, one typical of the friendly islanders, and they all tend to do it - even the police!
Islay has no less than seven major distilleries, all of which welcome visitors. If you do get a wet day (though the weather on Islay can be very good in comparison to other parts of the west coast) you could always do a round tour, at the end of which, well, who cares whether it's raining or not???
£20 of oil CH and the first £15 of electricity is INCLUDED. Bed linen and towels are INCLUDED. Up to two well behaved dogs welcome by arrangement (to be kept downstairs.) A chef service is available on request. A refundable damage deposit of £200 will be required.