WALK ISLAY FROM THE BACK DOOR

LINKS TO: WILDLIFE WALKING  WALKING WEEK

BOOTS ON

NO EXCUSES

From Beach Cottage you can walk all week without ever getting in your car. Breakfast tastes better after an early morning stroll along the shore. Forage for wild garlic in the woods at the end of the beach. Digest dinner with a walk to the lighthouse or the Singing Sands.

If you are feeling more energetic, head up the hill above the lighthouse. The track, which takes you past the ruins of the abandoned settlement of Lurabus, runs out after about a mile. But you can continue along the cliff tops or cut in land and, after half an hour of cross country scrambling, complete a three-hour circle back to the house via the road through the middle of the Oa. Perfect if you’ve got a slow roast in the oven.

In the other direction, make for Port Ellen and continue on to the Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin distillleries. Walks on the outskirts of the village take you past standing stones, chambered cairns and the remains of an Iron Age fort.

Hiking highlights further afield include the mature woods at Bridgend, big Atlantic surf on the west coast of the island, the RSPB’s marshland reserve at Loch Gruinart and Finlaggan, ancient seat of the Lords of the Isles. Or if only a big hill will do, jump on the Jura ferry and take on the Paps. The highest of them is Beinn an Oir (785m/2576 feet) and you can do the three peaks in one day.

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My niece Anna says: Make sure you’ve got the right boots on.
My niece Anna says: Make sure you’ve got the right boots on.
Warm up with a walk to the lighthouse. There and back: 30 minutes. Can you run in under 12?
Warm up with a walk to the lighthouse. There and back: 30 minutes. Can you run in under 12?
Explore a little more: Turn right before the lighthouse for the Singing Sands, named for the sound  the breakers make.
Explore a little more: Turn right before the lighthouse for the Singing Sands, named for the sound the breakers make.
Soldier’s Rock is a spectacular granite sea stack on the opposite side of the Oa peninsula. A 2.5-hour walk from the cottage.
Soldier’s Rock is a spectacular granite sea stack on the opposite side of the Oa peninsula. A 2.5-hour walk from the cottage.
Most of The Oa’s craggy coastline is firm under foot. This is next to Soldier’s Rock. See guillemots, shags and fulmars.
Most of The Oa’s craggy coastline is firm under foot. This is next to Soldier’s Rock. See guillemots, shags and fulmars.
There are some spectacular ravines next to Soldier’s Rock. Anyone with vertigo...
There are some spectacular ravines next to Soldier’s Rock. Anyone with vertigo...
... should avoid looking down.
... should avoid looking down.
The name comes from the quartz layers in the stack, said to resemble a soldier’s belt.
The name comes from the quartz layers in the stack, said to resemble a soldier’s belt.
eiders in the shallows between the house and Carraig Fhada lighthouse.
eiders in the shallows between the house and Carraig Fhada lighthouse.
On almost any walk on the Oa you will come across the local colony of feral goats.
On almost any walk on the Oa you will come across the local colony of feral goats.
they eat the seaweed on the shore between the house and the lighthouse
they eat the seaweed on the shore between the house and the lighthouse
you can smell them before you see them.
you can smell them before you see them.
Bridgend woods are great for walking. Mature Scots pine but also redwoods, beech and elm, untouched by beetles.
Bridgend woods are great for walking. Mature Scots pine but also redwoods, beech and elm, untouched by beetles.
Park at Islay House and pick up veg at the community garden. Snowdrops in February give way to daffodils, then bluebells.
Park at Islay House and pick up veg at the community garden. Snowdrops in February give way to daffodils, then bluebells.
The Paps of Jura can be done in a day. Get the ferry from Port Askaig.
The Paps of Jura can be done in a day. Get the ferry from Port Askaig.

A great time to be on Islay is for the annual and increasingly popular walking week, which runs April 12-17 in 2015. Two or three walks every day led by enthusiastic, well-informed local guides.

From Easter to October there are interesting weekly walks at the Loch Gruinart and  The Oa RSPB reserves.