Day 3 – lovely Kilchoman Beach, around 2km long and usually pounded by the Atlantic Ocean was the plan, followed by a short hike up to the top of the small hill overlooking the sands.But first, I was desperate for a homemade cake so Bowmore’s ‘The Celtic House’ was first call.It gets good reviews and in fact we called in each day after that for a double shot of coffee for Chris and cakes for both of us.The shop is lovely too, with (pricey) woollens and other clothes, as well as good quality island mementoes.There’s also an excellent bookshop.
It was a 25 min drive from our camp to Bowmore and we got to the cafe bang on opening at 10am.Unfortunately their cakes didn’t get delivered until 10.30am! Groan – why, oh why? I’m a Woman on a Mission on ‘holiday’ (not sure that word really applies to how I plan our time away:)) – an extra 30 mins sitting around when we should be well on our way to The Walk of the Day.Nuts, I know.Chris as ever was what I’d call ‘horizontal’ about it – just relax, there’s no rush is there? Very true.In fact it was really nice to just ‘be’ and sit and chat and , as they say, ‘chill’ – not a word in my normal day to day dictionary. Eventually, Lime and Coconut Cake for Chris and I had Peach Crumble Cake.Both were excellent – truly homemade.
Bowmore is a nice village of whitewashed traditional houses, very common on Islay and part of the island’s overall loveliness.It also has a Distillery.
Perhaps Islay’s most famous building is the unusual and very beautiful circular 18th century church at the top of the main street, dominating the village – built that way, it is said, so that there are no corners for the Devil to hide in!
Kilchoman beach lies on the west side of the island, about a 25 min drive from Bowmore. The car park was really busy when we arrived at noon but we managed to squeeze a space.The beach had around 15-20 people on it – busy! Families mostly, enjoying the sunny weather.For more on the beach and hill walk we did:
Our proposed cake stop at the Distillery came to nowt, as they were only doing takeaways and it was savoury stuff only. Kilchoman was one of the few Whisky Distilleries open on the island, a very nice Distillery it is too, one of the newer ones.They still harvest their own Barley in the surrounding fields; other Distilleries ship it in.
Debated after that whether to drive another 20 mins or so to Sanaigmore beach, a lovely place, one of my favourites spots on Islay, but we were quite tired and headed on to Port Charlotte, where our B&B was.
Port Charlotte is Islay’s prettiest village, with beautifully kept traditional white-washed houses, flower filled gardens and the waters of the huge sea loch, Loch Indaal, lapping gently on its rocky shores.Dolphins come in quite close at times.If anything the village looked even neater than I remembered it; there must be a lot of second home holiday owners.
The single shop however was a bit of a disaster in terms of stocking up, with very little fresh stuff on offer so it was Bowmore’s Co-op again tomorrow.The decision now was whether to eat in the very traditional Lochindaal Inn or the very pretty, quite upmarket Port Charlotte hotel.Both had good menus, with a seafood focus though not entirely. But the hotel had always appealed to me, with its little terrace overlooking the sea and so comfortable inside with a book-lined sitting room – it got my vote.Luckily they could take us at 6.30pm – any later and we wouldn’t have got in at all; a busy night despite it only being Monday.
A two minute drive brought us to the little apartment we had at Tigh na Greine, a bungalow outside the village and on the main road.The garden was lovely – in fact Islay all over was covered in bright orange and red Monbretia, dark red Fuchsia and Meadowsweet lining the roads and stone walls and gardens. Absolutely beautiful.
Inside the apartment was nicely decorated, but with only one window in the room which was a combined bedroom, sitting area, kitchen -it didn’t feel like we had much privacy with the owner’s car parked right outside.No wi fi either, not a deal breaker but I was sure it was listed as available – turned out we had to go in to the owner’s own home to access it.Not so good.That main road into the village is also surprisingly noisy with regular fast moving traffic whizzing past – a huge contrast to the quiet of our lovely wild camp.Never mind, it was bliss to get a shower and wash my hair, tidy myself up a bit, get the glad rags on (well, jeans and a fresh t-shirt!) and head out for our meal.
And a great meal it was too.The Islay Scallops (4 large ones) and Black Pudding starter was superb and generous, amongst the best scallops I’ve tasted, beautifully cooked.Sweet and meaty.
My Posh Fish and Chips was lightly battered Mackerel (which I love), Haddock and Salmon – very unusual combo but first class. Home made chips too, instead of those awful pre-cut frozen things so many places rely on these days – they should be banned from restaurants! Chris’s Venison was gorgeous, tender and tasty but not gamey; possibly Roe rather than Red Deer.
Chris’s wine was good – so often it doesn’t match the food quality in a restaurant – unusually it was a Romanian White which was light and lemony.It all suggested real care was taken by whoever was choosing what was on offer.
My only disappointment was that we were seated in the downstairs Conservatory, which was quite small and looked mostly on onto the car park.The main dining room upstairs looked lovely but might have been reserved for guests which was fair enough.
Definitely somewhere to return to for a meal or to stay (off-peak, prices are high in August) – very nice indeed.
8pm and we were quite knackered now, well fed and watered so a short drive back to the little apartment and some reading and an early-ish night by 10pm.Our second last day tomorrow and a wander down to Lossit Bay, possibly my favourite on Islay, beckoned.