Beach Cottage is well placed for anyone drawn to Islay by the attractions of the island’s distilleries and their peaty produce.
The house lies directly across the bay from the whitewashed warehouses of Port Ellen, a once groundbreaking distillery that closed in 1983 but is now due to reopen in 2020, vindicating the efforts of a facebook group dedicated to its renaissance.
The whisky made at Port Ellen in the run-up to its closure is highly rated by connoisseurs and, with stocks dwindling, prices are heading skyward. You can still enjoy a nip at various well-stocked bars on the island, including the Ballygrant Inn and the Lochside Hotel in Bowmore.
Port Ellen is also home to the maltings, a Diageo-run plant which toasts barley to the individual specifications of most of the distilleries on the island. It is not usually open to the public but special tours are often organised for aficianados during the annual Malt and Music Festival week at the end of May. The Maltings are about a 15 minute walk from Beach Cottage, along the beach and through the woods pictured on the right.
Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg, all located within a couple of miles of each other on Islay’s eastern seaboard, are also close enough to make a distillery crawl on foot feasible from the house. Ardbeg, the furthest away of the three, is five miles from the cottage, mostly along a lovely new walking and cycling path. Good tours, a stunning location and a nice cafe.
Islay's peaty water (above) is often thought to be responsible for the whisky's distinctive taste but it is actually mostly down to the peat-fired malting of the barley.
Peat is less in evidence on the west of the island at Bruichladdich or Kilchoman, a farm distillery opened in 2005 which aims to carry out every step of the production process on site. Single estate hooch.
Bowmore runs good tours and has a very plush visitor centre. Heat from the production process is recycled to keep the swimming pool next door nice and warm.