One hour from: Port Ellen

No smoke without (a peat) fire on Islay

Venture forth from pretty Port Ellen to discover the spiritual and spirituous side of Islay. You might even catch a ceilidh.

Venture forth from pretty Port Ellen to discover the spiritual and spirituous side of Islay. You might even catch a ceilidh.

Laphroaig

The Laphroaig (pronounced Lah-froyg) distillery sits in a stunning location, best summed up by its name in Gaelic, which means "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay". As part of the famous Islay whisky trail, Laphroaig opens its doors twice daily at 10.15am and 2.15pm during the summer (Mon-Fri) or by appointment (01496 302418; www.laphroaig.com). See how Prince Charles's favourite tipple is made by drying malted barley over a peat fire. And sample the delicious, smoky produce for yourself.

By car: take the A846 east and follow signs; journey time approx 15 mins.

Bowmore

Founded in 1786, Bowmore, Islay's capital, has a striking grid plan of whitewashed terraces climbing up a hill in straight lines. Apart from the Bowmore distillery, the top attraction here is the Round Church, built so that the devil and any other evil spirits would find no corners in which to hide. If you are feeling energetic, take a dip in the waters partially heated by waste heat from the distillery at the MacTaggart Leisure Centre, which is housed in one of the distillery's former bonded warehouses.

By car: take the A846 and follow signs; journey time approx 25 mins.

Kildalton Cross and Chapel

One of Scotland's most important Early Christian monuments, the Kildalton Cross, stands in the picturesque graveyard of the ruined 13th-century Kildalton Chapel. Marvel at the quality of the biblical scenes carved on the stunning eighth-century ringed Celtic Cross. The Virgin and child are on the east face; David fighting the lion is at the top, and Abraham sacrificing Isaac is on the right. Continue on to the end of the road to Ardtalla and you can climb Beinn Bheigeir – Islay's highest hill at 1,609 feet – for a wonderful view of the whole of the island.

By car: take the A846 east and follow signs; journey time approx 35 mins.

Port Charlotte

Immaculate whitewashed cottages line the picture-perfect sandy cove overlooking Loch Indaal. Find out all about illegal whisky distilling on the island in the 18th century at the Museum of Islay Life and dip into the Islay Wildlife Information and Field centre for a hands-on experience of the local flora and fauna. The Port Charlotte Hotel serves great seafood and excellent bar suppers. Ask the locals when the next ceilidh will be held at the nearby Bruichladdich village hall – an experience not to be missed.

By car: take the A846 followed by the A847 and follow signs; journey time approx 45 minutes.

Port Askaig

Port Askaig is Islay's sole link with the islands of Colonsay and Jura, and is little more than a hamlet of pretty buildings, tumbling down a hillside to a little cove. After a drink in the cosy bar of the Port Askaig Hotel and a wander around the RNLI lifeboat station, head for the Bunnahabhainn distillery, a couple of miles north in an idyllic setting overlooking the Sound of Islay. At Loch Finlaggan, visit the prehistoric crannogs (artificial islands), which were once home to the Lords of the Isles.

By car: take the A846 and follow signs; journey time approx 40 mins.

Laggan Bay

This seven-mile stretch of superb sandy beach backed by stunning dunes is also known as Big Strand. Walk for miles or go horse riding on the deserted shore and do a spot of bird watching. Access is from Kintra, Island Farm or from the track beside the small airport.

By car: take the A848 and follow signs; journey time approx 20 mins.

Further Information

The Machrie Hotel, Port Ellen (01496 302310; www.machrie.com) offers a three-night full-board weekend break from £228 per person. D&M MacKenzie (01496 302300) offers three days' car hire from £87. For details about ferries to Islay from Oban or Tarbert contact Caledonian MacBrayne Hebridean and Clyde Ferries (01475 650100; www.calmac.co.uk). Further details from the tourist information centre (08707 200 617; info@ islayvisitscotland.com).

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