SCOTLAND: Argyll Isle of Islay Travel Tips

“To get to the Isle of Islay, one goes either by ferry or by air. Service by air is from Glasgow Airport. There is a car ferry out of Kennicraig to Port Ellen on the south of Islay, or to Port Askaigon the northeast. One very nice feature is that it is is not necessary to return to the mainland from the same port.  To go by way of Port Ellen and return by Port Askaig means that one gets to stop by the island of Colonsay, and the go further north to land at Oban, not too far from Fort William. The cost is the same.

Public transportation on Islay is very poor indeed. Most of the places you want to visit for Gillespies is off beaten paths. Therefore it is mandatory to rent a car.  Visitors under the age of 70 will have no trouble renting a car in Port Ellen. Those over 70 are not eligible for car rental in England from franchise rental services, such as Hertz, etc. However, there is a car firm in Paisley (a suburb of Glasgow) called the Melville Car Hire (telephone #014-848-5757) who will rent to those over 70, providing you have a valid driver’s licence. They will pick you up at the airport, and take you back when you leave.

If one’s research is for the name Gillespie, the interest will definitely be in the northern part of Islay. I’ve not discovered a single Gillespie south of Bonmore, the capital city, and about the middle of the island. Should the research include the southern area, there is a nice Bed and Breakfast in Port Ellen called The Trout Fly Guest House. It is but a city block from the pier at Port Ellen. In the centre and north of the island there is  a pleasant hotel at Bridgend (a bit pricey) and another great B & B in Bruichladdich operated by Janis and Peter McDonald.

There is a museum at Port Charlotte, the Historical Society in Bowmore, and not far from Flinlagan.  Mr Robert McWee is a walking encylopedia of genealogy information about Islay.

You may wish to visit cemeteries. There is a large one at Bowmore, another at Bridgend, one at Kilnave up on the shore of Loch Gruinart. Unfortunately the privately owned at Kilchoman is almost overgrown and the stones impossible to read. However, the one at Kilnave is superbly managed. Be sure to visit the ruins and museum near Loch Finlaggan.

Restaurants do not abound on Islay. There is a good one at the hotel in Brudgend. In Port Charlotte, another good restaurant is across the street from the museum.”

Source of Notes from Richard Sheil, published in a Gillespie Newsletter some years ago.

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