It cannot fail to escape the notice of visitors to Islay that the island is "whisky central", with no fewer than eight distilleries on the island. The reason for the emergence of this sector of the local economy is quite simple: the abundance of the main ingredients, barley and soft water, plus the ready availability of peat to fuel the stills and dry the malted barley. In the early days, the island's distilling was carried out "informally" - that is to say illicitly. The island's cliffs are dotted with caves where the twin activities of illegal distilling and smuggling were carried out. The first legal distillery was founded in 1779 here in Bowmore, the island's main settlement and its administrative capital, its white buildings gracing the lochside.
Members of the landed gentry in 18th century Scotland were not averse to uprooting the local inhabitants and moving them to a new location if it suited their purposes to do so, and the local laird in these parts was no exception. He allegedly decided that the village of Kilarrow was too close to his residence for comfort, so the villagers were moved to Bowmore, which was established in 1768 as a replacement for Kilarrow, and which is a typical example of a planned village with streets laid out in a grid pattern. The most striking sight in Bowmore is the Round Church, a whitewashed building which, as its name suggests, is built in a round shape, the thinking being that this way there would be no corners for the devil to hide in. There is a pier on the lochside, and during World War II there was a sea plane base from which Sunderland and Catalina flying boats operated. As well as a range of restaurants and places to stay, visitors will find Islay's only Tourist Information Office in Bowmore.
Map of the area.
© 2004 Eberhard Kaiser, via Wikimedia Commons