Islay Beaches : Machir Bay, Kilchoman

You have limited time on the island and can only squeeze in one beach visit

Machir Beach

Then, it simply has to be Machir Bay. Of all Islay’s beaches, Machir Bay at Kilchoman is the most famous. Likewise if you are wondering which beach to visit. A trip to Islay wouldn’t be complete without a trek along the beautiful white sands of this iconic beach.

Head to Kilchoman

(40 minute drive from Persabus)

A short drive. It’s just a little further along the single track road past Kilchoman Distillery. Head west, and soon you will find yourself on this gorgeous two mile expanse of golden sands.

Kilchoman Distillery

The Distillery incidentally has a fantastic café, serving hearty bowls of soup, and delicious hot and cold snacks. It is worth stopping by for a bite of lunch. Or tea and cake, after a few hours of fabulous beach time. On cold days enjoy nestling in beside the distillery’s cosy, roaring wood burning stove. Of course, there’s lots of exciting tours and tastings on offer at the distillery. But today we were heading to the beautiful beach of Machir Bay.

Machir Bay

girl walking dog onto beach

As we drove down the winding track which leads to the car park, those heavens opened. Bright sunshine gave way to monsoon style rain as the storm clouds gathered in the skies. What I love about this gorgeous island is the constantly changing weather, often presenting four seasons in a day. The colours in those skies, the mix of sunshine and storms as the light changes constantly.

Luckily we found two of the farmer’s large rain jackets and a cap hidden in the back of the car. So rain did not stop play.

Machir Bay is hidden behind a ridge of beautiful dunes

The dunes, high out of reach of the incoming tides. A sandy path leads the way down, and there the Atlantic ocean opens up before us.

The last of the remaining families were making their way off the beach as we headed down towards the sea. I have visited Machir Bay many times. This visit must be one of my favourites.

With the storm clouds over head, the raindrops were dancing across the vivid green waves. The colours popping out against the grey skies. The brilliant white froth of breaking waves, caressing the smooth sand.

waves breaking on shore

The sea was incredibly warm. As the tide receded, there were deep sandy pools to paddle our way through. Venturing across the the rocks at the far end of the bay. The solitude of a deserted beach, as the rain poured in a monsoon like shower around us. The sandpipers and seagulls swooping and dancing in the waves breaking across the shore. The glints of white in distant skies behind the passing storm. As far out to sea we could see the sunshine was not far away.

We reached the rocks at the far end of the bay. They stand over powering and ethereal, tall and majestic, hiding a labyrinth of coves and sandy pools. Worn over time by the power of Atlantic seas.

Machir Bay has quite a history

HMS Otranto, carrying troops in October 1918, collided with another ship in a storm. Nearly 500 men perished in the seas off Machir Bay. Most of the graves at the Military Cemetery overlooking the bay are of victims from the Otranto. You can find out more at

Ship Wreck in Sand

At low tide, the remains of the Patti, another shipwreck, can be seen entrenched in the sand. The old remains of the ship’s hull still prominent.

Persabus Bound

Soggy and more than a little damp, we gradually paddled our way back through the warm sandy pools. One happy dog, and us. You simply cannot beat the refreshing feeling, the zingy, saltiness of a good blow out across Machir Bay.

Driving home to Persabus for hot showers, ready to enjoy the fabulous sunrise and a delicious supper.

At Persabus we have a variety of accommodation on offer. Enjoy a stay on our island farm. It’s a real home from home.

Finally remember to pack those rain coats, as well as your swimming cosi. On Islay you will often be treated to the full spectrum of weather, in all seasons, you can be sure of gorgeously warm, sunshine, then rain, gales, and rainbows. Get ready to enjoy a little Islay magic.

White Cottages at sunset