Historical Places on Islay

glass covered carved burial stones by ruins

This fabulous corner of the Hebrides offers so many fantastic places to visit, but part of the beauty of Islay is the fun of discovering all the hidden gems. The island has so many interesting layers to it.

The island boasts a rich history

From the ancient seat of the Lords of the Isles on the shores Loch Finlaggan, to violent and bloody battles, ancient Celtic Crosses, and a rich maritime history.

Shipwreck in the sea
The Wyre Majestic

There’s certainly plenty of history to delve into. Surrounded by spectacular coastline, and brimming with whisky, from its fabulous world famous distilleries, it’s agricultural and fishing heritage, there are lots of fantastic stories and characters to enjoy during your stay on the island.

Two people and bikes

Historical Places to Visit on Islay

The Museum of Islay Life

A display in the Museum of Islay Life

If you are interested in Islay’s past, for a real flavour of its history and heritage there’s no better place to start your journey than at The Museum of Islay Life, in Port Charlotte. The friendly helpful staff will be able to answer all your questions. Bursting with information, artefacts, and displays it is sure to whet your appetite for your historical adventures on the island. A visit to the museum will give you great information to begin your discoveries.

Islay Archaeology

It is exciting to think on this small island the history spans back to the times of the ‘Hunter-Gatherers’. There have been lots of archaeological digs on Islay, leading to the discovery of Mesolithic and Ice Age artefacts. Enjoy visiting the various Prehistoric sites. Step back in time and enjoy wandering on Finlaggan Island where the Lords of the Isles once ruled. With evidence of forts, burial sites, standing stones and Celtic Crosses. If you are passionate about history Islay is rich with stories, memorabilia and remaining ruins of bygone times. Stay with us at Persabus, and Finlaggan is just a short drive away.

Kildalton Cross and Chapel

Each corner of Islay offers something different. A visit to the south west coast of Islay and you enter an almost magical, and mystical part of the island. Enjoy as the single track road twists and winds through beautiful woodland, past a cottage made of quartz. Venture further and you will come to the ruins of the Kildalton Chapel and the Kildalton Cross. Dating to circa 820AD. Discover magical carved grave stones from centuries ago, and enjoy soaking up the atmosphere of this special site.

Dunyvaig Castle

On the shores of Lagavulin are the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle. Once the castle was an important point of coastal defence for the MacDonald clan chiefs on the island. From the bygone times when the Lords of the Isles ruled from Loch Finlaggan. It is thought, following recent archaelogical excavations, that the fortress was built on top of a prehistoric fort or dun. More can information can be found on the Islay Heritage site

Kilnave Chapel and Cross

Venture out past the RSPB centre on the shores of Loch Gruinart to Kilnave Chapel. The tranquil ruins of this beautiful Chapel hold a dark past. The Battle of Traigh Ghruinneart was the last big clan battle on the island. In 1598 Sir Lachlan Mor MacLean, the 14th Chief of Duart, and his nephew, Sir James MacDonald of Islay fought a bitter battle over possession of the Rhinns of Islay. It is hard to imagine the men who perished when they sought refuge in the Chapel. The brave men had bolted the door, hoping they would be safe inside the holy building. Alas, their enemies, furious, and vengeful, set fire to the roof, with only 1 man managing to escape through the roof as the burning thatch collapsed.

The small east window in the stone ruins frames beautiful views across the sea loch and beyond.

American Monument on the Oa

Girl standing by sea with monument in background

The Oa peninsula is a fantastic haven for wildlife on the island. A trek across the landscape to the American Monument, and make sure you have your wellies, as on wet days it can be quite boggy. Breath taking scenery unfolds. With dramatic cliffs, towering high above sea level. The Oa coastline is wild and beautiful, and home to eagles, choughs, and hen harriers, as well as many other species.

On 5th February, 1918, 266 Americans perished in wild seas off the Oa, when HMS Tuscania was torpedoed.

The American Monument was built by the US Government in memory of the brave soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War.

There are many exciting historical places to visit. From ancient burial grounds, to the shoreline discoveries of fossils and ancient hunter gather tools. Enjoy delving into so many historical stories and characters, soak up the atmosphere of ancient forts and fairy hills. If you have a thirst for history know that Islay has many rich layers to explore and enjoy.