The Essential Guide to Visiting Islay

plane flying over ferry in sea

If you are heading to Islay for the first time I have popped together the ultimate guide to help you get the most from your trip. Covering the essentials, like if you are wondering what to pack, where to stay, how to get around when you arrive, and then the ‘biggy’, what to do. How best to make the most of your ‘Islay time’.

From that huge, lovely Islay welcome, as you feel the stress just melt away when you hop onboard the ferry. Or enjoy stepping from the small plane as the fresh air just engulfs you, as smiley cheery islanders wait to greet you.

This guide will help you get the most from your visit. All those little tips to help you enjoy the most perfect Islay holiday. Enjoy dipping into this essential guide to visiting Islay.

What to Pack?

Islay has its own amazing micro climate

Rainbow over the sea with hills in the background.


Not to put you off in the first instance, but the raincoat should definitely be an essential part of your kit. You can often be treated to four seasons in a day on Islay, and there’s no extra charge! Believe me, there is something so refreshing about the crisp sea breeze that blows in from the Atlantic. The breath taking views when a swathe of ‘misty mizzle’ clears, to reveal bright sunshine and colourful rainbows.

Girl and dog in rain on beach

Swimming Gear

That heat, when the sun beams down, in the spring, summer, and autumn months. A quick dip in the beautiful sea is so good for the soul. Choose your beach carefully though, as with tidal currents, not all beaches are safe for swimming. Sometimes paddling those feet in the salty spray of the breaking waves is enough. Definitely pack trunks or a swimming costume, you will kick yourself if you don’t.

Back of lady standing in the sea

Layers – shorts, tee-shirts, tops and fleeces

Light layers are definitely the way to go, The climate is fairly mild, as Islay enjoys the luxury of being warmed by the gulf stream. Continuing with the four seasons in a day theme, base layers, and then a good heavy fleece, or jumper, would be ideal.

If you’re planning on going hill climbing, what is a hot sunny day at sea level, can quickly become a misty, cold, wet hike, with a good strong wind on the top of those hills.

Woman and two dogs sat on hill top

Just check out the day I climbed Sgarbh Breac. One minute we were at the top of the hill in rain and gales, the next we were cooling off with a dip in the soothing turquoise seas below.

Islay Beach
Islay’s beaches

A warm day can slip into a cool evening, even in the summer months, but for a real feel of the island in the different seasons do browse through our blogs. There are blogs from each season which will give you a real feel of what temperatures, weather, and life on Islay, is like throughout an Islay year.

Islay Accommodation

First off and the question is where to stay?

There are so many amazing accommodation choices.

From the golfing hotel, The Machrie, to the Distillery owned Islay Hotel and Bowmore Cottages. Each offering their own style of island luxury. However if you delve a little further, stepping away from the corporate world of tourism, you will find lots of beautiful bespoke accommodation choices. Guest houses, cottages to rent, bed and breakfast accommodation, all in island homes. There’s even an Islay youth hostel.

Girl and Horse

At Persabus, the Fletcher family have a history spanning over 500 years on the island. Farm diversification projects, have led to the old stone byres being developed into unique, comfortable homes, full of island charm and character. The farmhouse even has a its own bed and breakfast suite, built into what was once the old stables. Enjoy Meeting our characterful clan of Hebridean sheep, Highland cows, our two farm cats, the horses and dog.

Highland Cow
Enjoy a farm holiday at Persabus and meet our Highland Cows

Research and planning

We’ve got you covered!

There is so much to see, do, and enjoy on Islay. A little planning prior to your trip will go a long way to ensuring you have the best holiday.

Lobster platter
Enjoy lobster platters at Islay’s Seafood Kitchen

As it is an island, there’s always a limited number of seats going to be available in restaurants and cafes. Taxis are not going to be sat in ranks waiting for the hordes, and if you haven’t pre-booked, you may find you’re walking, as all the hire cars are taken. I have popped together all the information you should need to help you plan getting around Islay. Make sure you get those taxis and hire cars booked in advance of your stay.

How to make the most of your time on Islay

Goodness, with so many exciting adventures waiting to be had, so many places to explore, where do you start?

One of our lovely guests is complete, self confessed ‘beach bum’. He simply heads to the hill gate, looks at where the sun is shining on the island. Where the clouds are gathering. He feels which direction the wind is ruffling his hair, and is soon packing all the beach paraphernalia of the day into the back of his jeep. Fishing rods and tackle, surf boards, and a grill for the burgers, and he’s off to immerse himself, and his gang, in a day of beautiful Islay beach time.

Girl sat on beach watching sunset

Don’t worry if beaches aren’t your thing. There really is something for everyone. From the distilleries, to the walks, the woollen mill, to the Museum of Islay Life. There is in fact far too much to list here, but our Things to See and Do page is bursting with ideas and information. It also has a calendar of events and festivals, which is regularly updated throughout the season. So head on over and get that plan together.

Need help? At Persabus we are usually around to give you a little guidance, answer any questions you may have, and enjoy a good ‘blether’, or even a dram, if you have time.

Book your next visit

If you got this far, you will already have sussed that one trip to the island will simply not be enough. Which is probably why we find ourselves welcoming back so many regular guests year on year to Persabus.

We look forward to welcoming you again soon.

Farmhouse in sunshine
Persabus Farmhouse on the Isle of Islay