Seasons don’t end at Persabus, they just change. Summer visitors often ask me what an Islay winter is like
As the summer months fade to a happy distant memory, Autumn is upon us and our guests can look forward to a very different island experience.
Our ‘whisky visitors’ are back staying with us on the farm. Persabus provides easy access to the north Islay distilleries. Through the fields and along the farm track is Caol ila Distillery. Or follow the twisting, winding road which leads to the distilleries of Ardnahoe and Bunnahabain. Here you will be treated to some of the island’s most stunning scenery. The north east coastline is wild and rugged with views out to the almost uninhabited west coast of Jura. At the end lies the distillery and a well-earned tasting of a good Bunnahabhain malt is obligatory if you are a whisky fan. The nearest bus stop is just a short walk from the farm allowing easy access to the south Islay distilleries too, as well the distilleries of Bowmore and Bruichladdich.
The island walks on offer in the autumn months provide refreshing, exhilarating and sometimes complete ‘spa therapy’ experiences when the heavens open and the wind whips up! Guests return to the warmth of the cottages and farmhouse alike, rosy cheeked, recharged and refreshed. Wild winter walks along deserted beaches on a stormy day are a great tonic. Beautiful natural beach ‘treasures’ of shells, driftwood and old anchor buoys can be found among the pebbles, seaweed and sand. Otters, herons, oyster catchers, and seals are never far away.
On blustery days the various woodland walks provide shelter, their tall trees forming spectacular canopies. The leaves having changed to the yellows, auburns and golds of an autumn landscape. Conkers are scattered on the ground below the Horse Chestnut trees. They lie invitingly in their shells. I always like to stop and open a few. There is something quite special about breaking into the shell to reveal those beautiful woody conkers.
In the autumn and winter months on clear days, the sunrises and sunsets can be especially spectacular. Snuggling up under a rug, from the Islay Woollen Mill of course, nestled in the sand dunes, with the beach to yourselves and a flask of tea and sandwiches, it really is the perfect way to experience an early sunset or late sunrise. If you are lucky, you will be treated to a flypast of the Barnacle, Greylag or White-fronted geese who frequent our shores in the winter months.
As evening comes there is the offer of a fireside dram. With so many whiskies to choose from, all locally produced, it is a whisky enthusiasts dream. The logs and peat fires will be burning in the local hotels and a winter fayre of local venison, succulent lamb and beef are all on the menus for those looking for an evening out. At the Ballygrant Inn they even offer a ‘whisky menu’ and will guide you through the huge range of malts on offer, having won ‘whisky bar of the year’ on several occasions.
At the farm, in Persabus Cottage the Rayburn is always on in the winter months, bringing warmth to the heart of the old farmhouse. Here casseroles, stews and roasts can be left to simmer away gently in the oven for hours while guests enjoy days out on the hills, at the beaches or visiting distilleries for tours and tastings. The open fire in the sitting room provides a cosy haven when the weather closes in. On clear nights, a seat on the bench outside allows you to admire the milky way in all its glory, the silence only broken by the distant roar of rutting stags.
These last few days sunny spells allowed the barley boys to get the fields cut on the farm and the Persabus barley harvested. The silage has been baled and neatly stored at the edges of the fields, allowing easy access for the Happy Farmer and his tractor in the winter months ahead, as he goes on his daily feeding rounds. The log pile in the farmhouse is stacked ready for our own cosy Persabus nights indoors.
Summer visitors often ask me what an Islay winter is like. It is one of our best kept secrets. You should come and experience it for yourself sometime. Whatever the season you can be assured Islay provides a beautiful landscape with wild and rugged coastlines, huge sandy beaches and space to just breathe again.
Until next time….