Islay

Classification and Statistics

Type:Island
Population: 3228
Area: 61950 ha (153076 acres)
Tourist Rating: Three Stars
Text of Entry Updated: 27-AUG-2020
Location

Latitude: 55.7588°N Longitude: 6.2495°W
National Grid Reference: NR 335 599
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Extended Information
The climate on Islay is mild, benefitting from the warming effects of the Gulf Stream. There is typically little frost, no snow at lower levels, much greater than average sunshine for Scotland and consequently a long growing season. The low-lying coast gets around 1300mm of rain annually, but the upland areas of the southeast receive much more, while gale-force winds can cut across the island in winter.

Despite its seven lighthouses, shipwrecks around the coast of Islay are common, and several maritime tragedies have occurred. The Sanaigmore Monument commemorates 241 Irish emigrants who drowned when their ship ran around in a storm in 1847. At the Mull of Oa is a memorial to the American soldiers who lost their lives when the Tuscania was torpedoed in February 1918 and the Otranto which was wrecked following a collision in a severe storm eight months later. During the Second World War, there was a significant Royal Air Force presence on the island, with a training base at Glenegedale (RAF Port Ellen), flying boats on anti-submarine patrol from Bowmore and a Chain Home Radar Station at Saligo.

A regular ferry service was established by the island's landowners in the mid-18th C. Steam replaced sail in 1825, but a succession of ferries were wrecked in 1866, 1890, 1902 and 1905. Today, ferries connect Kennacraig on the mainland with Port Ellen and Port Askaig, and the latter with Jura. Islay Airport occupies the site of the former military airfield at Glenegedale, to the north northwest of Port Ellen, overlooking the long sandy beach within Laggan Bay.

Islay was linked to the mainland by a submarine telegraph cable in 1871. The telephone came in 1935, with telephone exchanges in the main villages. A central exchange was established in Port Ellen in 1974, which was subsequently automated. The island was connected to the national electricity grid in 1962, but retains Bowmore Power Station in reserve. The experimental Islay Wave Power Station began generating electricity in 2000.

References and Further Reading
Jefford, Andrew (2004) Peat Smoke and Spirit. Headline Publishing Group, London
Keay, John and Julia Keay (eds.) (1994) Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. Harper Collins Publishers, London
King, Jacob and Michelle Cotter (2011) Gaelic in the Landscape: Place-names in Islay and Jura / A' Ghàidhlig air Aghaidh na Tire: Ainmean-aite ann an Ìle agus Dùira. Scottish Natural Heritage, Battleby
Macniven, Alan (2006) The Norse in Islay: A Settlement Historical Case-Study for Medieval Scandinavian Activity in Western Maritime Scotland . PhD thesis, The University of Edinburgh
Miers, Mary (2008) The Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. The Rutland Press, Edinburgh
Mitchell, Ian (2004) Isles of the West. Birlinn Ltd., Edinburgh
Perrott, David (2004) The Western Islands Handbook. Kittiwake, Machynlleth
Storrie, Margaret C. (1981) Islay: Biography of an island. Oa Press, Port Ellen, Islay
Walker, Frank Arneil (2000) The Buildings of Scotland: Argyll and Bute. Penguin, London

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