Interesting Times: What I did on my Holidays (Islay Day One)

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Another morning, another hangover cured by a full Scottish breakfast.

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Luggage was ready to go and so we where off to the races, to Islay. It’s ok, say it out loud. Eye-lah. I know you want to do it, too. Just do it. Eye-lah. Just saying it now, brings back warming memories and a bit of melancholia. If you’ve been there, then for you probably too.

Again, we used public transportation to get to the airport. Cheap and easy. When we arrived at the airport, we spent about one and a half hour in the check-in/drop off queue, which was a huge surprise given that only a handful of people fit in the small plane going to Islay. We didn’t mind as we were already on island-time but there were some curses right and left. Especially since nobody seemed to know why it took forever and a half.

Even those who have not been on island time yet, got their reality-check after we landed on the tiny Islay airport and only the ones who booked a taxi or a pick-up in advance, well, had a taxi.

We others did get the chance to see the Islay fire-brigade in action as somehow a collision between a rental-car and the bus stop resulted in an exploding bus stop. Nah, probably not half as dramatic as you think of now, just a small car trying to avoid crashing into a taxi and as a result slowly driving into a glassy bus stop. Still, a touch of excitement filled the air. Plus, not only nobody I know got killed in South Central that day, nobody was hurt. From a personal point of view even as good as that, it gave us the opportunity to pick up a taxi. The taxi involved in the accident wasn’t on its way to the airport but somewhere else. Lucky for us, the rental-car driver risked his life and the life of others to stop him. So after he made his testimony, we walked up to the taxi driver and asked him if he could drive us to our hotel. Which he happily did.

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The Ballygrant Inn is pretty. And also pretty remote. After a nice cruise around the island, we arrived at the Inn and it seemed that no one was there. When we entered the Inn, we were greeted by two dogs and a cat with three legs. And nobody else. We rang the bell, but that didn’t change much. Hence after a few minutes we did what every good man would do, we went to the bar. Which, in case of the Ballygrant Inn, is not only – quite comfortably – at the back of the Inn but it was also Scotland’s bar of the year 2015. And once we fulfilled the 30 second long journey to the back of the Inn, we meet Ewan. Trust me, he is not as grumpy as it seems. I promise we saw him smile during our stay. For the grand total of three times. But don’t let that distract you from the fact that…he’s a nice bloke. Seriously, he is. Extremely knowledgeable about everything whisky, very good waiter, attentive and friendly as well. He just doesn’t like to show it. And chatty, he just doesn’t use that many words. Still, we were really glad to have him as our barkeeper.

The thing is, the Ballygrant is pretty remote. Like away from many things. And the kitchen is closed on Sundays. We arrived on a Sunday. Hungry. So we did what every good man does in such situations and had a dram. And a beer. And talked to Ewan. In the beginning it seemed like Ewan was pretty distracted by us, but after a while he seemed to defrost and recommended a taxi and the pizzeria peatzeria in Bowmore. Maybe just to get rid of us, we thought at that time but in retrospect it was just a damn good recommendation. Because Ewan knows Islay. Trust him. And he knows whisky. Trust him. Our taxi driver was Jimmy. If you ever drove with him, you probably remember him. We called him Jimmy the tank as he was a tank driver during the Gulf War and in Afganistan. And a football coach. And – by pure coincidence – he had pictures of everything with him. Pretty entertaining. Peatzeria was also very good, I highly recommend it. Islay Ales was pretty soapy and I can’t really recommend it.

After dinner, we enjoyed the sun in front of the Roundchurch and impressively failed to recognize Bowmore Distillery. Oh well, we later “found” it behind that road sign we took a picture of.

Jimmy eventually picked us up at Roundchurch (Islay time, you know) and we spend the rest of the night in the impressive bar of the Ballygrant Inn and here Ewan’s stern knowledge of his bar showed and while we were initially a bit unsure about the Inn, after the evening we were happy with our choice! If you’re afraid of dogs, you probably don’t want to go there. I you love whisky, you have to go there! Here’s the whisky menu.

David, the owner and cook, is amazing and one of the nicest persons to be around! You’ll learn more about his cooking skills in the next couple of posts. If it hasn’t shown so far, I love the Ballygrant Inn. For me it was everything I was looking for and I’ll happily go there again. And again.

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