Near Port Charlotte are the graves of the U.S. seamen and army troops who lost their lives in 1918 when their carriers, the Tuscania and the Otranto, were torpedoed off the shores of Islay. There's a memorial tower on the Mull of Oa, 13km (8 miles) from Port Ellen. For the greatest walk on the island, go along Mull of Oa Road toward the signposted solar-powered Carraig Fhada lighthouse, some 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) away. The Oa peninsula was once the haunt of illicit whisky distillers and smugglers; the area is filled with sheer cliffs that are riddled with caves.
The island's capital is Bowmore, on the coast across from Port Askaig. Here you can see a fascinating Round Church (no corners for the devil to hide in). But the most important town is Port Ellen, on the south coast, a holiday and golfing resort and Islay's principal port. The 18-hole Machrie golf course (tel. 01496/302-310; www.machrie.com) is 5km (3 miles) from Port Ellen. Greens fees are £55, with a cart costing £20.
You can see the ancient seat of the lords of the Isles, the ruins of two castles, and several Celtic crosses. The ancient Kildalton Crosses are in the Kildalton churchyard, about 12km (7 1/2 miles) northeast of Port Ellen -- they're two of the finest Celtic crosses in Scotland. The ruins of the 14th-century fortress, Dunyvaig Castle, are just south of Kildalton.
In the southwestern part of Islay, in Port Charlotte, the Museum of Islay Life (tel. 01496/850-358) has a wide collection of island artifacts ranging from unrecorded times to the present. Easter to October, the museum is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. Admission is £3 for adults, £2 for seniors, and £1 for children 5 to 16. The Portnahaven bus from Bowmore stops here.
Touring the Distilleries -- The island is noted for its distilleries, which still produce single-malt Highland whiskies by the antiquated pot-still method. Of these, Laphroaig Distillery, about 1.6km (1 mile) along the road from Ardbeg to Port Ellen (tel. 01496/302-418; www.laphroaig.com), offers guided tours Monday to Friday at 10 and 11:30am and 2 and 3:30pm. Admission is free and includes a sample dram. Lagavulin, Port Ellen (tel. 01496/302-749), is open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 4:30pm. Tours are by appointment only. Admission is £5 per person and comes with a complimentary glass of whisky. A distillery gift shop is open Monday to Friday 8:30am to noon and 1 to 4:30pm.
Bowmore Distillery, School Street, Bowmore (tel. 01496/810-441; www.bowmore.com), conducts tours Monday to Friday at 10 and 11am and 2 and 3pm. Admission is £4, which includes a voucher worth £2 off the price of a bottle. Samples are included in the tour. You can make purchases without taking the tour by stopping at the on-premises gift shop, open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 10am to noon.
Port Askaig is home to Bunnahabhain (tel. 01496/840-646; www.bunnahabhain.com), which is open year-round Monday to Friday. Call for an appointment. Tours cost £2 and are available at 10:30am and 2 and 3:15pm March to October (call for appointments Oct-Dec). Its gift shop is open to visitors at the end of each tour.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.