Whisky lovers, pay attention. The Islay Whisky Festival (Fèis Ìle) is coming. Here’s how to plan your trip to our favourite Scottish whisky festival.

The first conversation I had six years ago with my now-fiance ended up with us both gibbering excitedly about how much we both loved punchy and peaty whiskies. Fast forward a year, when we were planning a February road trip around the UK (yeah, we’re totally badass like that), we decided to go to Islay – the home of peaty whisky.

Looking for more UK travel inspiration? Check out these handy guides

Islay is a beautiful island in the Southern Scottish Hebrides that happens to be blessed with nine distilleries dotted across its relatively small area.

It’s the perfect location for making whisky, thanks to its pure waters, fertile earth and abundance of peat, something the monks cottoned onto in the 14th century. It’s been the home of peaty (and some non-peaty) whisky ever since. Of the nine distilleries, many are known for their all-out peaty whiskies: Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich and Caol Ila to name a few.

Views from Islay, in the Scottish Hebrides United Kingdom

Views from Islay

Unfortunately, we had to cancel our Islay leg of the road trip that year, thanks to a complete underestimation of distances between our destinations. No sadness though, because it meant that we changed our B&B stay dates to coincide with the Islay Festival of Music and Malt.

And so a love affair was born. That first year opened my eyes to everything that I love about the Islay Festival of Whisky. The music, the workshops, the tastings and, of course, the whisky.

Each year, a selection of Islay’s whisky distilleries hold an open day throughout the festival. In addition, there’s a day hosted by Islay Ales and another held by the distillery on the island of Jura, a stone’s throw away from Islay

Islay Whisky Festival - View of the Paps of Jura

The Paps of Jura

Planning your trip to the Islay Whisky Festival can be a bit confusing if you’ve never been before. Here’s a handy Q&A to help you get on track.

Fèis Ìle 2018 Dates?

In 2018, the dates for Fèis Ìle are Friday 25th May to Saturday 2nd June.

If you’re thinking of going to the festival this year, be warned, the accommodation books up pretty quickly. Book sooner rather than later or you might find that it’s camping or nothing!

Check Accommodation Availability on Islay

What is the Programme for Fèis Ìle? How Can I Book Tickets?

There are two sets of events happening throughout the Islay whisky festival, the main programme (non-distillery specific) and the distillery programme. You can book for any of the non-distillery specific events here . You need to book distillery events directly with the relevant distillery using the contact details provided.

What is the 2018 Programme?

Here’s a detailed breakdown of this year’s programme to give you an idea of what to expect.

Friday 25th May – Islay House Hotel

Islay House Hotel Open Day – a garden party with local produce, whisky and oysters to celebrate the beginning of the festival.

Saturday 26th May – Lagavulin 

Lagavulin Open Day. Book tickets here.

First Fling

Ramsay Hall 9-12pm  featuring Reely Jiggered. Book here.

Colin Dunn from Diageo and Alessandro Palazzi from Dukes London showing us how it's done at the Lagavulin Cocktail Masterclass

Colin Dunn from Diageo and Alessandro Palazzi from Dukes London showing us how it’s done at the Lagavulin Cocktail Masterclass

Sunday 27th May – Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich Open Day. Note: entry to Bruichladdich’s distillery day is £5 and includes a free dram. Contact the distillery to book. 

Monday 28th May – Caol Ila 

Caol Ila

Caol Isla open day. Book tickets here. 

Whisky Nosing Event
Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen 8-9pm.
Followed by Ceilidh till 12pm.
Tickets £20 Book tickets here. 

Tuesday 29th May – Laphroaig

Laphroaig open day. Book tickets here.

Folk Night – Ardbeg Distillery
Port Ellen 8-11pm
(Doors Close 8.30pm).
Tickets £12.

An Evening with Fred MacAulay 
Ramsay Hall, Port Ellen
8.00 – 10.30pm

Ardnahoe Kinship Tasting
With Jim McEwan
7pm Ballygrant Hall
Ticket Price £120

Book tickets here.

Wednesday 30st May – Bowmore and Islay Ales

Bowmore open day. Book events here. 

Islay Ales open day. Buy tickets by phone 01496 810014 or contact them via their Facebook page. 

An evening with Robin Laing
(The Whisky Bard) Bruichladdich Hall
8.00pm – 11.00pm (doors open 7.30pm).
Tickets £15.00

Layers & Flavours Tasting, Islay Whisky Connection by Rachel MacNeill
Gaelic College, Bowmore, 7.30 – 9.00 pm
8.00 – 10.30pm
Tickets £35

Ardnahoe Kinship Tasting
With Jim McEwan
7pm Ballygrant Hall
Ticket Price £120

Book tickets here.

Cask at Kilchoman Distillery during the Islay Whisky FestivalThursday 31 May – Jura & Kilchoman

Jura open day. More information here. 

Kilchoman. Tickets can only be bought over the phone – call +44(0)1496 850 011 to book.

Islay High School Music 
Pie & pint, Tea/coffee and baking
Raffle
£15 ticket price

Book tickets here.

Friday 1st June – Bunnahabhain 

Bunnahabhain open day. Book tickets here. 

Islay Festival of Whisky - Bunnahbhain

Saturday 2nd June – Ardbeg

Ardbeg open day. See more details here. 

Final Fling

featuring Hugo Duncan. Ramsay Hall.  Price £15.

Book tickets here.

Do I Need to Book Events?

You can simply turn up at the distillery (or brewery for Islay Ales) and enjoy the music, have a few drams and enjoy the atmosphere with no booking necessary. That said, the events hosted by the distilleries are really interesting so it’s worth booking onto at least a few of them.

If you want to go to any of the events, book as far in advance as possible as they do sell out. It may be that you can nab a ticket from a cancellation on the day though.

What’s the Islay Music Festival and is it Different?

Feis Ile’s full name is actually the Islay Festival of Music and Malt. There’s a lot of live music during the day at the distilleries, but there is also a separate programme of concerts and ceilidhs going on throughout the week held in different locations across the island.

How do I pronounce Fèis Ìle?

Faysh Eeyla. It’s Gaelic you know.

How to get to Islay?

There are two ways to get to Islay from the mainland: fly or drive and take the ferry.

Ferry to Islay

The ferry is run by Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries (CalMac for short). You’ll need to drive to Kennacraig, which is the port on the mainland. From Kennacraig, you can take the ferry to Port Ellen or Port Askaig, the two ports on Islay. 

Caledonian Macbrayne Ferry to Islay

If you are planning on taking the ferry to the Islay festival of whisky, try to book as far in advance as possible. They do sell out of spots quite early for some of the days during the festival. A ferry journey for a car and two passengers costs around £90 return to either of the two ports.

Kennacraig is roughly a 2.5 hour drive from Glasgow. It’s about a 9 hour drive from London. The road to and from Kennacraig can become congested during the festival, so you should factor that into your driving time to ensure that you catch your ferry. I’d suggest breaking the drive up with a night at Knockinaam Lodge near Portpatrick.

Kennacraig is in the area of Argyll and Bute – there’s plenty to see in this area, so it can also make a good stopping point on the way to or from the festival.

Flights to Islay

Flybe fly from Glasgow to Islay. The flight takes about 40 minutes. You can book your tickets here.

Accommodation

There’s a range of accommodation in Islay. You can book accommodation for the festival here.

That’s it. The Islay Festival of Music and Malt in a nutshell. See you there!

Islay Whisky Festival. Plan your trip to the home of peaty whisky for the Feis Ile with this step by step guide.

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