Port Ellen is the largest village on the island (slightly larger than the central village of Bowmore) and is built round the south coast, deep water harbour of Leodamais Bay. The village is part of the parish of Kildalton and Oa which stretches from the Mull of Oa in the south-west to Ardtalla in the south-east and has a population of roughly a thousand people. The people of Port Ellen are always warm and welcoming whether it be stopping in the street for a chat or enjoying a sing-song and craic in the pub. Within the village there are two beautiful white sand beaches with several others in close proximity. The 'Big Strand' beach is just a short drive away and is seven miles long! The pontoons in Port Ellen are a popular yachting destination in the summer months.
Travelling to Port Ellen couldn't be easier. The mainland ferry, operated by Caledonian MacBrayne, from Kennacraig uses Port Ellen as one of its two berths. The crossing is just over two hours and offers some spectacular views of the stunning coastline. The airport is only five miles from the village and has regular flights to and from Glasgow, operated by Flybe.
Whether it be fishing, birdwatching, sightseeing, whisky or just a relaxing holiday, Port Ellen has much to offer...
Port Ellen Angling Club control the fishing on five (fly only) brown trout lochs, all within short driving distance of the village. The club does not cover sea-fishing but if thats your thing then the opportunities are endless, whether bait fishing from the sandy beaches or spinning off the rocky shoreline, maybe even some fly fishing for mullet, the intrepid angler will not be disappointed.
Port Ellen has two hotels, the White Hart Hotel and the recently re-furbished Islay Hotel, it also has a number of bed and breakfast and self catering accommodation to choose from. (see links) A base in the village leaves you plenty of options for exploring the local area. Driving north-east out of the village the road follows the rugged coastline and passes three of the Island's famous distilleries, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. All have visitor centres and regular tours operating throughout the year (the cafe at Ardbeg is also a great stop for lunch). Continuing up the coastline there are opportunities for some wildlife watching. The bay just after Ardbeg is locally known as 'seal bay' and for good reason, you can watch seals basking on the rocks from the comfort of your car. Red and fallow deer can be seen at the roadside and visitors can usually get close enough for a decent photo. Further up the road is one of Islay's most famous landmarks, the Kildalton Chapel and High Cross which dates back to the 8th century (the Kildalton and Oa area also hosts a number of neolithic, bronze and iron age settlements if you are keen on history). From there it is a short drive to Claggan Bay, a beach made up of pebbles and stones which is very popular with birdwatchers.
The south Islay area hosts several events throughout the summer. These include 'The Whisky Festival' (Feis Ile) which is held during the last week of May and holds events across the Island. The 'Eat Sand' beach rugby tournament is an annual event which attracts many famous rugby stars and takes place in Port Ellen in June. A more recent addition to the calendar is the Festival of the Sea which is a weekend of family activities themed around our maritime heritage. These events and many more are definitely worth incorporating into a visit to Port Ellen.