Visiting Islay in Winter

Islay is a brilliant place to visit, regardless of your chosen season. In the Winter, though, it’s particularly special. For those visiting Islay in the winter and looking for fun and interesting things to do, look no further. Read on for a few winter tips from us.

Winter ferries and flights

Islay is a beautiful island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, accessible from the Scottish mainland by ferry or plane.

The ferry from Kennacraig to Islay operates on winter timetables, usually from around October to March. You can view the winter timetables here on the Calmac website.

Flights operate year-round from Glasgow to Islay. If you’re planning to fly over during the winter, check the latest flights to Islay here with Skyscanner.

Calmac ferry approaching the Isle of Islay
Calmac Ferries runs a winter timetable between the Isle of Islay and Kennacraig on the mainland.

Islay winter weather

Scotland is famous for its changeable weather. Here on Islay in the winter months, average temperatures range from around 8°C to 3°C. We get sun, rain, wind and snow. So come prepared for all weathers, with good sturdy footwear, layers of clothing and waterproofs. As long as you have the right clothing, you should easily be able to get out and explore. At times when it’s just too cold and windy, there are plenty of warm and welcoming pubs and restaurants on the island. So, keep an eye on the forecast and plan your activities around the weather.

Sunrise at Port Charlotte, Islay.
Sunrise at Port Charlotte, Islay.

Visit a distillery

When in Scotland it’s almost criminal to not visit a distillery. The Isle of Islay has nine of them for you to choose from. The two most popular distilleries on the island are Islay Gin and Bunnahabhain Distillery. You can take a trip to the distilleries on the island and enjoy whisky and gin tastings, as well as distillery tours that are as educational as they are interesting.

With Scotland’s cool winter weather at the latter end of the year, a few sips of something alcoholic will be welcomed to keep you nice and warm. You might even want to buy a bottle for the rest of your trip!

Glass of strong scotch single malt whisky with fast flowing mountain river on background, Scotland
A glass of strong scotch single malt.

A magical winter wonderland

Visiting Islay in winter is a really special time of year. With magnificent snow-capped mountains, crystal-clear waters and crisp fresh air. You can enjoy lots of lovely winter walks around the island when conditions are good. There’s plenty of winter wildlife to look out for, such as deer, otters, seals, geese and eagles. Take a visit to the RSPB Loch Gruinart Reserve, where you might spot birds of prey hunting, wading birds in shallow waters and barnacle geese flocking to the grasslands.

A barnacle goose in flight
Islay provides habitats for thousands of barnacle geese, which migrate from Greenland every winter.

Explore a castle

Exploring Islay in winter unveils the rich history of Scottish castles, some standing strong while others echo tales of the past. Dunyvaig, an ancient castle atop a picturesque hill, now lies in ruins. It was built in the twelfth century by Somerled and has since been held by the Macdonalds and Maclans. It was even visited by Mary, Queen of Scots at one point. Then, in 1677, Sir Hugh Campbell pulled the castle down when he moved to Islay House.

The ruins of Dunyvaig Castle next to Lagavulin Bay on the Isle of Islay

Hop over to Jura

The neighbouring isle is Jura. It is home to some truly incredible mountains and a population of around 6,000 roaming wild deer. The island, like Islay, is also home to great whisky. It was also once home to George Orwell. If you want to explore beyond Islay when you come to visit this winter, then take a short trip over to Jura. You’ll get to see even more of the dramatic Scottish scenery in the winter!

Panoramic view of the valley near the Paps of Jura under the colorful stormy sunset sky.

Warm up with some pizza

After all your exploring you’ll need to rest and warm up a little. Why not do so with some super tasty Scottish pizza? Handcrafted to bring the taste of the big city to our small island, our restaurant combines proper Scottish flavours, Islay ingredients, and exquisite Italian techniques to create a culinary delight like nothing you’ve ever tried before. You can even get pizza to take away if you want to enjoy your food under the stars or in the great outdoors.

Selection of pizzas on a table at Peatzeria restaurant

Whatever you choose to do when you visit Islay in the winter, you will have an amazing time! If you are coming to see us at Peatzeria, we are open throughout December and early January. Please check our opening times for specific dates and times, including any seasonal changes or closures. Be sure to call in for lunch or dinner during your winter break, and we’ll cook up a feast to keep you warm and cosy.

And if you are staying at Islay Cottages, you get a 10% discount on our delicious menu.