The Port Charlotte Hotel and Bar is located on an island known as "The Queen of the Hebrides" on the most Southern point of the Inner Hebrides, Islay. Sitting prominently on Main Street overlooking Loch Indaal, it's hard not to be transported to a peaceful mindset. The Port Charlotte Hotel may be small, housing a mere ten rooms inside its whitewashed stone walls, but it is steeped in beauty and local culture. From the art that lines the walls of the cozy residents lounge, to the restaurant serving local seafood and game, to a bar that comes alive with music and spirits when the sun goes down, the atmosphere doesn't invite the word small - it invites the word welcoming.
Once you've stashed your bags in your room and locked the door using a good old-fashioned key, grab your camera and head out for your day that is sure to be filled with time spent marveling at the sheep, cows, and Highland cattle grazing everywhere from the grassy outcrops on the beach to the precarious ledges jutting out of the sloping hills.
You can also hire a bus or a taxi to take you further, and if you get a good driver, you'll reap the benefits of hearing local stories and legends while your eyes greedily take in the fields bustling with patches of tiny pink heather, quaint little towns lining the roads, people walking the beaches with their dogs and parasailing in the loch, the ruins of a castle, wildlife that includes seals, otters, and eagles, and of course palm trees. Palm trees? Yes, it's true. I was amazed to see Palm trees in the United Kingdom. I mean, it's just not something I'd expect. But apparently, the trees were originally brought to the island by sailors and are able to thrive due to the micro-climate created by the gulf stream.
Everything on Islay seems to close early, and many places are not open on Sunday or Monday. The Port Charlotte locks its doors after a certain hour and if you are outside, you will not be able to get back in. Be sure to ask at the front desk what time that will be if you'll be leaving the hotel at night.
The Port Charlotte Bar may be small in size, but it is huge in activity. Music sessions with traditional Scottish and Irish music and singing are a regular occurrence. The vast whisky selection, plus a couple locally brewed beers, and the amazing music make the bar in itself a destination.
My (single) room was pretty small, as in, barely room for two suitcases. And honestly, it "leaned" a little bit, which played games with my motion-sickness issues. Also, internet service was very spotty, so be aware if it is absolutely essential that you are able to be on line at a certain time. But hopefully you'll enjoy Islay and its array of things to keep you busy, not to mention the bar, the restaurant, and the residents lounge (complete with fireplace) the majority of the time that you're there and just use your room for cleaning up and sleeping.
(Open year-round, but call or email for specifics)
Port Charlotte Hotel
Isle of Islay
Argyll PA48 7TU
telephone: 01496 850360
fax: 01496 850361
(as of October 2012, subject to change)
single £ 105
double £ 180
family £ 200
I hope that you'll go over to The Daily Meal to continue learning about Islay and why it is a Whisky Lover's Hideaway. Here are some more local Islay photos...