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Port Charlotte & Rinns of Islay

The guide on Rinns of Islay on the isle of Islay in the Inner Hebrides, guides you over the place and the nearby attractions. Also, offered are information on sleeping and eating, hotels and accommodation in Port Charlotte.

North of Bowmore, at Bridgend,is the site of the tiny Islay Ales Brewery. Here the A846 joins the A847 which runs west to the hammerhead peninsula known as the Rinns of Islay ("rinns" is derived from the Gaelic for promontory). A few miles west of Bridgend the B8017 turns north to the RSPB Reserve at Loch Gruinart. The mudflats and fields at the head of the loch provide winter grazing for huge flocks of barnacle and white-fronted geese from Greenland, arriving in late October. There's an excellent RSPB visitor centre at Aoradh (pronounced "oorig") which houses an observation point with telescopes and CCTV, and there's a hide across the road. In total there are about 110 species of bird breeding on Islay, including the rare chough and corncrake.

The coastal scenery around the Rinns is very impressive, particularly at Killinallan Point, a beautiful and lonely headland at the far northeast of Loch Gruinart. Also impressive is Ardnave Point, west of Loch Gruinart, and further west along the north coast, Sanaigmore. The best beaches are at Saligo and Machir Bay on the west coast, past Loch Gorm. Both are lovely, wide, golden beaches backed by high dunes, but swimming is forbidden due to dangerous undercurrents. You can stay at Kilchoman, near Machir Bay, at E-D Kilchoman House, Tel. 850382, Fax. 850277, a former Georgian Manse that offers self catering accommodation. Open April-October, book in advance.

Port Charlotte

Port Charlotte is without doubt the most charming of Islay's villages, with rows of well-kept, whitewashed cottages stretched along the wide bay. It, too, was founded by the prolific Walter Frederick Campbell, in 1828, and named after the other important woman in his life, his mother.

But Port Charlotte is not just a pretty face. The Islay Wildlife Information and Field Centre is a must for anyone interested in flora and fauna. It's very hands-on, with good displays on geology and natural history, a video room and reference library. It's also a great place for kids, and has activity days when staff take tours of the surrounding area. Info - Tel. 850288. Easter-Oct Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri and Sun 1000-1500. £2.

Also worth visiting is the compact Museum of Islay Life, to the east of the village, where you can find out all about illegal whisky distilling on the island. It also has interesting archival material. Info - Easter-Oct Mon-Sat 1000-1700, Sun 1400-1700. £2.

Eating Out

Aside from the hotel, the best place to eat is Yans Kitchen (Tel. 01496 850230). It's a coffee and gift shop by day and moderately priced restaurant by night, open Mar-Oct daily 1000-2030, best to book in season.

Local Visitor Attractions

Nearby Distilleries

Port Charlotte & Rinns of Islay Hotels & Accommodation

Accommodation is somewhat limited in Port Charlotte. The best place to stay is the Port Charlotte Hotel, Tel. 850361, Fax. 850361. 10 rooms. Restored Victorian inn with gardens and conservatory on seafront; their restaurant features local seafood and is the best around. There's also a B&B E Mrs Wood, Tel. 850225, open Apr-Oct; and a SYHA hostel, Tel. 850385, open Mar to end-Oct, next to the Wildlife Information Centre.