I very rarely talk about the island I’m originally from, mostly out of fear of having the blog traced by locals and having to admit to owning it… but today was such a beautiful day, and a feeling of appreciation towards my little homeland made me decide to go a walk and get some photos to share with you all.
I was brought up on the Isle of Islay, a small island off the west coast of Scotland in the Inner Hebrides. Known as “the Queen of the Hebrides”, it’s probably best known for producing single malt whiskies. We currently have eight distilleries on the island, with others in the process of being planned and built.
I recall being told in primary school that the island is the seventh-largest island around Great Britain; I’m not 100% sure if that’s accurate or not, but it’s what I tell everyone! I feel like that makes it sound quite big, but it’s actually around 25 miles in length, and there’s about 3,000 to 3,500 people living on it. That’s about all my retained facts haha!
Speaking of schools, my primary and secondary education experience was a little different compared to others I know. With such a small population, the schools are pretty compact; when I finished Primary 7 (I believe that’s equivalent to Year 6 in England and Wales?), there was only two of us in my year. There was 41 of us in total throughout the school! This meant my class was Primary 4, 5, 6 and 7 which often saw me having to recite the 3x table in my final year to suit what the young’uns in P4 were learning… not great!
Then onto high school, where there was around 200 pupils in total throughout my time there… I’m pretty sure it went up to 220 at one point! Since I’ve moved to Glasgow and told people out there about my time in school, I’ve learned that that’s a really small school roll. Not for me – I was terrified about there being that many people when it came to joining! A big downside to choosing classes to study for qualifications was that there were a number of classes not offered to us due to the lack of teachers trained in that subject; it’s pretty difficult to convince people to move over to such a rural place. Discovering that there was such a thing as “Higher Economics” on the SQA curriculum was a bit of a shock in university!
Of course, being such a small place, we don’t have any universities on the island. We do have the Argyll College UHI as an option for those who want to remain on Islay, which is within the high school, but I decided – without sounding too dramatic – that I wanted to see somewhere beyond the island. So, when I finished school at 17, I went off to study at Glasgow Caledonian University. Moving from Islay to Sauchiehall Street was a bit of a culture shock, to say the least! It’s been nearly four years and yet I still get incredibly homesick from time-to-time. I do get to come home at times like now, where the university’s still closed and I can come back and recover before the next semester starts!
In the photo above, on a clearer day, you’d be able to see Northern Ireland in the horizon. I love telling people that I can see Ballycastle from my living room window! I talked about my travels over there in my Travel Diary post from last year – I got over there on a small boat that took about an hour. Fun fact!
As I mentioned before, Islay is home to eight whisky distilleries. These are Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. Yes, I know them alphabetically, don’t ask why I’ve memorised them like this. Bruichladdich also produces The Botanist Gin – totally not biased or anything but it is amazing and you should 100% try it *cough*. Islay itself is actually one of the five Scottish whisky regions, which I think is pretty cool. We also have an annual festival – Feis Ile – which takes place in the last week of May. Visitors from all over travel to immerse themselves in the Islay culture and try our whisky, and it’s genuinely my favourite time of year just because I’m a proud little Ileach.
I think that’s about it! I’ll stop here because I feel like I’m becoming a travel agent trying to sell you all a trip to Islay. Oh, and for the record, I can’t speak Scottish Gaelic, as much as my grandparents try to teach me.