Islay. Midnight, Monday. Say it with me, folks: EYE-luh. Don't pronounce the "S." You're welcome ... you are now in-the-know. It's EYE-luh. EYE-luh. That's right. You've got it now.
It's unbelievable here. Butch and I left the mainland of Scotland at 6:00pm on a majestic ferry that made its way across the sea to Islay. There's a small airport on the Isle, but flights are pricey and we've got instruments that don't always fit on small planes. I'm glad we took the ferry in because I've never seen anything like the approach to Islay from the sea. There are green hills that jet out of the sea, surrounded by small archipelagos that look like sea creatures just biding their time to emerge. Some have ancient ruins on them, and others have lighthouse. Still others seen untouched by humanity. It's a beautiful sight, and I felt a bit like a voyeur encroaching on nature, though I know I'm hardly the first to stare in awe.
This particular ferry took us to Port Askaig, about 20 miles north of Port Ellen, Laphroaig, and our hotel. We opted to leave the rental car on the mainland because ferrying it across was £89. Unfortunately, we hadn't arranged a taxi, probably underestimating the ruralness of Islay. And despite the bright sun, it was after 8:00 at night when we set foot on the island. We found an information booth that had just closed up, but a lovely gentleman was hovering nearby. He pointed us towards a taxi service number. Being musicians, however, we can't afford to start taking £30 taxi rides across the wilderness, and we asked if there was another way into town. The man disappeared for less than a minute before coming back and saying that another lovely gentleman would be happy to give us a ride to our hotel.
Just like that. So not only are we being led to a car as if we were all old chums, but this wonderful man told us about the island and the distilleries and the landscape and views, all while delivering us front-door-service to our destination. Of course, the minute we arrived at the hotel, I ran into the only person I know who lives on Islay, who just happened to be making some arrangements at the Machrie -- the golf course/hotel where we are staying.
Really, I wish I could do the scenery here justice, but even a photograph wouldn't capture the mystique. At one point during the drive, we took a corner, where the sun just shot across the sea, bouncing off the water and onto the hills, making everything a topaz sparkle. I gasped and chastised our new friend and drive, "You knew that was coming, and just wanted to see our reactions." He laughed and agreed that it was spectacular.
The amazing thing is that it is equally dramatic everywhere you look. As I type, the sun is hovering, barely out of sight, with just a hint of an aura behind the mountains, ready to pop back up by 4:00 am probably. It's like a child playing hide-and-seek, hiding in the most obvious place, but we pretend like we have no idea where she's gone. I'm going to sleep now, a well-deserved sleep after such a long day. When I see the sun emerge from her hiding place in the morning, I'll pretend like she's been well-hidden and will spend all day tomorrow looking at everything she shines upon.