My Summer on Islay

ReRoute member Katie from Glasgow talks about her experience of living and working on Islay for three months this summer. How does island life compare to city bustle and what does it really mean to be independent? 

Finishing my sixth year at school, I wanted to make use of the long summer I had ahead of me. Bored with Glasgow, I decided to job-hunt elsewhere and landed a waitressing and bartending placement on the Isle of Islay. My grandparents once lived on the island so it had sentimental value as well as a hint of familiarity to it, making it the perfect place to live for three months. 

Person doing the tree yoga pose on Isley beach

Travelling by ferry to the island was amazing in itself. Feeling the salty winds seemingly whip at my hair and clothes already made me feel so much closer to the natural environment. I knew from then on, that the decision to bring walking boots and a waterproof jacket was the best idea of the century. The brisk 2 minute walk in the pouring rain to my staff accommodation from the ferry terminal proved the simplicity and small scale of the island. Port Ellen was the small town I stayed in. With a mere 3000 people living on the full island, you could imagine how small the population was with locals. 

Islay coast

The Isle of Islay also happens to be known as the Whisky Island, housing many distilleries and a lot of spirit! This meant that over the summer thousands of tourists flooded in with the tide, eager both for the whisky and to experience the scenic island itself. Working at one of the main hotels of the island, as well as one of only three bars in the town, meant that I got to meet people from all over the globe- something I had never before had the chance to do. This was by far one of the greatest things about the job; despite being so far away from the business of Glasgow, I never felt isolated because of the mass of people I met daily. I often met sailors twice or three times as they ventured round the Scottish Coasts, as they too fell in love with the island. 

Islay beach

Days off were spent outside mostly. As the staff accommodation didn’t include Wi-Fi, there was nothing pushing me to stay indoors. The Whisky Walk was one of my favourite pastimes; a three mile walk in which you passed three major distilleries. The views from Laphroig Distillery were incredible! Even if you were on the walk alone, you could always rely on running into someone you knew along the way. Strangers became friends by the end of the walk anyway.

Islay cross

Since this was my first time moving away from home, learning to cook and clean for myself was difficult to begin with, but it became normal after a while. As I am moving away in September for university, working away from home was a practice run for living without my parents. It was great having the freedom to come and go without checking in with my guardians first. 

This experience was a great one for me. Initially I believed myself to be quite independent, but on reflection I realised that I relied so much more than I thought on my parents. Moving away forced me to be sociable, mature and enabled me to meet so many people globally! If anyone gets the chance to do such a thing, I would push them to take the opportunity! To me, it was initially just a trial run for moving out, yet it became so much more by the end of it!

Head back to the ReRoute landing page.