Ardtalla Beach is one of Islay’s Hidden Gems and the trip to Ardtalla is about as good as it gets on Islay. It’s a 10 mile trip up the stunning south-eastern coast of Islay which will take around 30 minutes to well over an hour. And that does not depend on the amount of traffic, as there hardly is any. It depends on your resistance to stop at every scenic spot and take in the views and sites along the way. There are many. I’ll go over them below:
Getting to Ardtalla Beach
Like I said above, you can easily count in an hour or more to get to Ardtalla Beach, and that’s from Port Ellen. Islay has some pretty scenic roads and this is likely one of the most beautiful ones. When you drive off from Port Ellen towards Ardbeg you’ll first pass the site for the new to build Farkin Distillery, on your right. One and a half mile outside Port Ellen is Laphroaig Distillery, then another mile further along the road is Lagavulin distillery. When you’ve made it up to here make sure to take the wee road on your right after the village of Lagavulin and visit the remains of Dunyvaig castle. This is a stunningly beautiful bay with magnificent views all around, and back to Lagavulin Distillery.
Tip: Even if you’re not into Islay Whisky I can highly recommend visiting each of these distilleries, and if you’re not going inside for a tour or the shop try to walk through the grounds toward the sea and visit the seaside of each of them. Especially Ardbeg is very nice. And when you’re at Ardbeg, they have a great cafe, the Old Kiln Cafe, which is perfect for lunch!
Now follow the main road again and another mile down the road is Ardbeg. Just before you reach Ardbeg you’re on a hill, try to take a photo of the distillery below with the sea and Kintyre peninsula in the background. After Ardbeg Distillery it’s single track and you’ll pass Seal Bay, plenty of seals about here usually. Then you’ll enter Kildalton Estate which is closed for visitors, the now ruined Kildalton House can not be visited. Along the road, opposite Kildalton Estate is Fairy Hill, where in folklore the Queen of the Fairies resides.
Kildalton Cross and Chapel
You’re now gradually entering the Ardtalla Estate and one and a half mile from Ardbeg is one of Scotland’s finest Celtic crosses, The Kildalton High Cross, next to the ruined Kildalton Chapel with it’s many beautiful grave slabs. Kildalton Cross was built in the second half of the 8th Century! The site of the Kildalton Cross and Chapel is signposted at the road and it’s a must to visit. Not only visit the chapel and cross but make sure to climb the wee hill behind the chapel for some stunning views of the site and surrounding area.
Drive on and the first beauty spot is Claggain Bay with its lovely pebble and sand beach. If you pass Claggain Bay the road goes up and you’ll find a small parking space on your right before the gate with the words: “Chasing cattle will be our fate if you do not close this gate”. From here it’s a short walk or around 15 minutes to the beach. Walk along the track, do close the gate, and when you pass a stone wall go slight right across the field towards the sea, you’ll find Ardtalla beach here. The parking space here can also be used if you’re going to climb Beinn Bheigeir
There is always a certain risk involved when you write about a very beautiful place you’ve been to, as it might not be that quiet next time, but I’ll take my chances! Ardtalla beach stretches about half a mile to the north-east and a quarter mile to the south-east and is a joy to discover. The colour of the water, the rocks, the white sand, the birds and other wildlife such as seals makes it paradise like. The lush vegetation backing the beach adds to that feeling.
Ardtalla Beach is just one of those stunning places you don’t want to leave, especially on a warm and sunny day. You can easily go into the water here, for a swim, to collect some sea-weeds or observe the underwater life. It’s bliss. On several occasions I’ve seen Sea Eagles at the northern end of the beach as well a curious seals popping their head out of the water to observe what’s going on.
Ardtalla is one of Islay’s most tranquil beaches. Make sure to visit on a warm and sunny day, you won’t regret it!