If it wasn’t for the distillery, Bruichladdich probably wouldn’t exist. Although I must admit that my knowledge of early records is rather limited. I guess this applies to some other villages on islay as well. Take for instance Port Charlotte, that village was built with the sole purpose to house the workers for the Lochindaal Distillery. And I guess the same goes for Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain. The most residents of Bruichladdich do not live in the village along Loch Indaal but in Burnside and Conisby, a bit further inland.
The Bruichladdich distillery was built in 1881 by the Harvey brothers and was state-of-the-art in its days. Most of the buildings built back then are still in use today and additions were built at the back of the distillery and further away, such as the giant warehouses behind Burnside. The distillery is visited by folk from all over the world and the annual Laddie Day is the highlight of the Islay Festival. And as it just so happens, it’s usually a day when the sun shines. Because of the day off, this day is always well attended by the locals. The music is always great and the atmosphere relaxed and jolly!
Bruichladdich has a well equipped shop called Debbies Mini Market. They sell fresh and natural foods, serve coffees and teas, and the shop also acts as local post office. Debbies is also the base from where the Sunday bike rides (10am) start as well as the Ride of the Falling Rain. At Bruichladdich pierhead, directly next to the road, you can find the former building of Islay Studios which was featured as a pub in the movie The Maggie.
A stroll onto the Bruichladdich Pier is recommended, it offers wonderful views towards the distillery. Nowadays the pier is mostly used for oil tankers and the annual fertiliser boat. The oil tanker supplies the island with fuel for houses, farms and the distilleries which is distributed by Gleaner Oils. In the early days the concrete pier was used to unship barley which was then transferred to the distillery by horse and cart and off-loaded to the Barley loft. This was done by tying the sacks to a rope which was looped through a pulley block, and the other end attached to a horse. When moved forward the horse would pull the sack up to the level of the loft opening.
Walk to the Peat Banks
In the hills above Conisby are the former peat banks of Bruichladdich Distillery. It’s well worth hiking up the hill over a track behind Conisby. Perhaps not so much to see the peat banks themselves but more to enjoy the spectacular views over Loch Indaal. You’re going to enjoy this a LOT! And of one thing you can be sure, you won’t meet anyone else up here!
A little further up the road towards Port Charlotte is the War Memorial. Below the memorial is a beautiful secluded beach. And it’s easy accessible over the new footpath between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte.