Portnahaven and Port Wemyss (pronounce port weems) in the south west of the Rhinns of Islay, are two of the most beautiful and picturesque villages on the island.
As a first time visitor you might get the impression that it’s only one village, especially when you find out that there is only one church, but don’t let this fool you. The church has two entrances, one for the Portnahaven community and one for the Port Wemyss one. In older days the two communities weren’t too friendly with eachother and I have heard that weddings sometimes gave problems because the Port Wemyss guests weren’t too keen on sitting in the Portnahaven side of the church and vice versa. Nowadays these things belong to the past, specially since many of the cottages are holiday homes and also because people from other parts of Scotland/England have moved here.
Path of the Fishermen
Like Portnahaven, Port Wemyss is a real jewel and for those who want to enjoy the beautiful setting as much as possible there is a beautiful coastal path which is very well maintained by some of the locals. An information sign halfway tells you more about the coastal path and mentions that this project was possible due to the generous donations of the local residents and friends of Port Wemyss. The coastal path is called RÃ thas nan Lasgairean, which is Gaelic for The Path of the Fisherman. It starts on the seaside on one end of the village and ends on the other end of the village. It’s not a long track but it gives the visitor good opportunities to spot Grey Seals, and even Otters and Bottlenose Dolphins have been seen from here, swimming through the strong tidal currents.
The views from the path are great and on the opposite of the channel lies the Isle of Orsay with the Rinns of Islay Lighthouse, built in 1825 by the famous Scottish Engineer Robert Stevenson. In 1998 the lighthouse was automated and before that time every four weeks another team consisting of a principal lighthouse keeper and two assistants took over the shift in the lighthouse. There is an interesting story on this blog about Peter Anderson and James Ducat, the lighthouse keepers at the Rhinns of Islay lighthouse in 1882.
At the entrance on the Eastside is a wee space where you can park a car. This was one of my favourite places to visit during storms to watch the wave action and the place where I took the Face in the Wave Photo.
Port Wemyss Old Harbour
Another very interesting feature along the path is the old harbour, which is one of the nicest spots on Islay to watch a sunset. Just sit on the pier, enjoy the views and the fascinating strong tides, watch the curious seals, listen to the waves clashing gently against the rocks and the song of the seals on Orsay Island, observe the various sea birds flying by and soak up the peaceful atmosphere and I can guarantee that you’ll have a very special time. Without the continuing help and involvement of the residents of Port Wemyss this wouldn’t be possible, and I think this is a good opportunity to say thank you for creating the lovely path and the opportunities it provides to people visiting Port Wemyss.