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The town was founded in 1821 by Walter Frederick Campbell, and named after his wife Eleanor. The unusual square lighthouse across Kilnaughton Bay is also dedicated to the memory of Eleanor Campbell, who is buried in Bowmore's unusual round church.
Today Port Ellen is one of Islay's two ferry ports, with slightly more sailings from Kennacraig than Port Askaig, near Caol Ila distillery on the Sound of Islay. Initial proposals on the future of ferries in Scotland that suggested concentrating more on Port Askaig, as it is also convenient for Jura, have been rejected. (Ferries Plan).
Wikipedia Undiscovered Scotland Internet Guide to Scotland Islay Info
Port Ellen & Whisky
Regrettably Port Ellen no longer has its own distillery, but...there are still three distilleries within 3 miles (Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig) and the remains of Port Ellen Distillery are stil there - the warehouses containing liquid from Lagavulin these days - and the distinctive pagodas, but other buildings were demolished in 2003. The maltings also remain, and they produce the malt used by all the island's distilleries (though a few also produce some of their own malt by traditional methods).
The final product can be purchased at the bars in the hotels and the Ardview Inn. Bottles are available from the distilleries and a moderate range from the Spar in Charlotte Street; normal supermarket range at the Co-Op in Frederick Crescent.
Arriving in Port Ellen you will be met with the bold PORT ELLEN painted on the side of the warehouse that used to be part of the Distillery - but is still put to good use to house Lagavulin casks - and the maltings (not pretty, but a very necessary part of Islay's whisky industry).
The middle of the village had a derelict eyesore until recently but the Islay Hotel has now been restored - it re-opened in late 2011. Continuing along Frederick Crescent which circles Loch Leòdamais brings you to the SeaSalt Bistro, the Ardview Inn, the Co-Op and the road sign for Ardbeg (3 miles, 3 distilleries). On the far side of the bay, the Crescent is backed by the Ard a rocky promontory which hides a bay with small boats and the evidence of a once thriving fishing industry; and several spectacular rock formations.
Arriving & Departing
Open Cycle Map Bing Map
Port Ellen is one of the two ports on Islay served by CalMac from Kennacraig Winter Summer). Getting to Kennacraig? - see main Islay page. There are also one or two sailings a week to/from Oban Winter/Summer using Port Askaig).
I've stayed in Port Ellen on numerous occasions and used a number of the establishments listed below (those marked with a *) together with some other places that I've not listed as I'm unclear as to whether they still offer B&B. All get a good report, but top of the list for me is Askernish, which merited a return visit - this is not to say that others didn't, but they might not have had vacancies when I wanted to stay.
Islay Hotel Charlotte Street 01496 300109
If you can afford at least £120 a night for a single room
White Hart Hotel 1 Charlotte Street 01496 300120
This has now become No.1 Charlotte Street and has a very new website with not much on it yet.
40 Pier Road Frederick Crescent 01496 300502
Askernish B&B* Frederick Crescent 01496 300536
Have stayed there on 3 visits to Port Ellen - always the first place to ring. Good variety of good quality breakfasts.
Cala Sith* 39 Frederick Crescent 01496 302021
I wasn't impressed when I stayed their some years ago, but I'm told it's now under new management.
Caladh Sona 53 Frederick Crescent 01496 302694
The Grange Mansefield Road 01496 302035
Mingulay* 5 Charlotte Street No longer does B&B
Eilidh's GH* 69 Frederick Crescent 01496 300100 / 07775 957713
Doesn't do breakfast - but microwave, toaster, fridge etc in room for you to prepare your own breakfast! (Formerly Fiona's GH when I stayed there)
Oystercatcher 63 Frederick Crescent 01496 300409 (Closed?)
The Lodge 83 Frederick Crescent 07776 193140
Troutfly 8 Charlotte Street 01496 302204
Near Port Ellen
Allwynds Glenegedale 01496 300167 (4 miles)
Carraig Fhada House By the Lighthouse 01496 302223 (3 miles)
Glenegedale House Glenegedale (by Airport) 01496 300400 (5 miles)
Glen Machrie GH Glenegedale 01496 302560 (5 miles)
Heathery Brae The Oa 07765 003414 (2.5 miles)
Kintra Farm* Kintra Beach 01496 302051 (3 miles)
Stayed there a few years ago when I couldn't find a room in Port Ellen itself - good farmhouse B&B - but a dark 3 mile ride home if you've had a few beers at the Ardview! Not sure they're still doing B&B. Link to B&B page gone.
Lach Mara By the Lighthouse 01496 302666 (3 miles)
Lagavulin Excise House Lagavulin 01496 302573 (2 miles)
Laphroraig View GH Hill above Laphroaig 01496 302514 (1.5 miles)
Machrie Hotel Due to re-open 2018 01496 302310 (4 miles)
The Old Excise House Laphroaig 01496 302567 (1 mile)
Swallow's Roost The Oa 01496 302207/07886 865006 (2 miles) @
Tigh-na-Suil Lagavulin 01496 302567 (2 miles)
Several Self-Catering options - see list on Islay Info.
Islay Hotel Charlotte Street 01496 300109
No.1 Charlotte Street 1 Charlotte Street 01496 300120
Mactaggart Cyber Bistro 30 Mansefield Place 01496 300509
SeaSalt Bistro 57 Frederick Crescent 01496 300300
Old Kiln Café Ardbeg Distillery 01496 302244 (3 miles)
Islay Hotel 01496 300109
Pricey and hot! Thought I should try out the new hotel, was given a whisky menu, asked for a couple which were on the menu but not available - was offered a Dalwhinnie (1990) for £13.90, rather than the standard at £5.00. It was also oppressively hot in the bar - I left.
No.1 Charlotte Street 01496 300120
Ardview Inn 67 Frederick Crescent 01496 302014
Best bet for good whisky and to meet the people of Port Ellen, also serve Islay Ales draught beer
Islay Cycles 07760 196592
Run from a house in Port Ellen, so not a shop as such, but hire, sales, accessories and repairs available - see website/ring for further details.
Cycling Info on Islay Info
For a more complete description of cycling around Islay than my contribution (above), see Brian Palmer's guide on:
thewashingmachinepost.net (it's an Islay-centric cycling site!)
Brian describes himself as "the only cycle repairer and spare parts person in Bowmore", again run from a house, he can be contacted on 01496 810653. Brian has repaired my bike on more than one occasion.
Other places to hire a bike Port Ellen 01496 302349; Persabus (near Port Askaig on the road to Bunnahabhain) 01496 840753; Port Charlotte 01496 850488.
Velo Club d'Ardbeg - buy the cycle jersey to join!
Washing Machine Post - Brian Palmer's Islay centric cycling site
Nearest Cycle Shops Lochgilphead (18 miles from Kennacraig), Oban.
Nevis Cycles 87 George Street, Oban 01631 566033
David Graham 13-15 Combie Street, Oban 01631 562069
Crinan Cycles 34 Argyll Street, Lochgilphead 01546 603511
Co-Op 74 Frederick Crescent 01496 302446
Spar 19 Charlotte Street 01496 302264 (ATM)
Macaulay & Torrie 102 Frederick Crescent 01496 302053
Banking - RBS Branch in Port Ellen now closed - nearest banks and free cash machines Co-Op, RBS and BoS in Bowmore.
Photos on this page were taken by me. Click on photo to enlarge. Full size versions and my other pictures of Port Ellen are available at: