Gold background with Christmas tree

Why Booking Christmas in January Pays Off

Christmas in the United Kingdom is a big deal. With six solid weeks of Christmas markets, festive festivals, mammoth shopping expeditions and an endless supply of food, drink and general merriment, it’s lucky this holly-day comes but once a year. But once all the decorations have been packed away and this year’s haul of presents are safely stowed away, the end-of-holiday hole is quickly filled with some post-Christmas January sales. As we head to the high street to make good on retailers’ January sales promises, it’s important to remember that booking Christmas in January pays off too.

Toasting the Bells in Edinburgh

As the cold winds rise and the winter chill sets in, Edinburgh’s beautiful Princes Street is transformed into a labyrinth of markets, festivals, merry making and family festivities. And while Christmas in Edinburgh is big, nothing compares to Hogmanay. From a torchlight procession down ancient cobbled streets, to one of the largest street parties in the world, there’s a reason this three-day New Year’s festival is on every travellers bucket list.

View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Tickets sell out fast as thousands of people from around the world flock to Scotland’s vibrant capital to toast the bells and welcome in the New Year. And while you can always count on a few Christmas, Twixmas and Hogmanay deals leading up to December, accommodation in the heart of Edinburgh at a reasonable price is hard to come by. Year-round internet rates and January Sales are the safest way to ensure you don’t miss out on the magic of Edinburgh.

Getting Jolly in London

Not to be outdone by their Northern counterparts, Christmas in London is every bit as magical. Every year, one of the busiest cities in the world ditches the hustle and bustle of business as usual for a Christmas season like no other. From outdoor ice rinks and London’s iconic Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, to dazzling lights, endless Christmas fairs and century-old traditions, Christmas in London always leaves locals and visitors alike hungry for more. So if you’re planning on forgoing the desire to seek warmer climates in the winter months (particularly now), booking Christmas in January is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on all the London festive festivities.

Snowman under a tree

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Post-Christmas January Sales You Need To Know About

When Christmas is over, we all feel the blues. But a sombre January is so 2015. In the New Year of 2016, we wait and hope for the January sales, the style and the bargains. When the January sales have us all rushing around, it’s sometimes best to know when and where to go. What is the ultimate sale? Because at the ultimate sale, we find the ultimate bargain. With the ultimate bargain, we have the ultimate start to 2016.

The London Eye for Bargains

Whether it be venturing to another city of finding the best deals in your doorstep, we have it covered. For clothes and accessories, the be all and end all of the January sales to grace is Selfridges. Whether you’re hitting the Trafford Centre, or luckily strolling down the streets of London, Selfridges is the place to be. With its vibrant mix of both designer and high street fashions, you’re on track to find yourself a barrage of steals or the perfect designer splurge that you convince yourself is really a saving.

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The Scottish Saver Spree

Another convincing sale to pull you from the PJs and throw you into January, hit the Edinburgh sales and turn that crisp cold nose into a freezing but infectious grin. When strolling through Edinburgh, Princes Street is the definite place to be. For your January Sales, what better place is there to go than that still decorated with the Christmas feel, although it seems like Christmas has been reduced. With all its accompanying bars and restaurants, there is plenty of excuses to stop off, have a gossip and toast a glass of bubbly to that stylish new trend you’ve picked up for less.

And finally, Highland Heaven

Of course, with every sale there is always those extra special bargains. Why not forget the accessories and look for the even more indulgent bargains. Why not turn your bargain find into a bargain stay. Take a luxurious break into the Scottish Highlands, let the January blues melt away and get yourself back to the natural, beautiful wonder you are, with the help of the idyllic highlands. At Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, kick-start 2016 with a bang and an offer that won’t stretch any post-Christmas budget. Have a calm and serene two night stay and enjoy all the luxuries and tastes the hotel has to offer. With their beautiful wines, foods and leisure, an early bird stay at Kingsmills is the best January sale to set you up for the most wonderful of years in 2016.

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Spoiling Mum For Mother’s Day

With Mum being your left, your right and your centre 364 days of the year, it seems only right that we give a little back to her on that beautiful March occasion of Mother’s Day. With flowers and a card saying ‘Mum you’re so special’, we at Best UK Hotels are giving you the ideas, tips and tricks to tell your Mum just how important she really is.

Say Thankyou Mum

No longer the prim, proper and somewhat stuffy affair of yesteryear, the traditional afternoon tea has enjoyed a revival in recent years and is without question one of the most refined ways to celebrate this Mother’s Day. From crystal glasses of bubbly, to fine china tea cups, Afternoon tea is the best way to have a little pampered heart-to-heart with your loveable mother. With Afternoon Tea a prominent pastime in Edinburgh, there is a selection of locations almost as wide as the sandwich flavours. All waiting for you, your mother, and the gossip.

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Mother’s Day in Spring

For little ones who want to make something special for their Mum head along to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. Take in the new Spring views and stroll hand in hand with the little ones, gazing at all the beauty and wonder this natural exhibit has to offer. On Mother’s Day, they offer the most quirky and fun alternatives to a Mother’s Day bouquet, all freshly picked and created, there in the gardens. With a restaurant too, it is easy to see how this stroll can quickly turn into a full day out.

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Pampering Mother’s Day

Of course, nothing says I love you mum like a hotel getaway. Parliament House Hotel in Edinburgh is offering the perfect Mother’s Day retreat that is sure to have you in the good books for the rest of the year. Let your Mum indulge with a two-night stay in our Edinburgh City Centre Hotel. Make the most of beautiful Edinburgh this Mother’s Day. Spoil her with dinner on the first night, as well as with a gift voucher for afternoon tea and bubbles at Frederick Street based tea room, Eteaket. With a double gift here, the excitement is sure to have you and your mother giggling into the wee hours this Mother’s Day.

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Bottom of a steam train on the tracks

All Aboard: Train Tripping through the UK

The United Kingdom is a beautiful place. It’s full of culture, history and rolling hills that are just begging to be climbed and explored. The only problem is getting anywhere. Most of the main cities are separated by six-hour drives (if you’re lucky)! Thankfully, our blog title isn’t just for show. The UK really is ‘united’ by a never-ending, inter-connected rail network. So if you’re looking to go train tripping through the UK in the New Year, we might be able to help give you a few ideas.

 

On Track To Train Tripping Through The UK

 

With over 2 000 railway stations in the UK (making it the fifth most used railway network on the planet), the British Railway system also happens to be the oldest Railway Network in the entire world. The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in 1825, the first locomotive-pulled railway for public use. Which means train tripping through the UK is not only viable; it’s one of the most authentic ways of exploring the country.

A network of rail tracks

Rail Tours – A Classic


Rail Tours are widely regarded as excellent value for money. And as the best-known method of exploring the country by train, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience. UK Railtours are ‘Britain’s favourite Rail Tour Operator’. They start a number of their tours around London, and then venture afield on unusual tracks to hidden gems, seaside resorts or quiet trips around the country, giving passengers a chance to soak up the sights. They even offer a chance to take a trip in a genuine steam train! Offering a choice of seats, a train-bound dining experience and a wealth of sights, why not enrich your year by starting it on tour?

 

Rail Roving – A Hidden Treat


Rail roving is kind of like Donald Trump’s hair – a downright mystery we simply cannot get enough of. Trumping all other train tripping through the UK options, rail roving is without a doubt a hidden delight. Few people really acknowledge that it exists as a service. Even writing about it now, we expect you’re probably asking yourself what it’s all about.

 

Rail roving allows you to purchase a ticket that lasts a set number of days. But unlike other rail passes, it allows unlimited travel on any number of stations in a designated area. If you’re looking to book hotels in advance, this is probably the exploration method for you. And the best part of rail roving? It’s cheap. Making it the perfect way to explore Scotland’s secret history with the Freedom of Scotland Travelpass 4 in 8 Days. For only £134, it covers a number of Caledonian MacBrayne ferries, along with a handful of bus services for four days in an eight-day period. Which means it’s perfect for the well-planned traveller with an eye for adventure.

Man walking away on rail tracks
Whether you’re looking to get away for the New Year, or excited to spend some time with the family on a train in the New Year, you’re spoilt for choice. Make 2016 the year of train tripping through the UK and take in the sights, sounds and history around you.

 

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Old Scottish castle in a scenic Scotland

Go Down In Scotland’s Secret History

If visiting the UK and exploring Scotland is one of your top New Year’s resolutions for 2016, why not take a trip down memory lane and discover Scotland’s secret history? We’ve looked into the weird and wonderful nooks and crannies of Scotland’s past to bring you some of the most intriguing and curious places and stories that you won’t find in the history books.

 

Secret Tunnels at Inchindown

 

Excavated out of solid rock in a hillside near the Invergordon naval base, these six bombproof tunnels were constructed across 1939 to 1941 to secretly store reserve fuel supplies for British warships. The tanks themselves were long corridor spaces with arched roofs, lined with concrete walls 45cm thick. Despite still being in use during the Falklands War in 1982, the tanks were eventually decommissioned in 2002. Not only are these tunnels a must see for anyone with a predilection for the more unusual sites in Scotland’s secret history, but also for those acoustic scientists with a keen ear for all things record breaking. Last year, a team from Salford University placed a new Guinness World Record for the longest echo in a man-made structure with a gun short reverberation lasting 112 seconds, beating the previous record of 15 seconds by well, a long shot…

Chest filled with gas masks

The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall

 

You might not expect to find the world’s oldest surviving music hall down the street from a queued out Greggs and hidden above the false ceiling of an amusement arcade, but find it you most certainly will. Ta-dah! The Britannia Panopticon in Glasgow is definitely a hidden gem in the search for Scotland’s secret history, with a fascinating and curious story spanning from its opening in 1857 to it’s rediscovery in 1997 after sixty years of silence, boarded up and forgotten. In it’s heyday, the Britannia presented the biggest music hall stars of the time, giving Stan Laurel his first performance before he famously teamed up with his rotund other half, Oliver Hardy. Thanks to the funds raised by trustees and volunteers, the original 1920s stage has now been restored, and hosts a selection of Victorian themed shows, so if you’re keen on all things nostalgic and fancy a jaunt down memory lane, then this is the place for you.

The Treasure of Loch Arkaig

 

Ok. Bear with us. In the grand scheme of Scotland’s secret history, the treasure of Loch Arkaig, otherwise known as the Jacobite Gold, ranks pretty highly because, well, it’s still a secret…. In 1746, seven caskets of Spanish gold arrived at Arisaig on French ships to support the Jacobite cause, but by this point the Jacobites had been defeated, Bonnie Prince Charlie was hotfooting it back to France, one casket had already been stolen, and the remaining six were due to be distributed amongst the clan chiefs by Macpherson of Cluny who was entrusted with the gold. But he decided to run off with the money, hide in a cave, and live as a fugitive instead. As you do. The fate of the money remains unclear, and continues to baffle historians. It was reputedly buried at the head of Loch Arkaig, but a recent discovery of an 18th century deathbed confessional from a Jacobite supporter, reveals that he stole a bag of gold and buried it near Arisaig under a black rock with a tree root springing from it. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history. So, who needs a lottery ticket when all you need to do is arm yourself with a map and metal detector? The Spanish gold could be yours…

Chest full of treasure

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Things to do in 2016

The social circus in the UK today makes for a diverse cultural experience spanning the shores of Britain. But where to be in 2016? The taste for culture seems to be spilling from the pot of 2016, and the samples of what to do in 2016 from this blog have barely skims the surface of how to experience and sample our Great British culture. Best UK Hotels looks at a sample of young, old and cultured preference and the diversity of samples proves where to be and things to do in 2016 marks the cultural centres of the UK.

 

Race into Riches

The races is a day out for anyone. But Aintree is the place to be. With the hats, the horses and hordes of champagne, the Grand National celebration is the surely the grandest event in the racing calendar. With the gates opening to thousands of spectators, pockets full and eyes open, the atmosphere becomes more Monte Carlo than Great Britain. What could be a more traditional British event to experience in 2016 than the Grand National itself? The cameras of the world soaking up the famous races and dazzling outfits. Of all things to do in 2016, why not spend a day at the races being treated like the royalty you secretly are?

 

Rewind All The Way to Perth

Rewind festival is the ultimate hidden gem. Tucked away in the remote Scone Palace of the quiet village of Perth and Kinross, Rewind Festival is one of those events that fans consider a landmark of their year. Taking you back in time to the 1980’s with stars such as Bananarama and Steve Perry gracing the stage, it takes you back to the eighties while camping out, dancing and drinking with all the fun of a modern day festival. Take your wellies, hats, neon paint and roll back in time with us, dancing and raving into the darkness as if time stood still. Or why not try the phenomenon that is Glamping? Taking your style and suave with you into the raving, muddy fields of Perth, Rewind seems one of the ultimate things to do in 2016.

Perfect Pride In The Capital

Of the million things you could attract yourself with in London – the shows, the tours, the shops. Perhaps one of the most not to be missed things to do in 2016 is the LGBT Pride event in London. Having grown from a small festival of dance and celebration, the Pride Parade in London now is a cultural extravaganza that takes over the city, from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Street. Lose the stigma and this is now one of the hottest places to be. With the music, culture, stalls and atmosphere, the celebration of equality and pride is sure to having you grinning like a Cheshire cat and lost in the moment. Stay in the heart of the drama, as this event takes over the whole city, commanding the attention of its audience, and enjoy our tips for why booking direct is always more beneficial as a consumer to catch the best deals.

 

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Orange and red leaves

Harvesting The Best UK Autumn Festivals

As the leaves begin to change colour and the autumn chill sets in, enjoy the last of the beautiful crisp, clear days before the UK is transformed into a magical, winter wonderland. From apple harvests and harvest festivals, to Halloween and the hint of Christmas in the air, October promises to be a multitude of golden hues and golden festivities as the autumn festivals get underway.

Spooktacular Ghost Festivals

While Halloween may not be one of the more traditional autumn festivals, it certainly is one of the most exciting. With deadly dungeons, haunted castles and a bloodthirsty history, All Hallows Eve throughout the UK is sure to be a horrifyingly chilling experience. Full of historical horrors, London offers up a number of tricks and treats. Whether you take a deadly tour around the Tower of London, walk the walk with Jack the Ripper Ghost Walks or hop a train and brave the Oxford Castle Ghost Fest, miss the terror of London if you dare.

Table with halloween pumpkins, autumn leaves, sunflowers and a basket of produce

Food And Drink Festivals

As the leaves begin to fall and the golden harvest begins, Scotland’s breathtaking scenery and picturesque cities makes it our autumn festivals destination of choice. And since this year is the Year of Food & Drink in Scotland, autumn promises a multitude of foodie festivals guaranteed to leave you hungry for more. If one of the many farmers’ markets or drinks fairs isn’t your cup of tea, master the malt with whiskey tasting in Islay, or get into the swing of things with a Golf Break in St Andrews.

Baskets filled with various fruit at a market

Medieval And Middle Age Festivals

Enjoy a variety of mixed literature, fine and performing art, pop culture and comedy shows at the Canterbury Festival from the 17th to the 31st of October. Growing in size and stature, the Canterbury Festival now has its very own Fringe. And as one of the most important cultural events of the South East, the autumn festival in the heart of this Middle Ages city is no laughing matter. If you’re more of a medieval history fan, join in the celebrations and festivities of the Gwledd Cowny Feast. From 24 – 25 October, the medieval town of Cowny will play host to the largest celebration of music, art and food in Wales. The charming quayside, castle and medieval streets will be bursting with fun and flavour in one of our favourite medieval autumn festivals.

Cowny medieval castle in Wales

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Labrador dog lying down

Pet Friendly Accommodation That’ll Give You Paws For Thought

When planning your next UK city break, there is no reason to leave your furry family behind. No matter your destination, the UK has a number of pet friendly accommodation options that’ll bring out the animal in you. From long walks on the beach and scenic escapes, to dog friendly parks, pubs and cafes, it’s a dog eat dog world for anyone offering pet friendly accommodation in the UK.

Cat lying stretched out on its bed

England: Barking Up The Right Tree

For centuries the English have worked hard to secure their reputation as fierce horse and dog lovers. And while it isn’t always easy to cart your horse around on holiday with you, the many pet friendly accommodation options throughout the country make up for any holiday horsey inconvenience.

Dog under a tree perched with front legs on a stone

Where to stay:

Forest Holidays understand just how important your dog is to you. It’s why they have a number of pet friendly cabins in forests across England and Scotland. Their cabins can accommodate up to 4 dogs in addition to their human companions. All they ask is that your dog is loved, well looked after, never locked up in your cabin and on a lead when you venture out into the forest.

Scotland: Taking The Highlands Highroad

The Scottish Highlands are synonymous with natural beauty and untamed wilderness. It’s not surprising then that this scarcely populated holiday destination offers a multitude of pet friendly accommodation options for animal lovers and their furry companions.

Dog up the hills looking at the view

Where to stay:

As one of the few carbon neutral holiday destinations in the world, Eagle Brae is not only eco-friendly, they’re animal friendly as well. Home to a number of Highland animals, it’s the perfect place to relax, unwind and reconnect with nature.

Wales: Pet Friendly Holidays Are A Beach

With some of the prettiest beaches in the UK, the Welsh coastline isn’t just beautiful, it’s fun for the whole family too. With long sandy stretches, rolling dunes, crashing waves, cool rock,pools and plenty of seagulls to chase, there’s no end to the fun you and your loving pet can get up to.

Collie dog chasing a ball on a beach

Where to stay:

Culver House has eight luxury apartments with beautiful balconies overlooking breath-taking sea views. With a blue flag beach on your doorstep, their pet friendly accommodation makes them a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and their lovable critters.

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Image of a bedroom with text saying great reasons to book direct with us

5 Reasons Why Booking Direct Pays Off

If you’re a savvy traveller planning a trip away, you would of course shop around for the best deal. In the age of online booking, finding price comparison sites is easier than ever. But can you be sure that you’re getting the best holiday deals? The answer is not always as clear-cut as it seems. Sometimes it’s better to go straight to the source. It’s why we’ve put together 5 reasons why booking direct is guaranteed to get you the best deal.

Your Time Saves You Money

While it’s easy to leave your accommodation arrangements to the whims of a travel agent or online comparison site, most hotels have secure, easy-to-use online booking engines. A few clicks and you’re booked. By taking matters into your own hands and booking direct from the hotel, you can ensure your accommodation is tailored to your needs and not the other way around. And by cutting out the middle man, you can save a pretty penny too. Which brings us to our next point.

Piles of pound coins

Cut Out the Middle Man

Online travel operators and comparison sites like Expedia and Booking.com are great tools to shop around and see what accommodation is available for your chosen destination. But don’t be fooled by the attraction of cheap rates on third-party sites. Keep in mind that these companies aren’t providing this fantastic service entirely for altruistic reasons. At the end of the day, they are still a business and their goal is to make money.

But when you cut out the middle man, you cut out the commission which is typically somewhere in the region of 18%! That saving can be passed on direct to the customer (or at least some of it, hotels are businesses too after all). Many hotels have a “best price guarantee” for booking direct, so it’s always worth having a look to see if there’s a better deal available from the hotel.

Finger pointing to a list of booking direct benefits

Perks and Upgrades

Not everything in life, or in holidays, comes down to brass tacks. There are a whole host of other benefits to booking direct that can’t be summed up on a receipt. A direct exchange between buyer and seller inevitably results in a closer connection. Hotels place great value in their direct bookers. This usually manifests in great special offers or deals not available to everyone else. For example, breakfast is often included in the price for a direct booking. And by communicating directly with the hotel staff, who know all about their own wares, room upgrades and transfers are more common as they are better placed to accommodate your needs.

Breakfast with a croissant and fruit, juice and tea

Rewarding Your Loyalty

Hotels love to have return guests. Many offer loyalty schemes to encourage guests to come back again and again. If you do find that perfect home away from home, the only way for the hotel to reward your loyalty is if you let them know it’s you again. The simplest way to do this is by booking direct. Most modern online booking engines, even for the smallest independent hotel, will be able to save your details. This not only speeds up the booking process for you, it lets the hotel keep track of how often you visit which can lead to some really juicy rewards.

Accommodating Your Travel Needs

If your trip doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned and you need to change dates or even cancel your accommodation outright, you will often find that hotels are far more accommodating with direct bookers. Booking through a comparison site may leave you at the mercy of their terms and conditions, which are designed to protect their commission. Whereas booking direct with the hotel can often have far more favourable conditions, especially if you’re a valued loyal customer. Date changes are often free, provided rooms are available. Outright cancelations may incur a fee, but it is unlikely to be as high as the penalties from comparison sites. At the end of the day, the hotel wants you to book again when you are able to. They don’t want to part ways indefinitely because of an unfair cancelation fee that could ruin any chance of repeat business.

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Inside whisky distillery

Malt in Your Mouth Whisky Distilleries in Islay

If you’re looking for a UK winter getaway, Islay is home to a number of world famous Scottish whisky distilleries. Since the fourteenth century Islay has been fermenting grain mash into smooth, distilled, traditional whiskies. An island ideal for growing barley, Islay’s pure water sources, fertile lands and abundance of peat has put Islay at the top of every whisky connoisseur’s bucket list.

5 Whisky Distilleries Off The Peat-en Track

Laphroaig Distillery

For over 200 years, Laphroaig Distilleries has been crafting the world’s most richly flavoured Scotch Whisky. Join in a one-hour tour of the Laphroaig Distillery and experience the sights, sounds and smells of the Laphroaig process. You can also test your taste buds in a flavour or premium whisky tasting with an experienced Laphroaig Host.

Exterior of Laphroig whisky distillery by the sea

Image title Laphroaig Distillery by Ed Wolstenholme is licensed under (CC BY-SA2.0)

Lagavulin Distillery

Situated in the picturesque Lagavulin Bay, the Lagavulin Distillery is well worth a visit. Take a tour of the distillery, watch the distillers at work and discover the rich peaty flavour of the Lagavulin magic. Nestled in a small and beautiful bay on the south of Islay, Lagavulin’s guided tours and local legend (Ian McArthur) will divulge all the secrets of their world famous malt.

Exterior of Lagavulin Distillery by the sea

Image title Lagavulin Distillery by Stephane Farenga is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)

Ardbeg Distillery

Since 1815, Ardbeg has been distilling their distinctive single malt Scotch whisky. To get a feeling for the true spirit of Ardbeg, you can visit the distillery where their whisky is, has been and always will be crafted to perfection. With regular tours, a great shop and an excellent café, Ardbeg is a favourite among the whisky distilleries on the island.

Bowmore Distillery

Established in 1779, Bowmore is the first recorded distillery on Islay, and one of the oldest in Scotland. Renowned for its peaty flavour, Bowmore malts have been brewed the same way for over 200 years – carefully smoked in a peat-fired kiln. Bowmore itself is home to almost a third of the island’s population. Besides the distillery, it is well known for its white-washed houses, stone-built harbour and iconic Round Church.

Kilchoman Distillery

Established in 2005, Kilchoman is the newest addition to Islay’s famous whisky distilleries. Not only is it one of the smallest whisky distilleries in Scotland, it is also the first whisky distillery to be built on the island in 125 years. Set on a farm on the rugged west coast, Kilchoman has gone back to the roots of traditional Scotch whisky distilling. From barley to bottling, Kilchoman farms its own barley and is one of only a handful of whisky distilleries still practicing floor malting. Unlike other whisky distilleries, Kilchoman¬ is the only distillery to complete all parts of the whisky making process on site.

Visiting Islay

If a tour of Scotland’s most notorious whisky distilleries is for you, you can book in to Islay Cottages’ self-catering holiday accommodation. Perfectly positioned in both rural Kilchoman and the main village of Bowman, you can make the most of Islay’s vast whisky presence in its small village setting.

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