The islands of Islay and Jura formed from schist and Torridon sandstone are separated by the 0.5mi/0.8km wide Sound of Islay (car ferry) and often seem like one island. They can be reached from Oban via the island of Colonsay or, more quickly and more easily, from West Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsulaIslay (pop. 4,000) lies at the southern end of the Inner Hebrides and is characterized by unspoiled scenery, picturesque rocky reefs, bays and sandy beaches. Historic monuments include a number of Celtic crosses and two abandoned castles - Finlaggan Castle the former seat of the "Lord of the Isles" near Port Askaig in the north and Dunyvaig Castle on the coast near Ardbeg in the south. Bathing and angling are popular pursuits with visitors and the Machrie golf course near Port Ellen is used for tournaments.
Islay Island's main town is Bowmore (pop. 800). Its most interesting feature is the Kilarrow parish church built in 1769 by Thomas Spalding. The Campbells of Shawfield commissioned it as part of a planned settlement and it is the only round church from this period. According to legend the round walls prevented the devil from hiding away in a corner.
At low tide it is possible to walk across to Oronsay in about two hours. On the island look out for the ruins of a 14th century priory with an unusual 16th century cross and the finds from a Viking grave in which a man was buried in his boat with his horse beside him.
At Stillhouse there is a magnificent view over the Sound of Islay to Jura.