Roddy has never owned a car (and he's from Islay), and we did not have one for the two years we spent living on Islay together. We have both travelled to and from Islay countless times and as such, we have much experience in getting to Islay without a car!
There are two main ways of getting to Islay without a car; flying from Glasgow to Glenegedale (Islay Airport) or catching the 926 bus from Glasgow to Kennacraig, and then getting a ferry from there to Port Ellen or Port Askaig depending on the timetable.
If you plan on catching public transport to Islay, see our in-depth guide for Getting Public Transport to Islay.
You should also read our Guide to Visiting Islay Without A Car for important information on getting around the island without your own vehicle.
Flights To Islay (Glasgow to Islay)
One of the easiest (though not the cheapest) ways of getting to Islay is to fly from Glasgow Airport to Islay's Glenegedale Airport.
There is only one airline operating between Glasgow and Islay - Logan Air. The 45-minute flight can cost anything from £50 to £150. Logan Air partners with British Airways, Emirates, Qatar, Turkish Airlines, KLM, Wideroe and United Airlines if you wish to book additional flights.
To assist with travel planning, Logan Air has a timetable showing all flights scheduled between Glasgow and Islay for a given period. There are between one and three flights a day, depending on the day and time of year.
Islay's airport is tiny, and so are the planes. There are cabin luggage restrictions: no more than 6 kg per item per person, and the dimensions must not exceed 40cm x 35cm x 18cm. There are also checked luggage limits depending on the type of ticket you purchase (see Logan Air's luggage policy), with a maximum allowance of 25kg per item for Fly Flex+ travellers.
As you cannot carry liquids over 100ml in the cabin, please don't plan on transporting your distillery purchases back as hand luggage (unless they're miniatures). You can place up to 5 litres (7 x 700 ml bottles) in your checked baggage (see Logan Air - Prohibited Items - Dangerous Goods That You Can Lawfully Carry).
Flights to Islay (Oban & Colonsay)
Hebridean Air Services offer flights on Thursdays between Islay and Oban (around £70 each way) and Islay and Colonsay (around £50 each way). For more information, see the Hebridean Air Services website, and for prices and bookings, see bookhebridean.co.uk. They also offer private charter services and scenic flights.
Ferries to Islay (Kennacraig to Islay)
Ferries depart daily from Kennacraig and arrive at either Port Ellen or Port Askaig. The ferry from Kennacraig to Islay takes roughly 2 hours. Tickets can be purchased via the Online Booking Portal on the CalMac website or from the Kennacraig ferry terminal on the day.
Return tickets are valid for one month from the date they are issued and used for one return trip on the same route within this period.
Please note that there isn't much at the Kennacraig terminal other than the ticket sales counter and a bathroom. There is also usually no phone signal so make sure you have any pre-purchased tickets downloaded or printed before you go.
For more information see our Guide to Getting a Ferry to Islay (including details on catching a ferry from Oban to Islay).
Scotland Whisky Maps and Photographic Prints
Whisky Gifts, Islay Distillery Maps and Islay Distillery Photographs. Made By Whisky Lovers For Whisky Lovers
Buses to Islay (Glasgow to Kennacraig)
The 926 Campbeltown bus runs multiple times daily from Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow, to Campbeltown via the Kennacraig ferry terminal. The journey takes roughly 3 hours and 15 minutes (with a short stop in Inveraray for a toilet or coffee break) from Glasgow to Kennacraig.
The bus schedule generally aligns with the ferry schedule, and they *usually* hold the ferry if the bus is running late (make sure the driver knows you're catching the ferry as they will call ahead if they're running late). See our see our in-depth guide for Getting Public Transport to Islay for more information.
Timetables and ticket prices are available via the CityLink Scotland website. An adult ticket is £21.10 one way and roughly £30 return (though in winter, it can be as low as £22 return). There is generally a discount if you book your tickets more than two days in advance.
If you have the time, you could catch the 926 bus to Campbeltown - spend a day or two visiting Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia Distilleries - then hop back on the bus and head to Islay (or back to Glasgow).
Travel Tips (Getting to Islay)
When travelling to the Scottish Isles, it is important to keep in mind that you are visiting small, isolated communities in one of the most erratic weathered parts of the world. The islands' resources are limited; their airports are small, and the ferry terminals are generally just ticket offices and a toilet. In regards to the weather, Nan Shepherd describes it perfectly in The Living Mountain 'summer [on the high plateau] can be delectable as honey; it can also be a roaring scourge. To those who love the place, both are good, since both are part of its essential nature". You'll find this "essential nature" prevalent in the West Highlands and Islands. It can be sunny and glorious one moment and a proper hurricane the next - and sometimes you can have both on either side of Islay simultaneously.
I encourage you to travel to Islay (or any of the Scottish Islands) as they are glorious places to visit, but please keep in mind that much of your journey's progress will depend on the weather conditions, and it can create havoc with your travel schedule. The plane can't land at Glenegedale (Islay Airport) if it's too windy or foggy, and the ferries can't dock if the seas are too rough.
We recommend you allow an additional day or two after your trip to Islay for necessary interconnecting flights, attend unmissable events, or be flexible with your schedule. I (Amanda) once had to change my flight from Glasgow / Porto, to Glasgow / Lisbon via Amsterdam while standing in Glenegedale Airport, as my interconnecting flight had already landed in Portugal before we finally arrived in Glasgow. I also don't recommend you try and 'do' Islay in a weekend, as sometimes it can take an entire day just to get to/from the mainland.
Have travel insurance that covers the cost of your flights or accommodation if you are delayed, or be flexible with your travel arrangements. We use World Nomads as they have great rates and a clear policy of what is/isn't covered.