1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Islay

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ISLAY, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, Argyllshire, Scotland, 16 m. W. of Kintyre and ¾ m. S.W. of Jura, from which it is separated by the Sound of Islay. Pop. (1901) 6857; area, 150,400 acres; maximum breadth 19 m. and maximum length 25m. The sea-lochs Gruinart and Indaal cut into it so deeply as almost to convert the western portion into a separate island. It is rich and productive, and has been called the “Queen of the Hebrides.” The surface generally is regular, the highest summits being Ben Bheigeir (1609 ft.) and Sgorr nam Faoileann (1407 ft.). There are several freshwater lakes and streams, which provide good fishing. Islay was the ancient seat of the “lord of the Isles,” the first to adopt that title being John Macdonald of Isle of Islay, who died about 1386; but the Macdonalds were ultimately ousted by their rivals, the Campbells, about 1616. Islay House, the ancient seat of the Campbells of Islay, stands at the head of Loch Indaal. The island was formerly occupied by the small crofters and tacksmen, but since 1831 it has been gradually developed into large sheep and arable farms and considerable business is done in stock-raising. Dairy-farming is largely followed, and oats, barley and various green crops are raised. The chief difficulty in the way of reclamation is the great area of peat (60 sq. m.), which, at the present rate of consumption, is calulated to last 1500 years. The island contains several whisky distilleries, producing about 400,000 gallons annually. Slate and marble are quarried, and there is a little mining of iron, lead and silver. At Bowmore, the chief town, there is a considerable shipping trade. Port Ellen, the principal village, has a quay with lighthouse, a fishery and a golf-course. Port Askaig is the ferry station for Faolin on Jura. Regular communication with the Clyde is maintained by steamers, and a cable was laid between Lagavulin and Kintyre in 1871.