Home on the Range at Ballivicar Farm

by Keith Savage · 4 comments

Ballivicar Farm, Isle of Islay

For as popular as Islay is with whisky lovers around the world, there are surprisingly few options when it comes to finding accommodation on the island. This situation comes to a head every May during the Feis Ile, the Malt and Music Festival that heralds a week of indulgence in Islay’s claim to fame, when visitors need to book accommodation a year in advance. The situation isn’t as dire during the rest of the year, but as a rule of thumb you should book a minimum of three months in advance of your trip. Six months ahead is better.

After I returned from trips to Scotland and Vancouver in May and early June, I had less than three months until my next trip started at the end of August (a flaw in my plans that’s risen to prominence over the past year). I decided to gather some recommendations from contacts in Scotland to help winnow down my options, and, ultimately, I settled on Ballivicar Farm, a small family farm on Islay’s Oa Peninsula.

Ballivicar Farm is a pretty stone farmstead surrounded by limitless acres of pasture just west of Port Ellen. Harriet and Toby Roxburgh, a couple of transplants from the south, provide three self-catering apartments that must have been housing for farmhands at one point. It’s a working farm, and ponies, Clydesdales and other horses, yard dogs, and sheep are common sights.

I stayed in The Bothy apartment, a cozy space designed for two people. All of the apartments share a common stone side of the farm compound, and the door to The Bothy stood right in the center. Entering the apartment, I stepped into the sitting room/kitchen combo. Plush chairs angle around a small table and a TV sits in the corner where a small window lets in a surprising amount of light. The kitchen area has tons of counter space and even a washing machine tucked down next to the sink (though I found out later it’s just a washing machine, not a dryer as well). All of the necessities were at hand to support home-cooked meals.

The other half of The Bothy is where I found the bedroom and bathroom. Two twin beds and an antique wardrobe and dresser fill up the bedroom while the bathroom provides a functional shower/tub beneath a skylight. The Bothy is heated by radiators and is outfitted with surprisingly fast wifi.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Oa Peninsula is pretty far from the life of the island. Ballivicar Farm stands about 10-minute drive from Port Ellen and about 30-minutes from Bowmore. This is a great situation for those looking for peace and quiet and a lot of solitude – the Roxburghs leave their guests to their own devices – but not as well suited to those who like to be closer to the action.

I spent a week at Ballivicar Farm and found it to be an affordable, suitable stay. It’s pleasantly near some beautiful scenery on the Oa and a trio of excellent distilleries in Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg. The Bothy itself was cozy and met my wifi-addicted needs perfectly. On the other hand, the isolation and distance from the center of the island made it quite a lonely place, especially for a solo traveler. The interior of The Bothy could use some updating, and the bed mattresses had seen a few too many nights. All in all, Ballivicar Farm provided good value for the money.

Disclosure: I arranged a discounted rate for my week-long stay. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

panda expressNo Gravatar April 4, 2014 at 6:03 PM

Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thanks for supplying
these details.

RonNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Nice write-up Keith. It struck me that, as a webmaster of the Ballivicar Website, they don’t advertise WiFi on their site. I will talk to Harriet and see if we can include it. It’s always a good selling point, especially when you are remote.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 24, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Absolutely! I think WiFi should be quite prominent on the Ballivicar site.

wandering educatorsNo Gravatar October 13, 2011 at 8:37 AM

it sounds lovely, although you’re right – lonely.

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