The Island of Islay is famed for its whisky; but it is also a very beautiful place with a complicated landscape of rolling, heather-clad hills, broad coastal grasslands and soft sandy beaches. As a result of Islay’s unusually fertile land, the population was always higher and history has often been played out here; indeed, the island was once seat of the powerful Lordship of the Isles: a sea kingdom that once dominated the Atlantic coast.
The Mull of Oa is a near circular peninsula on the southeastern corner of the island, and is unique world of rare birds, waterfalls, cliffs and solitude. There is one road that leads into the Oa from the village of Port Ellen, which runs past the long beach of Kintra and up into isolated bogland and rock outcrops. The area was once heavily populated, but during the Highland Clearances it was emptied of most of the tenants; which has left behind a patchwork of sheep-farms amid a sea of heather. The southern tip of the peninsula is skirted by some awesome cliffs and sea stacks. The highest is crowned by the AmericanMonument, a gift from President Woodrow Wilson to the people of Islay for their efforts to help in the sinking of two American ships during the First World War.
The road stops at a car park, from where there is a fine coastal walk out to the monument. The views from the cliff edge are some of the finest in Europe: the quartzite outcrops that form the cliffs themselves; the rolling landscapes of Islay to the north; and even over the sea to Ireland. On a clear day the vistas across Ulster from Antrim to Donegal will take your breath away; and are in themselves a reward for the hike out to the monument; taken with the whole, I would recommend that this hidden corner of Islay to one and all.