Finlaggan

Top choice in Islay

Three miles from Port Askaig, tumbledown ruins of houses and a chapel on an islet in a shallow loch mark what remains of the stronghold of the Lords of the Isles. A wooden walkway leads over the reeds and water lilies to the island, where information boards describe the remains. Start your exploration at the visitor centre, which has some good explanations of the site's history and archaeology and a video featuring Tony Robinson. The island itself is open at all times.

The setting is beautiful and the history fascinating. The MacDonald clan, descendants of the legendary warrior Somerled, administered their island territories from here from the 12th to the 15th centuries and entertained visiting chieftains in their great hall. A smaller island, Eilean na Comhairle, was reserved for solemn councils. Though this unassuming inland loch seems a strange place from which to wield serious political power, it had likely been an important place since prehistoric times. A crannog, fort and early Christian chapel were all located here, and the presence of ritual stones possibly aligned to the brooding Paps of Jura means the MacDonalds may have appropriated a place that already had strong ritual significance.

Buses between Bowmore and Port Askaig stop at the road junction, from where it's a 15-minute walk to the loch.