Islay is an easygoing place, and life on this Hebridean isle off the west coast of Scotland tends to move slowly. Change does not occur very often, and when it does, people take notice. Which is why the recent revamping of The Machrie hotel and golf links has been big news.
The renovation and expansion of the historic inn, which first opened on Islay (pronounced “Eye-la”) in the late 19th century, was led by hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray. A native Scot who has created acclaimed properties such as One Aldwych in London and Carlisle Bay in Antigua, he converted the broken-down structure into a stylish 47-room hotel with whitewashed walls and slate-shingled roofs. It reopened in August of last year.
The word “machrie” is derived from the Gaelic “machair,” which refers to the rugged salt grass links on which traditional Scottish golf courses are laid out. The hotel itself is located at the end of a narrow lane that cuts between pastures where cows and sheep peacefully graze. Having parked my car, I walked into a mudroom where raincoats hung from hooks and pairs of Wellington boots were arrayed. These were a reminder that inclement weather is not unknown in this part of the world; however, the climate on Islay is surprisingly temperate, as the island is washed by the Gulf Stream. I reflected that being wet is much better than being cold and wet.