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Hiking trail

Kilchoman Distillery to Saligo Bay

Hiking trail · Argyll and Bute
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  • Kilchoman distillery
    / Kilchoman distillery
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Machair Bay signpost
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / The machir at Machair Bay
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / The "Sleeping Giant" in the distance
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Saligo Beach
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Saligo Beach
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Saligo Beach
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Kilchoman distillery entrance driveway
    Photo: Catherine Allan, Macs Adventure
  • / Kilchoman distillery
m 300 200 100 12 10 8 6 4 2 km

Visit Machir Bay, after which one of Kilchoman’s malts is named, then walk out to Saligo and discover two more white-sand beaches tucked behind the dunes and machir. 

12.9 km
3:00 h
30 m
32 m

Kilchoman is Islay’s only farm distillery growing all of its barley, malting, and distilling it onsight.  The uniqueness of Kilchoman is only enhanced by its remoteness on the west coast of Islay – we recommend a morning tour before the walk! Leave the distillery and head north towards the white-sand beaches of Saligo hidden behind the sprawling machir where the Saligo and Smaull farms operate before returning and taking a detour to Machir Bay after which one of Kilchoman’s key malts gets its name. 

Author’s recommendation

The second and largest of the Saligo beaches is certainly a place to linger on a good summer’s day.  Take a picnic and a blanket if you can to lay down on the sand to enjoy the rhythmic sound of the ocean. User
Catherine Allan 
Updated: September 17, 2018

Highest point
33 m
Lowest point
3 m

Safety information

Some sections of today’s walk are on quiet single-track roads so please take care of traffic and set aside to let vehicles pass.  Please heed livestock on the farms at Saligo and any notices about lambing season.  Watch out while walking next to the coast and don’t go too close to the edge except on paths – dune landscapes are fragile. 

Please follow the advice of the notices at Machir Bay and Saligo Bay and don't swim in the sea due to the strong undercurrents. 


A small rucksack with waterproofs and spare warm layers is essential – the walking is beautiful on a good day but the landscape is very exposed to the elements if the weather turns.  Make sure to bring plenty of water and food for the day. 

Tips, hints and links


Points of Interest

Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman is Islay’s only farm distillery producing all of it’s own barley on the island.  A small operation compared to some of the larger distilleries a premium tour here is a special experience – many of the processes are still carried out by hand which is a contract to some of the older, larger distilleries who cannot function like this any longer.  If you wish to book a tour you can choose from their basic and premium tours (details, opening times, and days can be found on the below link, or you can call them on +44 (0)1496 850 011). 

Visitor Centre and café opening hours may vary but are listed as 9.45am - 5pm (Monday to Friday - November 2017 - 23rd March 2018 and everyday - 26th March - 2nd November 2018) 

Machir Bay

Nearly 2 km in length the sandy expanse of Machir Bay is a wonderful spot for taking in the power of the Atlantic Ocean.  The beach is the namesake for Kilchoman’s flagship single malt.  The distillery manager, John MacLellan, describes the malt here: “Machir Bay has a beautiful balance of vanilla, smokey butterscotch and rich fruitiness each contributing in complexity and combining to create a truly unique Islay dram”. 

Saligo Beach

The beach at Saligo is said to be Islay’s most beautiful, but when you visit you can see and decide for yourself!  The beach is west of the quiet shores of Loch Gorm and north of Kilchoman distillery.  Visible from the dunes above the bay is an unusual rock formation further up the coast, the locals call it the “sleeping Giant” because of it’s peculiar shape. 


Food & Drink

The distillery is situated in remote country on the west coast of Islay so thankfully it has a good café serving coffee, cakes, and sandwiches etc along with a gift shop and visitor centre.  There is nowhere else to get refreshments on this route, but you can stock up on snacks or a picnic lunch if you don’t wish to use the café in Port Charlotte before your morning taxi transfer. 


Kilchoman Distillery (33 m)
55.786945, -6.430196
29U 661133 6185356


Kilchoman Distillery

Turn-by-turn directions

0.00 km – In the Kilchoman visitor car park continue STRAIGHT ON to leave the distillery on the wide gravel track leading to the road (that the taxi drove you in on). 

0.70 km – At the T-junction with the tarred single-track road TURN LEFT to leave the distillery grounds and walk along the road taking care of traffic.  As you walk look up to the cliffs and Kilchoman church on the rise. 

1.50 km – At the junction with the Machir Bay (1 mile) signpost on your left TURN RIGHT to follow another single-track road to Saligo.  Stay on the road for 2.7 km with views over Loch Gorm on your right-hand side. 

4.20 km – After passing Saligo cottages on your left-hand side continue STRAIGHT ON to cross a low stone-walled bridge.  Then TURN LEFT to pass through the gate signposted Saligo Farm and continue on a wide farm track between two abandoned buildings.  [Please heed any notices about lambing season that are displayed here.]

5.50 km – Do not ross the cattle grid to continue into Smaull farm but TURN LEFT off the well-defined gravel track onto a vague grassy track on the left-hand side of the fence.  Follow this grassy track on the right-hand side of a high-fenced area ahead. 

5.60 km – At the far right-hand corner of the fenced area BEAR LEFT to follow the track towards the shore. 

5.70 km – Pass a concrete block then BEAR RIGHT and curve left down to the coast.  In 200 m you’ll reach two small standing stones/grave-sights at the shoreline on the grass – TURN LEFT here to follow the grassy track along the coastline keeping a safe distance from the edge. 

5.90 km - Continue STRAIGHT ON to descend and walk across the small beach with a stream flowing across it.  Pick up another vague grassy track just on the left of the rocky outcrop on the opposite side of the beach. 

6.40 km – Once on the other side of the beach continue STRAIGHT ON following the coastline on a vague narrow grassy path over the machir weaving between low rocky outcrops. 

6.60 km – BEAR LEFT around the headland knoll after the rocky section of path then BEAR RIGHT to round the knoll and continue to follow the coastline again.  You’ll now have a view of Saligo Bay stretching out ahead of you. 

6.70 km – Here you can either continue STRAIGHT ON to follow the grassy dune path (as the GPX tracks and route notes do) or descend here via the grassy gully to the beach so you can enjoy a 300 m walk along the beach.  Please follow the advice of the notices here and don't swim in the sea here due to the strong undercurrents.  [Follow the beach for 300 m before turning left to rejoin the path back to the road.]

6.90 km – BEAR LEFT on the grassy track behind the dune away from the coast. 

7.00 km – In a grassy depression continue STRAIGHT ON to follow the vague grassy track ou of the depression then descend to meet a track coming up from the beach and TURN LEFT to walk away from the coast to the abandoned buildings. 

7.20 km – After following the grassy track to the buildings TURN RIGHT onto the well-defined farm track and pass through the gate and TURN RIGHT onto the single-track road.  Continue STRAIGHT ON the road passing Saligo cottages on your right-hand side for 2.9 km. 

10.20 km – For the detour to Machir Bay TURN RIGHT at the T-junction and follow the Machair Bay (1 mile) signpost on the single-track road as it descends to the coast.  The road becomes a gravel track, follow it into the car park then choose your sand path down to the long white sand beach of Machir Bay.  Please follow the advice of the notices here and don't swim in the sea here due to the strong undercurrents. 

11.50 km – After enjoying the beach walk back up the way you came to the junction with the Machir Bay signpost and continue STRAIGHT ON ascending slightly. 

12.20 km – TURN RIGHT off the road onto the wide gravel track leading back into Kilchoman distillery.  Follow the track into the visitor car park. 

12.90 km – Finish the walk in the distillery visitor car park.  Why not head to the café for some refreshments while you await your taxi transfer to Port Charlotte. 


all notes on protected areas

Arrival by train, car, foot or bike

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12.9 km
30 m
32 m


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