Islay House is one of Britain's most historic houses, having played host to many distinguished guests from Prime Ministers to Queen Elizabeth II over the course of its great history.
Sir Hugh Campbell of the Campbells of Cawdor first built a tower house at the head of Loch Indaal in 1677. Kilarrow House, as it was then known, laid the foundations for what would go on to become Islay House as we know it today. Falling on hard times, the Cawdor Campbells sold most of Islay and Jura (including Islay House) to Daniel Campbell of the Campbells of Shawfield in 1726. Daniel Campbell began to expand Kilarrow House in 1737, realising its significance at the centre of life on Islay.
The most dramatic change to Kilarrow House occurred in 1760 when Daniel Campbell's grandson, Daniel 'the Younger', added the now iconic twin stair towers and Palladian windows to the house. It was at this time that 'the Big House' became known as Islay House. This change occurred when Daniel 'the Younger' decided to relocate the nearby village of Kilarrow to the other side of Loch Indaal as a new settlement which was the first grid system town in Scotland: Bowmore. This move allowed the Campbells greater privacy and a much improved view over the sea loch, whilst also allowing them to keep an eye on the locals across the water in Bowmore. Evidence of Daniel 'the Younger's' importance to Islay House can still be seen today at the East Tower, a folly at the front of the property, which bears his engraved initials above the lintel.
Daniel 'the Younger's' brother, Walter, inherited the estate and was responsible for the foundation of Islay House Square to the rear of the property. Originally a series of workshops and stables to service the Campbell Household's needs, today Islay House Square is a thriving hub of local businesses.
By 1825 much of the layout of Islay House as we know it today had already been put in place, including the surrounding woodland, ornate lawns and the walled kitchen garden. During the 1840s Scotland's most famous architect, William Playfair, designed the iconic Baronial style rear of Islay House mainly as 'servants' quarters'.
The Campbells lost possession of Islay House when declared bankrupt in 1847. Following a brief period during which the house was owned by an Edinburgh trust, it was taken over by James Morrison MP when he bought the Isle of Islay in 1853. The next major changes to Islay House
occurred when Hugh Morrison inherited Islay in 1909. It was at this time that the final wing, designed by another famous architect, Detmar Blow, was added in a mock Georgian style to mirror the opposite side of the front of the house.
In 1985 the Morrison family ended their affiliation with Islay House when it was sold to the retired United States Navy Top Gun, Captain Thomas Friedrich. The House remained the Friedrich family private residence until 2014 when it was bought by the current owners with the vision of reopening Islay House to the public as a Hotel for the first time.
After an extensive rennovation and restoration project, Islay House opened its doors to the public in September 2016. We hope you come and visit Islay House, whether for a luxurious stay away from home, to take afternoon tea or to enjoy a dram in our bar, The Peat Cutter. We look forward to seeing you at Islay House very soon.