Coordinates: 55°45′25″N 6°17′13″W / 55.757°N 6.287°W / 55.757; -6.287
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Bowmore main street, towards Killarow Church
Bowmore is located in Argyll and Bute
Location within Argyll and Bute
Population710 (mid-2020 est.)[2]
OS grid referenceNR310598
• Edinburgh121 mi (195 km)
• London387 mi (623 km)
Civil parish
  • Killarow and Kilmeny
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtPA43
Dialling code01496
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
55°45′25″N 6°17′13″W / 55.757°N 6.287°W / 55.757; -6.287

Bowmore (Scottish Gaelic: Bogh Mòr, 'Big Bend'[3]) is a small town on the Scottish island of Islay. It serves as administrative capital of the island, and gives its name to the noted Bowmore distillery producing Bowmore single malt scotch whisky.


Bowmore Round Church

Bowmore is a planned village with wide streets on a grid-iron pattern. It has its origins in an earlier settlement, Kilarrow, which until c. 1770 occupied the site of the present grounds of Islay House near Bridgend.[4]

In May 1685, Kilarrow was the scene of the first stages of Argyll's Rising, when rebels under the Earl of Argyll arrived from Netherlands in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow King James II and VII.

As part of his plans for improvements at Islay House,[4] Daniel Campbell the Younger initiated the construction of the new village in 1770, just after the completion of the new Kilarrow Parish Church, which was built in a unique circular shape. The old village of Kilarrow and its church dedicated to St Maelrhuba, were then demolished, and its residents were relocated to the new village of Bowmore. Kilarrow Old Churchyard still exists close to the site of the former village.[5]

The Bowmore distillery came into operation some time before 1816 and is situated on the shores of Loch Indaal. In the 1980s, one of the distillery's warehouses was gifted to the community for conversion to a swimming pool and leisure centre. Named the Mactaggart Centre after one of the scheme's major donors, Sir John Mactaggart, it uses an innovative system of underground pipes to transfer waste heat from the distillery to the water for the swimming pool.[6]

Bowmore in WWII[edit]

There was a RAF seaplane base at Bowmore during the Second World War called RAF Bowmore. Short Sunderland and Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats operated from Loch Indaal. Some of the wartime film Coastal Command was filmed in Bowmore - fictional name RAF Ferry Bay - and it features a shot of a Sunderland flying low over the main street of Bowmore and over Kilarrow Parish Church.

The RAF built a diesel power station close to the A846 road at the eastern end of Bowmore, to supply their facilities. This was taken over by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board in 1949, and was extended several times, increasing its capacity to 6 MW. However, the National Grid reached Islay in 1962, with an undersea cable connection from the mainland to Jura, and another from Jura to Islay, after which the station was only maintained as a backup. It is currently owned by Scottish and Southern Electricity.[7]


Bowmore has several hotels, restaurants, shops, a hospital, a high school and is home to the Ìleach newspaper, community newspaper of the year 2006. Bowmore is also host to Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle (the Columba Centre), a cultural centre and college founded with the aim of promoting Gaelic language revival and heritage on the Island.

Noted residents[edit]



  1. ^ "Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland database". Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  2. ^ "Mid-2020 Population Estimates for Settlements and Localities in Scotland". National Records of Scotland. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  3. ^ "Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba (AÀA) – Gaelic Place-names of Scotland". Retrieved 14 June 2023.
  4. ^ a b The ruined monastery of Kilarrow on Islay, British Library
  5. ^ Islay, Kilarrow, Canmore
  6. ^ Mactaggart Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool Bowmore
  7. ^ "Bowmore Power Station". Gazeteer for Scotland. 2022. Archived from the original on 4 October 2023.
  8. ^ Edited by Donald E. Meek (2019), The Wiles of the World Caran an t-Saohgail: Anthology of 19th-century Scottish Gaelic Verse, Birlinn Limited. Page 478.

External links[edit]