Isle of Jura

Isle of Jura, Scotland
Isle of Jura (seen from Gigha) © Robert Dallas Gray | Dreamstime.com

Jura comes from the Norse words meaning Deer Island. Today over 6500 deer live on six estates on the island. In contrast, the human population is less than 200.

The island is 29 miles long and 7 miles wide in places. The west is wild and virtually uninhabited, occupied only by the three Paps of Jura which are known in Gaelic as The Mountain of the Sound, The Mountain of Gold and The Sacred Mountain.

Many caves and raised beaches can be found on the west coast, but you'll have to be a good walker to reach them.

If you want to get away from it all, this is the place to come. The novelist George Orwell who stayed on the island at Barnhill during the 1940s quite rightly described it as "an extremely un-getatable place".

Wildlife lovers will be interested to know that there are over 100 species of birds (including golden eagles) on the island, together with wild goats, seals, rabbits, hares, stoats and otters.

Deer on Isle of Jura, Scotland
© Jaime Pharr | Dreamstime.com

How to get to Jura

The main route on to Jura is via the small vehicle ferry from Port Askaig on the Isle of Islay. It takes just 5 minutes to cross to Feolin on the southern tip of Jura. Tel: 01496 840 681. Check the Council web site for prices and times.

Ferry to Jura, Scotland
Jura vehicle ferry © Highlandscape | Fotolia.com

The Jura passenger ferry (12 seater RIB) will be running daily (except Wednesdays) from 17 April to 30 September 2014 from Tayvallich (mainland Argyll) to Craighouse on Jura. Booking essential - phone 07768 450000.

The Jura Bus is operated by Garelochhead Coaches (tel: 01436 810200) and travels between Feolin Ferry to Craighouse and north up the island to Inverlussa Click here for timetables.

Jura Island Tours is run by Alex in his luxury Mercedes mini coach. Short guided tours or full days from Craighouse or Feolin). Tel: 01496 820 314 or 07884 024 777.

For bike hire on Jura, contact Michael Varley at Bramble Cottage in Keils - tel: 07092 180747.

Jura Development web site has a detailed map of the island.

Map of Jura & Islay
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service.
Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

If you are going over on the ferry from Kennacraig to Islay and need a place to stay, Springside B&B is a traditional cottage overlooking Tarbert harbour (just 5 miles from the ferry terminal at Kennacraig) between Loch Fyne and the Mull of Kintyre.

What to see and do on Jura

Next to the ferry terminal, Feolin Ferry House holds the largest database of information about the Isle of Jura in existence in the world.

JURA HOUSE & GARDENS
Located 5 miles from the ferry at a place called Ardfin or White Promontory. The house was built by the Campbells in the early 1800s. Previously available as self catering, it was bought by a new owner in 2010. The gardens are closed to the public.

You can see two little islands offshore. The one on the right is Am Fraoch Eilean or Heather Island which controlled the entrance to the Sound with the now ruined Claig Castle.

The grey coloured beach is made from grains of the local quartzite. Further along, the path runs next to some of the famous Jura slate.

A longer walk will take you to The Misty Pool, waterfall, Bronze Age burial cairn and also a Neolithic chambered burial cairn thought to be 2000 years old.

Craighouse, Jura, Scotland
Craighouse © Weetoonpics | Dreamstime.com

CRAIGHOUSE
The capital of Jura is 8 miles from the ferry. It is probably the only place on the island you will find anywhere to eat or drink. The village is home to petrol pumps, post office, gift shop, church and the Jura Hotel which has its own web site full of local information.
Antlers Bistro and Restaurant has good food, crafts and local info.

Jura Stores is run by the community. If you are going to Jura and need groceries/supplies arranging in advance, just let them know.

Internet access is available at the Jura Service Point is next to the school in Craighouse. Open 10am - 1pm Monday to Friday.

Isle of Jura Distillery produces a light malt whisky. The first official distillery on Jura was built in 1810 but there is evidence that illicit distilling took place as far back as 1502. It has been expanded over the years but still occupies the same site, draws its water from the same natural source and remains the only distillery on the island. Guided tours by appointment - telephone 01496 820601. Visit isleofjura.com for more details.

Craighouse, Jura, Scotland

Jura Parish Church at Craighouse, Scotland
Jura Distillery © The Internet Guide to Scotland

Jura Parish Church at Craighouse, Scotland
Jura Parish Church © The Internet Guide to Scotland
Jura Parish Church, Craighouse, Scotland

KEILS
Just north of Craighouse is the old crofters' settlement. Today most of the remaining thatched roofs on the cottages have fallen down, but you can still imagine how the people lived.

NORTHERN JURA
Ardlussa and Inverlussa: cemetery and cottages overlooking the bay.

Saint Earnan, the uncle of Saint Columba, is buried in Inverlussa graveyard, together with a lady called Mary MacCrain who apparently lived until she was 128.

The road, such as it is, stops here, but if you continue along the track (unsuitable for motorised vehicles), eventually it reaches the northern tip of Jura, where George Orwell wrote 1984 and almost lost his life in the Corryvreckan whirlpool.

Paps of Jura, Scotland
Paps of Jura © Highlandscape | Fotolia.com

THE PAPS OF JURA
These mountains are not that easy to get to or to climb when you reach them. The upper slopes are mainly made of scree and lumps of quartzite. You are recommended to wear strong boots. It can easily take you the best part of a day just to reach and walk up one of the 3 mountains, but on a clear day you will be able to see for miles from the summit. They rise to around 2400-2500 feet.
Check if deer stalking is in progress (usually on days between 1 July and 20 October) by using the hillphone service, tel: 01496 820151.

HISTORIC MONUMENTS
There are several standing stones scattered about the east coast of Jura.
A Neolithic burial cairn can be found south of Strone farm.
South-east of Ardmenish, on Lowlandman's Bay is the dun known as An Dunan.
The ruins of Glengarrisdale Castle are in the north-west of the island.

Standing stone on Isle of Jura, Scotland
© Jaime Pharr | Dreamstime.com

EVENTS
24 May 2014: Jura Fell Race
26-28 September 2014: 21st Jura Music Festival

Useful Books and Maps

Islay, Jura and Colonsay: a Historical Guide
Publisher Birlinn writes: 'The story of Islay, Jura and Colonsay is one of the most fascinating amongst all the Hebrides. They have had substantial human occupation since earliest times and man has left many relics across the islands, from tools and artefacts of mesolithic times to the modern-day distilleries of Islay and Jura. From the period between survive chambered cairns, iron age forts, magnificent early crosses, enigmatic carvings, early monasteries, relics of the Lordship of the Isles, deserted townships and shielings, planned villages, corn mills, kelp kilns and lead mines and much else besides.'
This 246-page paperback guide book lists all the places of interest on the 3 islands with detailed location maps and sketches. Published in June 2001.
Available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
Jura
Publisher Birlinn writes: 'This is the first major work to be written on one of the largest and most important of the islands of the Hebrides. Probably the Hinba of the early church, Jura's geographic situation made it important through succeeding centuries through the Viking period and into that of the Lordship of the Isles. As Pennant's extract shows the island carried a fairly large population right through the period of Campbell domination into the era of emigration and clearance.'
This 589-page hardback is the definitive historic reference book about the island. It includes sections of old b/w photos, colour photos and portraits. Published in July 2001.
Available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
The Southern Hebrides and Arran (Island Walks)
Produced by famous island-hopper Hamish Haswell-Smith and Stephen Whitehorne.
A selection of 26 graded walks (easy to strenuous) on the following islands:
Arran - Islay - Jura - Colonsay and Oronsay - Kerrera - Lismore - Mull - Iona - Tiree - Coll - Bute - Gigha - Staffa
Paperback. 192 pages. Published February 2003.
Available from Amazon UK and Amazon.com

If you intend to go hillwalking or hiking generally on the island, you will need the scale of maps provided by the Landranger series produced by the Ordnance Survey which is the official map agency of the UK. The Jura & Colonsay map can be bought online via Amazon.co.uk.

Accommodation

B&B accommodation:

  • The Isle of Jura Hotel is the island's only hotel. Located at Craighouse. 18 rooms. Open all year. Telephone: 01496 820243 / Fax: 01496 820249.
  • Mike Richardson has a bothy and offers B&B at Kinuachdrachd (the north end). Tel: 07899 912116. With his 12-seater Landrover, he gives guided tours of the island.
  • Glenora Bed and Breakfast in Keils, just 1 mile outside Craighouse. Contact Anne and Graham Logan Tel: 01496 820138.
  • Sealladh Na Mara B&B in Knockrome, 4 miles from Craighouse. Contact Linda Mulholland Tel: 01496 820349
  • Ardlussa House offers dinner, B&B. Contact Andrew & Claire Fletcher Tel: 01496 820 323.

Self-catering properties to rent on the island include:

  • Ardlussa House offers slef catering for 10 people in 5 bedrooms in a self contained wing of the house. Stalking & fishing available on the Ardlussa Estate.
  • Boiden Cottage is located at Ardfarnal, 5 miles from Craighouse. It sleeps 6 in 2 bedrooms (1 double bedroom and 1 bedroom with a double bed and two single beds). Scottish Tourist Board 3 Stars. Telephone Drew & Christine Fairman: 01496 820393.
  • Burnbank is a 2-bedroom cottage situated above the village of Craighouse.
  • Dubh Bheinn is a cottage with 2 bedrooms at Crackaig Bay (1.5 miles from Craighouse).
  • Gealach Lan Holiday Cottage at Craighouse has spectacular views over the Sound of Jura and is within walking distance to all the village amenities. Sleeps 6 in 3 bedrooms.
  • Jura Holiday Let is a 3 bedroom house in Craighouse.
  • Leargy House is a former church restored to a high standard to self catering accommodation with 3 bedrooms. Located 2 miles north of Craighouse.
  • Lutra House sleeps 6 in 3 bedrooms (1 kingsize double & 2 twin). Built in 2009, it is situated at Crackaig Bay (1.5 miles from Craighouse).
  • Otter Cottage is one of just 4 cottages in the unspolit Lussagiven Bay, 16 miles north of Craighouse. The This refurbished croft house, only 30 metres from the sea, has 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and sitting room.
  • Sealladh Na Mara chalet with 2 bedrooms, in Knockrome, 4 miles from Craighouse.
  • Small Isles House in Craighouse sleeps 6 in 3 bedrooms.
  • Tigh-an-fhigheadair (House of the weaver) - a modernised croft house with 3 bedrooms. Located just outside Craighouse.

Links

For more information about the island, visit:
Official Jura Development Trust web site
JuraInfo.com includes blog, video, photos, etc.
Islay and Jura Marketing Group
Isle of Jura Distillery
Jura Stores web site
SouthernHebrides.com Jura page

Jura photos and travelogue by Armin Grewe
Photos of Jura by Colin Palmer (part of his Scottish collection)