24 Hours In: Jura
Keep warm with a wee dram of whisky on this beautiful, blasted Western Isle
Sunday 16 July 2006
First catch the ferry - twice
07.00: There's only one way in and one way out of Orwell's island - unless, of course, you own your own boat. But the trip over to Jura is, weather permitting, an enjoyable and essential cruise through some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK. First you'll need to reach Kennacraig, a small ferry port just south of Tarbert on the mainland. From there Calmac (08705 650000; calmac.co.uk) will ship you to either Port Ellen or Port Askaig on the island of Islay. To reach Jura it's a five-minute hop by ferry to Feolin (1) from Port Askaig.
Just in time for a full breakfast
09.00: Check into the Jura Hotel in Craighouse (01496 820243; jurahotel. co.uk). If you arrive before 9.30am you'll have time to tuck into their full breakfast. This is the only hotel on the island and the comfortable rooms have great views across the bay. The hotel also sells booklets covering different aspects of Jura life as well as a stack of indispensable ordnance survey maps. B&B from £70 per night.
Time for a tot of whisky
11.00: If you fancy a tipple of some fine, peaty whisky then take the Jura Distillery Tour, also in Craighouse (01496 820240; isleofjura.com), a requisite part of any trip to this island. Whisky has been made on Jura for centuries - often via illegal local stills - but this recent incarnation of the Jura distillery opened in the 1970s. Tours are held from Monday to Friday, 11am to 2pm. They take about one hour and include a wee dram. The distillery also houses a small shop selling whisky-inspired gifts.
Pick up a bit of local colour
12.00: Pick up a few things for lunch at the village shop and then pop across the road to the Interpretation Centre. Stop off here to find out everything you could need to know about Jura. Photos, recollections and other artefacts are maintained in this community-run project. It is unstaffed and the door is usually left open; just remember to turn the lights off after you've finished.
Walk in Orwell's footsteps
13.00: Mike Richardson (07899 912116; joanmikekd @hotmail.com) offers guided walks across Jura, including trips to Barnhill and to view the Corryvreckan whirlpool. Mike and his wife Joan also maintain a basic bunkhouse and offer rooms with full board at their remote farmhouse one mile north of Barnhill at Kinuachdrachd. There's little to inform visitors to Barnhill that Orwell wrote one of the most iconic novels of the 20th century here. The building is still intact but the entire interior has been completely remodelled. It is possible to rent Barnhill (01786 850274) although it's expensive - from £550 per week - and amenities are basic.
Try a walk across the Jura Paps, a string of towering rocky hills that dominate the island. The summits provide awesome views to many of the other Western Isles and into the Highlands. Bring maps, adequate supplies, clothing and footwear: the weather can change quickly. A signposted path begins next to the "three arch bridge", just north of Craighouse.
At its most spectacular during the spring tides, the Corryvreckan whirlpool is caused by a dramatic meeting of currents between the Jura and Scarba. The Royal Navy considers it "impassable", though several operators will take you through on high-speed, high-powered ribs for the ultimate white-knuckle ride. Islay-based Islay Sea Safari (07768 450000; islayseasafari.co.uk) is the only operator that will pick up directly from Jura.
Dinner and a good book
20.00: There's only one bar and restaurant on Jura and both are found at the Jura Hotel (01496 820243; jura hotel.co.uk). The restaurant has great panoramic views across the sea to the Paps and serves decent home-cooked grub. Try the local lobster, which must be pre-ordered, or the Islay lamb. Afterwards? Curl up with a copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four. AS
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