Saturday, 12 January 2013


I first caught sight of Jura while on the west coast of Scotland a few years ago. What drew my eye was the Paps of Jura, the trio of conical mountains which dominate the island. They made a beautiful, but strangely forbidding sight. Though rising steeply, the Paps can be climbed, rewarding those who do so with wonderful views on a clear day. The island of Jura, with an area of 142 square miles and a population of less than 200, making it one of the least densely populated Scottish islands, has just one road, largely following the east coast, before curving round to meet up with the ferry crossing to Islay in the south-west. The main settlement is Craighouse, in a sheltered spot on the east coast, where the island's only pub is to be found. Needless to say, such a sparsely populated island is rich in wildlife. Out at sea there are sea otters and seals, while the burns and lochs are rich in salmon and brown trout. Birdlife includes Arctic skua, waxwings and raptors including the Golden Eagle. The island's outdoor pursuits include deerstalking, as there are around 5,000 deer on the island. Garden enthusiasts should head for Jura House, built by the Campbells of Jura, where there is a Walled Garden. Whisky fans are also catered for, courtesy of the Jura Distillery at Craighouse. Between Jura and the uninhabited island of Scarba to the north is the Gulf of Corryvreckan where the notorious phenomenon known as the Corryvreckan whirlpool is to be found. This is an extreme tidal race brought about by the combination of the underwater topography and the strong currents in these waters.

One of the most notable past residents on the island was Lady Astor, the first woman to sit in Parliament. She had an isolated study on the island where she went to write. The 20,000-acre Tarbert Estate on Jura is owned by the Astor family. The writer George Orwell lived on Jura between 1946 and 1949, and only left due to ill health: he died of tuberculosis in 1950. It was during his sojourn on Jura that he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. One wonders what inspiration he could have drawn for such a horrific tale from such beautiful surroundings. As for musical connections the island provided inspiration for the Scottish band Capercaillie, who wrote The Bens of Jura, a love song featuring the island. In January 2011 an album recorded on Jura called Poets and Lighthouses by a singer called Albert Kuvezin from Tuva, Central Asia, reached number one in the European World Music Charts.

Map of the area.

Feolin Ferry © 2008 Mary and Angus Hogg, via Wikimedia Commons

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