Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts

Tuesday 20 February 2024

The Isle of Jura

One of our favourite things about living in Victoria, BC, was being able to explore beautiful Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, but our love of islands didn't start in Canada.  It actually started in Scotland on the Isle of Jura.

Lorne Cottage, Caigenhouses, Craighouse, Isle ofJura

I (R) have been visiting Jura for almost 40 years now, and Sarah has been joining me for more than 20 years.  It's one of our favourite places, and we even got married there on the beach at Corran Sands in 2012.  

Isle of Jura Wedding at Corran Sands

One of the best things about being back in the UK, is being able to get up to Jura regularly.  This is our third trip up in the last 6 months!

About the Isle of Jura

Jura is an island in the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland.  

Despite being the 8th largest of the Scottish islands (about 30 miles long and 7 miles wide), it is only the 31st largest in terms of population with around 200 permanent residents.  The residents are vastly numbered by Red Deer, with a fairly steady population of around 5000, and in fact the name Jura is thought to derive from the Old Norse word Dyrøy meaning "deer island".

Red Deer on the Isle of Jura

The island is dominated by three large peaks, known as the Paps of Jura, which make for a distinctive silhouette from the mainland and also from neighbouring Islay.  Only the South and East coasts of the island are inhabited, leaving the West coast as a beautiful wilderness which is only accessible on foot or by boat.

With its small, friendly population and remote feeling, Jura is a magical place which really gets under your skin and many visitors return on a regular basis.

Getting to the Isle of Jura

The Isle of Jura was described as "ungettatable" by George Orwell when he was writing his famous novel '1984' on Jura.  Fortunately it's not that difficult these days, and there are a number of options to get here, but it does take a bit of planning!  The major options are listed below, but get in touch with us if you need help planning your journey.

Jura Passenger Ferry

This is our favourite way to get to Jura. The Jura Passenger Ferry crosses between Tayvallich, on the mainland, and Craighouse on Jura.  It's the quickest (less than an hour) and most scenic way to get across the Sound of Jura, but is for foot passengers only, no vehicles.  Craighouse is the main settlement on Jura, so it's an ideal place to land.

Car Ferry

Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) sail to Islay from Kennacraig, on the Scottish mainland, to either Port Ellen or Port Askaig on a regular basis.  This route takes about 2 hours, and you can check out the current schedules online at  From Islay it's a short journey from Port Askaig to Feolin on the Jura Ferry, which takes around 10 minutes to cross the Sound of Islay.  You will likely need a car (or bike if you're feeling fit) for this route, although there is a limited bus service available on both Islay and Jura.  Be sure to check that the connections work if you are planning to come over as a foot passenger with CalMac, we've been stranded on Islay before!

Ferry traffic queuing for the Finlaggan at Kennacraig

By Air

There are regular scheduled flights between Glasgow (GLA) and Islay (ILY) airports with Logan Air

What to do on Jura

Jura is rightly famous for its whisky, visit the Jura Whisky website for details on tours and tastings.

Did you know that Jura is now also home to a gin distillery, rum distillery and brewery?  

Lussa Gin distill by hand in a traditional still in a converted stable on the Ardlussa Estate at the North end of the island.  Using 15 botanicals which they grow or forage on the island, it's the 'spirit of island adventure'.  They are also open for tours, check out the Lussa Gin website for details.

Deer Island Distillers make a small batch Scottish spiced rum from the business units at Craighouse Pier.  They have a distillery shop and also offer tours, check out the Deer Island website for details.  They're also right next door to Konrad's beautiful photography gallery - The Whisky Island, and the local craft store - Camella Crafts.

Jura Brewery are still finishing the construction of their new brewery at their croft in Kiels, which is about a 15 minute walk.  Their Laughing Stag is an easy drinking pale ale which you can find in the community owned Jura Stores, in the Jura Hotel bar, and from the Jura Brewery TrALEr at certain events.

Jura Brewery Laughing Stag

It's not all about alcohol though!  Throughout the year there are a number of regular events, which can see the Jura population expand significantly, you're strongly recommended to book early if you want to stay on Jura during these events:

Jura Fell Race - this 28km fell race sees 200 competitors climb seven of Jura's summits on the last weekend in May.  This is one of Jura's busiest weekends.
Ardlussa Sports - this annual sports event is great fun for all of the family and raises money for local charities, it usually happens the last weekend in July. Events include tug of war, hammer throwing, barrel rolling and family races.
Jura Regatta - this day of water based sports is usually held on the first Saturday in August.  Events include open water swimming, rowing, kayaking, sailing and a raft race.
Jura Music Festival - this great festival is usually held on the last weekend in September.  

Jura has some amazing scenery and wildlife which you can explore for yourself, or take a guided tour with one of the locals:

Jura Guided - Grant offers guided walks suitable for all levels around the island.
Jura Boat Tours - Robert offers small group wildlife and sightseeing tours in their MCA approved RIB. 
Discover Jura - Alex offers small group tours by minibus and in conjunction with Jura Boat Tours.
Jura Cycles - Are now offering bike hire on Jura to help you get around.

Where to stay on Jura

Jura has a variety of options for places to stay, from a super luxury hotel to rustic bothies, and everything in between.  

Lorne Cottage

Of course we are biased, but we think Lorne Cottage is one of the nicest small holiday cottages on the island.  Sleeping a maximum of six, but more comfortable for four, our wee cottage in Craighouse was fully rebuilt in 2019.  With stunning views over Small Isles Bay, our self catering holiday cottage is literally a stone's throw from the beach and just a short stroll into the village.

Lorne Cottage, Isle of Jura

While we were in Canada, we offered the cottage up for long term let and had a number of great tenants.  Now that we are back in the UK, and will be able to visit more often, we're moving to a holiday let arrangement. Stay tuned for an announcement when we are ready to start taking bookings.

Self Catering Holiday Cottages and Bed and Breakfast

There are a number of other holiday cottages available to rent on Jura, and a couple of options for Bed and Breakfast. The most comprehensive listing can be found on the Jura Development Trust's website.

Jura Hotels

Until fairly recently there was only one hotel on Jura, the imaginatively named Jura Hotel!  The Jura Hotel also has a public bar, which serves as the island's only pub.  

When an Australian hedge fund manager bought the Ardfin Estate, he set about a massive investment program; including building a world class 18-hole Golf Course, a huge extension of Jura House and refurbishment of agricultural buildings into a boutique hotel.  If you have deep pockets, Jura House can now be rented for up to 20 guests on an exclusive basis (minimum 3 nights, price on application), or you can stay in the Quads on a hotel basis for a rumoured £1000 per night!


The Jura Hotel has a large waterfront field which acts as a semi-formal campsite during the summer.  There is a shower block, toilets and laundry facilities available to the side of the hotel, via a key fob system.  Enquire at the hotel for the latest prices and seasonal opening.

Wild camping is permitted on Jura, but it should be noted that this does not extend to vehicular camping.  Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and Leave No Trace:

    This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one         place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply but help avoid causing problem for local     people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and keeping well     away from buildings, roads or historic structures. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek     the owner’s permission. Leave no trace by taking away all your litter. Remove all traces of your tent            pitch and of any open fire.

There are extremely limited places to park campervans, all without facilities, but there are public toilets by the big pier in Craighouse.  Large motorhomes are unsuited to Jura's single track road, and may struggle to get on and off the wee ferry!

Isle of Jura Tourist Map

Is Jura in your plans for this year?  If not it probably should be!

Wednesday 10 January 2024

An Epic Christmas Road Trip

We're now back to reality with a bump after our Christmas break!  We travelled almost 1400 miles (2250km) in Budgie (our Defender); from our home in Portsmouth up to Sarah's parents in Edinburgh, down to Ridley's Dad in Northumberland, back to Edinburgh, over to our cottage on the Isle of Jura, then back home to Portsmouth via Edinburgh and Northumberland!

Portsmouth to Jura Map

Sarah's parents kindly looked after our dog, Hector, while we went skiing before Christmas, and we spent a lovely Christmas back in Edinburgh with Sarah's family, for the first time in 5 years.  Click the link to read more about our ski trip to Montgenevre.

Edinburgh Castle Sunset

We popped down to Northumberland and back in a day, to borrow a livestock trailer from Ridley's Dad, so that we could transport some tools and furniture up to Lorne Cottage.  We managed to time this trip during Storm Gerrit, so had a pretty horrendous journey down through flooded roads and snow, and we were glad we were in the Landy!  We opted to drive back via Berwick on the main A1 to avoid towing the trailer on the usual back roads.  Once back in Edinburgh we spent the rest of the day outfitting the cottage (our least favourite task is shopping, but we survived Ikea without an argument!) and loading the trailer, ready for the drive over to Jura the next day.

We had an uneventful, but wet, journey over to the west coast and a rather lumpy crossing over to Jura!

Defender and trailer with MV Finlaggan

Defender on the Jura Ferry

We knew that the cottage had suffered some flooding while we'd been away in Canada, and that some of the newly fitted floor tiles had lifted and cracked.  So we were prepared with tools and ready for some DIY!  Unfortunately the extent of the cracking was worse than we expected, and it was heart breaking to have to rip up the entire floor in the main bedroom.  Thankfully we managed to salvage enough full tiles which we can use to patch repair the broken tiles in the rest of the house, but we're going to have to re-lay the concrete and find some new tiles for the bedroom as the current ones are no longer in production.  That will be a job for February half-term!

Broken tiles and concrete

Lifting broken tiles

Sad looking dog on broken floor

It wasn't all doom and gloom though; the work we had done on the drainage out the back, seems to have done the trick, and the cottage was warm and dry!  Apart from the floor it was looking really good, and the furniture we had brought over really started to make it feel like home.

Happy border terrier with Jura tartan chair

As it happened, it was exactly 20 years since Ridley took Sarah over to Jura for her memorable first visit.  The cottage certainly didn't look like it does now, back then it was a one bedroom cottage with only coal fires for heating.  We arrived over for Hogmanay (New Year) to discover that the shop had run out of coal.  Then there was a power cut, which lasted three days!  The pub and shop both shut for Hogmanay, and the only method of cooking we had was a disposable BBQ (there is no gas on Jura).  I vividly remember attempting to cook sausages and garlic bread wrapped in tin foil over the disposable BBQ in this fireplace:

Old fireplace

Of course the BBQ didn't generate enough heat to get the chimney to draw and the entire cottage filled with smoke.  We then had to open all the windows to clear the smoke, which made the cottage even colder.  Somehow Sarah still fell in love with Jura and agreed to come back!  This year we celebrated the anniversary with our first meal in the renovated Lorne Cottage.

Lorne Cottage dining table

Jura certainly knows how to celebrate Hogmanay, and we had a great time celebrating with wonderful friends in five different houses over three days of parties (interspersed with smashing up tiles!).  The weather on New Year's day was beautiful, and we managed a quick dip in the sea from the beach in front of the cottage.

Wild swimming on the Isle of Jura

Lorne Cottage from the beach

We also spent our first night sleeping in Budgie's pop-top so that we didn't have to drive down the island after the New Year's Day party and despite the cold temperatures, we were cosy and warm in the roof tent.

Boys in an Alucab Icarus on a Defender

We were booked onto a late ferry from Islay on the 2nd of January, but because it is a Scottish holiday the wee ferry from Jura to Islay was running a reduced service.  This meant that we had to go over to Islay much earlier than necessary.  As it happened the earlier big ferry had just finished loading as we arrived in Port Askaig and still had space available, so we managed to drive straight off the wee ferry and onto the big ferry as it was about to depart - lucky timing!  We headed back to Edinburgh to return some borrowed tools to Sarah's Dad, and spent an extra evening with them.

The next day we had planned to head back to Northumberland to drop off the trailer and spend some time with Ridley's Dad, but Budgie had other ideas!  We got about 10 minutes down the road before the battery light illuminated constantly and the temperature gauge rose rapidly.  We pulled into a petrol station to take a look, and discovered a large leak of water/coolant which was dripping onto the fan/alternator belt causing it to slip.  After a quick look around, Ridley couldn't identify where the water was coming from, so topped up the tank and headed carefully back to Sarah's parents watching the temperature gauge like a hawk!  Luckily they have a large garage, which we could fit Budgie in to take a proper look.  It took a couple of days to dismantle the fan assembly, identify the water pump as the problem, order parts, change the pump and re-assemble, but by Friday we were back on the road!

Defender 200tdi water pump replacement

We spent the weekend in Rothbury; including a trip to the tip to get rid of all of the broken tiles we had dragged back from Jura, helping out around the farm, catching up with the family, and a couple of meals out.

Alucab Icarus on a Land Rover Defender

On Sunday we headed back down to Portsmouth, with a quick stop for brunch and a catch up with friends in Morpeth.  Budgie performed perfectly and didn't skip a beat on the six and a half hour journey home.

We now need a holiday to recover from the holiday!  What did you get up to over Christmas and New Year?