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Island of the Deer

An island of 160 people, 5,000 red deer and one fine malt distillery. So says the introduction on the website for the one and only distillery on Jura.

Jura is known as the island of the deer for obvious reasons. While it is almost 100% likely that a visit to the island will result in many of these majestic animals being seen, there are many other reasons to visit. Another attraction the island offers is isolation. Despite its size, around thirty miles long and at most nine miles wide, Jura is sparsely populated, as stated above, and most of the island can only be visited on foot.

Dominating the view of Jura from almost any direction are the three, distinctive and easily recognised, Paps of Jura found in the southern half of the island. The highest of the three is Beinn an Oir, the mountain of gold, is 785m/2576 ft is the only Corbett, a mountain in Scotland between 2500 and 3000 ft. Beinn Shiantaidh, the holy mountain, is 757m/2477 ft and stands to the east of Beinn an Oir, while Beinn a' Chaolais, the mountain of the sound, stands to the south-west and is the smallest of the three at 734m/2407 ft. Cora Bheinn, the steep mountain, stands at a height of 569 m/1893 ft to the north-east of Beinn Shiantaidh and, while not considered to be one of the Paps, is part of the same group of mountains.

To get to Jura, the majority of people will require a visit to the neighbouring, larger, island of Islay, which is located to the south-west of Jura and separated from the smaller island by the half mile wide stretch of water known as the Sound of Islay. The ferry between the two islands runs from Port Askaig, on the east coast of Islay, to Feolin, in the south-west corner of Jura. From Feolin, the single-track A846 heads round the southern end of the island and then along the eastern side giving most visitors access to as much of the island as is possible by car.

Jura House, which is located at the southern end of the island, was built around 1880 by the Campbell’s of Jura. The walled garden was created in the early part of the 19th century and acted as a kitchen garden to the house. The garden is now open to the public. There are a couple of small islands situated off the southern coast of Jura, Am Fraoch Eilean to the south-west of Jura House and Brosdale Island to the south-east. On the first of these are the remains of Claig Castle, one of the sea fortresses that were used by by the Lords of the Isles to control traffic in the seas around the Hebridean islands.

From Jura House, the road heads north-west towards Craighouse, the only village on Jura and the location of the island’s only distillery as well as the only hotel. The village sits overlooking a bay with a group of islands that are known collectively as the Small Isles. Beyond these islands, Knapdale on the mainland is separated from Jura by the stretch of water known as the Sound of Jura.

Jura Parish Church can also be found in Craighouse and was built in 1777. A room to the rear of the building contains an exhibition of photographs dating back to the early 20th century. There is no charge to view the photographs or enter the church, but donations are welcome.

To the north of Small Isles Bay, immediately after the main road has crossed the Corran River, a turning to the right leads to Knockrome and Ardfernal. The river runs into Loch na Mile to the south while Ardfernal overlooks Lowlandman’s Bay to the north-east, which is almost completely closed off by the rocky promontory known as Rubh’an Leim.

Beinn ShiantaidhBack on the main road and heading north once more, Beinn Shiantaidh rises up to the west giving as close a view as possible of one of the Paps without having to leave the road. Lagg, which used to be a ferry port for Knapdale especially during the period when cattle droving was common, is closely followed by Tarbert.

At this point Jura is almost cut in two by Loch Tarbert that slices into the western side of the island, with Tarbert in the east only being a mile from the tip of the loch itself. The main road continues north, but not for much further.

Near Ardlussa, just after crossing the Lussa River, the road, which has now narrowed even more than it already was, splits, with the southern branch heading towards Inverlussa where the river enters the bay of the same name. Meanwhile the other branch continues north-east almost reaching that end of the island, although by the time it reaches its final destination it can barely be described as a road.

Near the northern tip of Jura is Barnhill, the cottage where Eric Blair, who is better known as George Orwell, lived from 1946-48 while writing his novel 1984. Orwell had first visited the island in 1945 and had an almost fatal encounter in the Gulf of Corryvreckan that separates Jura from the smaller island of Scarba to the north. One day in 1947, Blair had taken a break from writing to sail with his nephews and nieces. However, their boat was caught by the whirlpool that the gulf is famous for and, despite losing the boat, Blair and the youngsters managed to reach a small rock where they were later picked up by a fishing boat. Blair returned to Barnhill where he finished his novel, although had things turned out differently on that day in the gulf the world might not have read about Big Brother.

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Scotland from the Roadside 2002-10 - e-mail southernhighlands/glencoe.htm" with any comments!