Guide To Islay And Jura – Where To Go And What To See
Jura has its fair share of folk stories, many of them centered on the whirlpool in the Gulf of Corryvreckan, a fierce stretch of water thought to get its name from Breackan, a Scandinavian prince who was in love with an island princess, and drowned there when his rope of maidens’ hair snapped.
This wild island’s place on the cultural landscape of the West Highlands was assured in 1946 when George Orwell (then Eric Blair) sought solitude there to write his novel 1984. His example has led others to seek peace and inspiration in its remote spots, where you are more likely to encounter red deer than another person.
Sat in the mid-north, between Jura and Islay, Colonsay offers gems for the visitor, including an ancient priory and a woodland garden. The island has no Munros, but walkers can ‘bag’ one of the 22 smaller MacPhies instead.
The most southerly of the Inner Hebrides, Islay is the gentlest of the three islands, covered largely in peat, a vital component in the production of the single malt whiskeys for which it is best known.
There are eight working distilleries, and the route between them naturally becomes a tour of the island's attractions and settlements – from the towns of Port Charlotte and Bowmore to Bunnahabhain. A former distillery in Port Ellen is even said to have its own drunken ghost – a burglar who broke in and became inebriated, before toppling to meet his end.
A reminder perhaps, that there is more to Islay than its malts. The island boasts over 250 bird species and is an important wintering ground for barnacle and white-fronted geese. Though you will encounter them wherever you go, you can learn more on a tour.
Getting To Islay And Jura
To reach Kintyre, take the A83 south from Lochgilphead. Buses run from Campbeltown to Glasgow via Tarbert. For Islay, there are flights from Glasgow and ferries from Kennacraig on Kintyre, to Port Ellen. There is no direct car ferry to Jura, but it can be reached from Port Askaig on Islay.
Myth And Mystery
One of Jura’s favorite legends is the story of MacPhee, who was captured by the Witch of Jura and tried to escape her clutches by boat. Each time he nearly got away, she would pull him back to shore with a magic ball of thread. One day he discovered an enchanted hatchet and cut the thread – as she raced to try to catch him, the witch slipped down the mountainside, leaving marks that can still be seen at Scriob na Caillich, the ‘slide of the old woman’.