Beautiful and Mysterious
Of all the islands in the west of Scotland, the Isle of Jura, though one of the most beautiful, remains one of the most mysterious and least known. Almost 30 miles long and 7 miles wide, Jura is the third largest of the islands of Argyll, yet is one of the more inaccessible of the British isles, requiring two ferries for vehicles. Only one road exists, following the southern and eastern shoreline. The rest of Jura is wild and rough, accessible only to stalwart walkers, sea kayakers and hill runners. To most visitors the appeal of Jura is threefold: scenery, history and wildlife. Sorry, fourfold: and malt whisky lovers.
The spectacular Paps of Jura, rising from sea-level to over 2,500 feet are visible from the Argyll mainland some 16 miles away and provide breathtaking views of many Hebridean Islands and even (on a very clear day) the Isle of Man and Ireland.
Jura is fringed by a rocky shoreline and deserted beaches of silver sand with many caves and raised beaches. At the northern tip of the island is found the fearsome whirlpool, Corryvreckan, occurring when currents flowing from the mainland collide with the opposing ocean current setting into the narrow strait between Jura and the Island of Scarba, and a submerged peak, a natural phenomenon visible and audible from the shore.
It rains now and again in the Hebrides, but the Gulf Stream brushes the islands and the climate is mild. Palm trees are often seen growing near ornamental gardens and hotels. May and June are the the most reliable months for settled spells of fine weather.
Jura has been inhabited for about 5,000 years – a period spanning the Bronze and Iron Ages, Viking settlements and Clan warfare. This long history provides the visitor with standing stones, hill forts, castles and deserted crofts. Christianity touched early; St Columbus’s uncle, St Eaman, is buried in the graveyard of Inverlussa. The main literary connection is that of George Orwell who wrote ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ whilst living up at Barnhill in the north end of the island in 1948.
The island was known to the Vikings as Dyr Oe – pronounced Joora, meaning Deer Island. Today there are more than 5,000 red deer, outnumbering human inhabitants by 20:1. Small wild goats abound on the uninhabited west coast, which they share with the grey seal. Inland, the rabbit is the commonest mammal, but the hare, stoat and otter may be glimpsed. Around 100 species of bird have been noted, including the blackcock, red grouse, snipe and golden eagle inland, and many varieties of seabird on the shore. The lochs and burns are trout-filled, whilst mackerel, saithe and lythe are some of the sea-species caught locally.