Isle of Jura 21st to 29th May 2011


Friday 20 May

A good sleep and up before 7. Left home but without a jacket I meant to take. Picked up Chris who had woken v early and has a sore mouth. Managed to get off in good time with a fully loaded up car. Chris takes the wheel and receives instruction on speed and gears and revs! Once I lent Chris my car and told her it wouldn’t go faster than 60 so she didn’t but she is wise to my tricks these days!
We stop at Lancaster services and spend about an hour on coffee and M&S. I drive as C has sore mouth and is a bit run down as well as to change over. Stop just into Scotland for lunch at services sit outside by lake, only just warm enough and 3 ducks arrive so I give them each a bean but then swan turns up and hisses at us. I carry on driving up to Glasgow, weather sunny and showery. Traffic terrible on Glasgow inner motorway so we come off and go through Dumbarton. Reach Loch Lomond, switch over and C gets us to Loch Fyne. Stop at shop but not loads of stock.
Inveraray just the same. Sleepy town. We go to coop and find youth hostel which is long low old barracks of a shed. We have ground floor bunks room for 2. My turn for the top. All v clean with slight underlying damp smell in the washroom. Beds are already made up. Chris cooks up pasta, veg and sauce with cheese on top. We have tuna nicoise on the side.  Our dinner is by far the nicest and accompanied by lovely bottle of Sauvignon. Fellow hostellers include cheeky chappie Martin looks like David Jason short and v broad on top, his pal Richard looks like John Laurie – tall thin Scot wearing shorts and raggedy jumper both well into 70s. And 2 Americans from Georgia. We help with oven lighting. Then off to the George for a 60 shilling beer which cost about that. First bar loud and not nice. Lounge bar better and listen to Peter Jagger trying to make himself heard singing and guitaring. But terrible songs for his nice voice. Raining heavily as we leave but still light at 10.30. Climb with difficulty into bunk as hard to grip with feet on the round rungs.
Bridge at Inveraray


Saturday 21 May
Woke early and breakfasted early. Out before 9 hoping for coffee at Inveraray woollen mill but no show. We looked at the pier and wandered onto sad closed old boat which was no longer trading as a museum. At £5 a head no surprise. The deli was open for coffee and although nice food in the deli the coffee was not. Got some more supplies. Then off to Lochgilphead for big well stocked Coop and even more supplies. Also things for Chris’ sore mouth. Good coffee drunk in car in rain. On a bit more but in good time so stopped for a bit of diesel in Tarbet plus 20p wee. Chris got some more gloves. Then to Kennacraig quickly got tickets and loaded onto RORO (Roll On Roll Off, not one we had to row, row) boat. 2 hour easy trip only a bit of rolling. Bar full of hard drinkers. Chris shared her lunch of leftovers and bread and cheese with me cos for some mysterious reason she had taken my lunch out of the lunch bag! As we Rolled Off we asked for the ferry to Jura and there it was adjacent to the CalMac. Us and 4 other cars whizzed over to Feolin in 5 minutes. We drove around the south east tip to Craighouse saying I don’t remember this, in fact still saying this the next day. The cottage is near the centre of the village, it’s a left paw semi. Little garden behind big hedge. It overlooks Small Isles Bay. Summer house. Cottage nice and well equipped although some oddities. We find we have left a bag with garlic carrots red pepper rhubarb and weirdly both our boxes of eggs and 2 packets of energy bars at the youth hostel. Chris tackles the kitchen and I make the beds up. There are 2 bedrooms but 1 is bunks. After a while we set out for the village in the rain. Walk down pier and jetty. Look at Antlers resto and go to hotel for rubbishy beer. Back home I make courgette and broccoli risotto with spring onions which we eat with greens with lemon. Chris bakes bread. We drink gin beer and whisky, not all at once and not even all for both. Bath very hot and cold water only available via the shower! Then sleep like a baby.
From Craighouse


Sunday 22 May
Leisurely start with breakfast of muesli yoghurt toast. I may soon stop saying this as there is very little variation in what I eat for breakfast. This is the point at which we realise all the food that is missing that we’ve left at the hostel. Each thinking the other has got it but still can’t quite work out how our veg and eggs have all got together. Make sandwiches and drive up to Knockrome. Drive down to the School House which now has nice new track. House looks very nicely done up now and not the derelict old ruin we stayed in for a fortnight 21 years ago. Then there was no track and we just had to walk across the bog with our suitcases. We park up and head to the sea and lots of seals are basking on rocks and splashing in sea. Difficult walk on bog rocks with seaweed all stinky. Come to swan on nest and skirt round her then big black bull and cows with babies so more avoidance. I cower behind C!  Oyster catchers. Get away from waterside as going too hard. Onto track past farm and across to houses where old man and dog Pilot gave us tea before. His huge Victorian pile sadly unoccupied and starting to rot. Lunch behind barn out of wind. C then charges up the rocks towards the split in the cliffs of which there is some half baked tale of leaping across. Then we head back. There is a 4×4 on the track ahead and a small white dog is ejected from the driver side just as we walk up, Juran dog exercising method. C talks to dog and I tell it to get down. Its lady owner surprised to see us. We return to car collecting firewood. Look in at Corran Sands which C has marked up for a swim in her wet suit. Back at house C makes good fire and very good lamb sausages coriander mash carrots and broccoli followed by creme caramel. I make first batch of flapjack to actually stick together firmly but oven too hot fierce and high so need chisel to get at it. Sit in summer house and watch sea at 10.30. Bordeaux then bed.

Across Lowlandman’s Bay
Across Lowlandman’s Bay
The Paps, actually just 2 as the one on the right is not
Across the gap in the cliff
The Paps of Jura
Across Lowlandman’s Bay


Monday 23 May
Woke at 7. Read in bed and then roused ourselves to get up and out. First stop was the shop to stock up on some of our lost supplies. Bread arrives in the afternoon but not today as no ferries are running because of the stormy weather. We get some eggs, frozen peas, soup and garlic and some postcards. Then over the road to the Antlers Bistro, disappointed that despite the advert, it seems not to be run by 2 poofs. Coffee and cake but not that nice, not horrid just not lovely. I ask about the School House and we find that Victoria (not Vic anymore) has married a much older Juran man and had 2 kids, sold up and gone to live in Limousin. Also that the old man has just had a heart attack. At least now we can stop imagining that every passing car is driven by Vic who in my head has totally changed her appearance and become unrecognisable.  Return to the cottage and pack up lunch of rye bread and flapjack and crisps. Head out in car maybe to walk across to Loch Tarbert at the narrowest part of the island depending on what it/we feel/s like. Drive past Lagg and great sea vistas up towards Tarbert and come to tree across the road. There is car behind it so I check no-one hurt and no-one is in car so that’s ok but see another fallen tree is sandwiching the car. C turns our car round and first we pick up Richard who has appeared out of the woods and is very wet and has lost Martin. Then I run down to approaching Land Rover and explain what has happened and he says he will chainsaw the tree. Next we leave a note on Martin’s car to say we have picked up Richard and back we go to Craighouse, shoving him out to return to their caravan at Keils. We get in to find a power cut at 2pm which is still in place as I write at 10pm. Back to the shop to buy coal and fire lighters but no bread as they are keeping the freezers tight shut. We read a bit and then go out for air to walk up to Keils and the cemetery, passing the caravan so we know that madman Martin has got back ok as the 2 old fools had parted company in terrible weather on hills. We meet Annie who directs us twice to the cemetery and tells us she has put her long drawers back on! Despite the informality she fusses over us and tells us not to fall in the burn. She is a nice old lady and I like her. We manage not to fall in and look round the cemetery which is very old and has some really old stones including what I think is a Templar one. It is on a raised section of land tucked away at the base of the hill with a fine sea view. We wander back and see the man from the shop who is standing in his doorway reading, so we know the light is not back on. He says his son has left us some kindling but he must be really dopey as he has left the bag next to the money we left out for him! On return I keep trying to find my new gloves but they have run away. I am annoyed at the recent run of lost things as never normally lose anything. Thankfully we have the gas burner so dinner is meze of hummus olives and stuffed vine leaves and oatcakes for starters followed by leftovers soup with extra onion and cannelini beans herbs and spring onions which is very delicious and with cheese on top. Carol very clever has rung Scottish Hydro but all they are saying is that it’s too windy to climb the pole to fix it. Must be a big pole as the whole of Jura and Islay are without electricity. We are fine as have the coal fire, candles and head lamps and the gas burner. It won’t be so much fun if it continues tomorrow.

Fallen tree
On a mission
Oldy headstone
Another one
From ye ancient cemetery


Tuesday 24 May
I woke at 7 to find the electric had returned during the night. So I celebrated by getting all the washing up done, then a thorough Hoover and a nice long shower. Chris was still sleeping through all this, sort of. We had bacon for breakfast and made up sandwiches. Then a walk to the shop for a few more supplies, a spot of recycling although why they can’t put the glass with all the other types I don’t know. I logged on at the Antlers. We set off and passed Mrs Cameron’s funeral and parked up at the misnamed Evan’s Walk, misnamed because Evans only had one leg and travelled on horseback. Martin and Richard were doing the same hill as us and after we had taken photos of an American couple and they of us, I found I had left the map at the cottage so we went back and saw the piper for Mrs Cameron. Also saw some baby swans. Set off again with map for the long bog trudge. Went up to Loch na Cloiche and then headed west up the mountain of Corra Bheinn. Fairly straightforward climb but a lot of wind and squalls. I got to the top thinking Chris was right behind me only to find she wasn’t. Just as I started to worry her head appeared. The view is fantastic you can see all round the island with the sea on both sides and Loch Tarbert and lochans high up, but terribly windy so we ate our sandwiches, I put on a Compeed and off we went back down taking a more direct route to meet a path that would take us to the car. We reached a fast flowing river and it took a while to get us both across safely as the rocks were slippery. Chris had already excelled herself by sitting in the bog and now her feet got a bit more wet. Soon we were back at the car and Martin and Richard’s car was still parked up so hope they got back too. We’d been out for 6 hours. Drove back past a load of Shelduck ducklets. Back to cottage, Chris cooked up tuna casserole and I had a shower, I did bread while she had a bath. We ate all the casserole and drank all the Chablis. I then made flapjack and while it cooked we went to the pub for coffee and Jura whisky on the fiver we had found. We also got details of the RSPB reserve on Islay for tomorrow from the Antlers’ free wifi. More whisky – Caol Ila and bed.

Ready for Corra Bheinn
Towards Loch Tarbert
Bog woman
Is it raining?
Big bugger we did not attempt


Wednesday 25 May
After breakfast of boiled egg and home made bread we packed our lunches and set off to Feolin to the ferry to Port Askaig. A quick hop over and we were on Islay. It’s mainly quite flat with big expanses of flat with nothing in them but wet and bog. We stopped at a RSPB reserve and drank machine hot chocolate. Went on a bit further and parked by the sea and had a look at some horses in a shed who had lots of lovely hay. There were remains of several concrete bunkers and gun emplacements. By the shore the waves were huge. Back in the car for our sandwiches and my first truly successful flapjack. We went on a bit more to the Kilchoman distillery and its visitor centre. This was lovely, a new distillery on a farm selling nice things. We had good coffee and I tasted 2 whiskies. Then to Bowmore which seemed almost exactly the same apart from a new square and tourist info. centre. We heard some folk music (Islay whisky festival) and watched a handful of bearded old men get pissed in the cold wind. Had a great shopping spree. The lady in the soap shop said the storm was the worst in the 10 years she’d been there. She said it made her plants black and our windows are now very dirty with volcanic dust. There was talk in the town of the switch to digital TV and the new ferry arriving today! After buying up the town and draining it of whisky we got some more diesel at an eye watering 1.55p per litre, nearly as bad as the 30 year old Laphraoig at a mere £750 per bottle. Then back onto the little boat to return to Feolin. The water was very rocky on the Sound and we saw dolphins playing and swooping. The little boat rocked about a lot and I worried we would not be able to get off it but the rolling off platform was still so didn’t need to fret. Dinner of Thai green chicken curry and trifle. Now very full.

Chris told me about the Rapture people on the trip up and this barmy story has continued to amuse. I expect the storm was part of it all and we have been punished for being gay.
Cows on the beach


Thursday 26 May
We had decided last night that we would change plans and leave the island a day early. We were just fed up with all the rain and bog. Despite this we woke early and set out early having packed lunches and breakfasted. We drove up the road as far as you can go which is just past the turn to Inverlussa at Lealt. We saw Martin and Richard getting out of their car at the point where the road ceases to be an A road at Ardlussa. This is a fab big house and one of the 4 or 5 estates for stalking that divide Jura. The road continues for another couple of miles although its condition is fairly poor for quite a long time even when it’s A status. We parked up and then set off on foot. Arrived at Barnhill after an hour and a half. We didn’t bother to go and poke around this time. It would appear to be occupied now. Next stop was Kinuachdrach which is the most northerly house on the island and definitely occupied. Their generator was whirring away. There is no electricity after Ardlussa although one house had made the most of wind and sun with an array of solar panels in the garden. Kinuachdrach had 3 Land Rovers but were not keen for anyone else to use the track which is fair enough. At the house which the map says is a bunkhouse we turned off left to do the last 2 miles to Corryvreckan, on a small path through a lot of bog. I worried about this as Chris says she hates bog and there was a lot of it. We eventually got to the whirlpool but it was quite calm compared with previous visit. The sign where we parked the car said to allow 3 hours each way but we had already taken 4 hours by the time we’d eaten lunch in a slightly more sheltered bit of bog. As we started back the rain came on for the rest of the day. Chris’ waterproofs yesterday had made me giggle uncontrollably as her legs were foaming with soap bubbles in great profusion! We made fast progress back to Kinuachdrach in 45 minutes and saw the only 2 people for the day, 2 lads who looked very fit. They were on very expensive bicycles with very expensive locks. Another short hop and we were back at Eric Blair’s house. Got back to the car at 5.20 so our return trip took under 3 hours. Feet sore after 14 miles on hard surfaces. Headed back with a call in to Inverlussa but the lady who brings out tea and cakes seemed not to be open today. Got back to Craighouse at 6.30, raced in, C made hot chocolate in the microwave and jumped in the bath, she had got cold with being so wet. I showered and then we were in the Antlers on time having glugged back a big glass of bubbly as they don’t have a licence and charge corkage.  I had samosas and C had haddock chowder, then both had steak and we shared a creme brûlée made with Baileys which I would have liked more made without. Graham said the other named man at the Antlers was leaving so we didn’t press him. Nice meal, back at cottage struggling to get fire blazing. Caol Ila is lovely. We have decided to stick with original plan and pootle around tomorrow. We saw several deer, some in groups and one very fine chap on his own. Also heard a cuckoo which C thinks may be a hoopoe and saw a siskin or it could have been a greenfinch but we think it was a siskin.
Deer through windscreen
House where Eric wrote 1984 (Barnhill)
Ships that pass in the day
My feet hurt
Mine too


Friday 27 May
Walked to the village all 100m away. Recycled. Shop for stamps. Distillery for cards oh and some more whisky. Village hall for craft fair – nicer cards. Chris had made bread so we made up lunches and drove off to Knockrome and parked up nearly at Ardfenal. Wandered about the bay in at An Dunan looking for otters. None of them today but a party of seals came to see us and some dolphins although I barely saw them thanks to my drizzle coated specs. Sandwiches on the point then up to see cormorants. Also a very old cairn on the area where the old fort is. Walked back and it really rained on us so glad to return to delicious hot chocolate and hot buttered toasted malt loaf. Spent the evening packing up, eating lovely pasta bake of mixed vegetables and cheese, drinking wine and whisky. Did some crosswords and went to bed late. Chris died her hair during this too. Wrote a letter to the caretaker suggesting that they do what the job title says. Will also make suggestions to the cottage company.
Saturday 28 May
Got up at 6.30 after not enough sleep. Finished off packing up and left the house cleaner than we got it except we didn’t do the floors again. Chris restrained herself from burning the dried grasses which were part of the decoration! Set off for Feolin and saw some of the fell runners getting ready to attempt the 7 fells including the three Paps in just over 3 hours. They must not actually see the view in that time, just the bog beneath their feet and I don’t know how you can run very fast in bog. There were no otters at Feolin, both sad not to see otters or wild goats who now live on the west side of the island. Smooth crossings both to Port Askaig and to Kennacraig. We only had a small muesli breakfast at the cottage so had decided to treat ourselves to a second breakfast on the boat, both hoping for croissant, but we ended up with “hot” rolls with 2 fillings. C had bacon and sausage and I had sausage and beans. I don’t know what possessed me to opt for sausage as I normally won’t eat them if don’t know where they’ve come from. Anyway it was a poor choice and we were squashed at a table with some old gits we didn’t like so we ate up and got good coffee and went on deck. Took lots of photos of the elusive Paps as we left them behind. It was a really lovely day and warm in the sun, a right bugger after all the bloody rain. It’s just a shower, meaning a thorough cloudburst drenching. I managed to get drenched in 30 seconds while packing the car first thing, as that’s how long it took to get my anorak on. After arrival at Kennacraig we next stopped at Inveraray to look in the Christmas shop but it was a bit mad in there and pricey, both put me off. Then stopped at Loch Fyne to get supplies for lunch and saw some friendly people from the boat, whose cousins we had photoed and who we had photoed before the walk to up Corra Bheinn. Then we went all the way to New Lanark only getting a tiny bit lost in Glasgow because the navigator wasn’t concentrating. The driver was very calm about this and luckily we saw a sign which put us right. The road from the motorway to New Lanark is notable for a vast quantity of garden centres and nurseries, we must have passed 6. Got to Lanark, GPS said one thing and we didn’t do it so went to Morrisons, got some more beer and then found youth hostel in New Lanark which is fab preservation place where Robert Owen was manager. Hostel is old millworkers’ dwellings and run by New Zealander. Very clean and we get big room with tiny window about a foot square next to the floor. But room has its own loo and shower so is most luxurious. Mad time making dinner with lots of people. I chat to man who has had terrible time with his eye and it sounded like they had taken it out, given it a scrub round and shoved it back in. I told him I had to eat my dinner. We had sweet corn for starter and then cauli and broccoli in carbonara sauce with extra cheese and bacon. It was a bit on the heavy side but the manager seemed to like the smell so we let him lick the spoon. I washed up but must admit to struggling with communal kitchen use as some people don’t rinse and some (us included) don’t use the right chopping boards and some don’t use the right sinks for things. I have decided to take my own crocks and pots next time, well so long as am in a car. Drank some beer and then wandered round the mills all to ourselves and up nature walk along the Clyde, lots wild flowers, and chances of creatures but all quiet tonight. Fab view of falls and 1929 hydroelectric power station. Back for more beer.
View from the cottage
Seaview cottage
Impersonating an otter
Paps, what Paps?
Water wheel at New Lanark
The Falls of the Clyde


Sunday 30 May

Muesli yoghurt toast boiled egg. Got YH card stamped. Out to see 2 baby peregrine falcons and their mother on perilous rocky ledge through a powerful telescope. Nice man told us all about them. Went up to top of falls and watched machine clear out leaves and debris from the water being diverted to the turbine below. Back to New Lanark for coffee and cake before going into the various bits of heritage experience. Some of this was really naff and some of it was very interesting. If you go, don’t bother with Annie McLeod’s ride but do go to the roof garden, the mill workers’ houses and Robert Owen’s house. The overall place is lovely and wasn’t madly full of people, it’s clean and is in fab setting on the steep banks of the Clyde. The falls are spectacklier. We eventually set off stopping on the way for an M&S snack and then at Tebay for more yummy things to take home and eat.

We were both fed up it was such a wet week. So here’s to a future dry trip.
Door to Falls walk


1929 hydro electric power station, still in use today


Smaller volume of water in Falls
Do not walk across this bridge
In the roof garden
 Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.