Paps in a Diaphanous T-Shirt

Glengarrisdale Bay

Glengarrisdale Bay

Last summer, my friend Fiona worked as a SYHA warden at the Port Charlotte youth hostel on Islay. When I visited her there at the summer’s end, we made the short ferry crossing of the Sound of Islay to explore the isle of Jura for a few days. When we arrived, the riotous Jura Music Festival was underway in Craighouse, the Island’s main settlement, which is home to some 180 souls.

For all of this fixture’s raucous entertainment value, however, the highlight of our trip was a day spent traversing Benin Shiantaidh and Beinn an Oir – the highest of the three dome-like, quartzite mountains comprising the strikingly beautiful Paps of Jura. Characteristically of the island, we had to make do without paths for much of the walk and struggled through tussocky bogs to reach the foot of the mountains. Such inconveniences were forgotten as we scrambled and clambered on the mountains’ scree-strewn flanks. A strong wind and fast-moving low cloud meant that our view of the world beyond our immediate vicinity was intermittent and fleeting. However, to the north, occasional snatched glimpses down through Glen Batrick to Loch Tarbert – a body of water that all but bisects the island in its middle – offered a tantalising vista of sunlit white sand and glittering blue water.

Beinn a' chaolais from Beinn an Oir

Beinn a' Chaolais from Beinn an OIr

After our draughty day on the Paps, Fiona launched her aspiration to walk Jura’s remote west coast into my orbit. I immediately nominated myself for the post of walking partner in this enterprise and we set about planning the trip for the following spring. However, despite extensive research, we failed to turn up any guide-books or articles covering the West Coast of Jura walk, excepting one hugely amusing though almost entirely uninformative account in The Angry Corrie – the Scottish online hill-walking journal. One thing we did know for sure, as the Ordnance Survey Explorer map confirmed, was that there were no footpaths to follow around the west coast, marked or otherwise. To the uninitiated it might seem that all one needs to do to walk along a stretch of coastline is to keep the sea on one side of you. Not so – as we will see.

At the end of the following April, we arrived at the start of our walk on a warm and balmy afternoon, having taken a coach from Glasgow’s Buchanan Street bus station and the ferries from Kennacraig to Port Askaig on Islay and from there to Feolin Ferry on Jura. The local bus, which we had had to pre-book, collected us from the ferry and drove us via Craighouse to the head of the road at Ardlussa, which comprises a handsome manor house with an agglomeration of farm buildings and estate workers’ houses, situated several miles above Jura’s wasp-waist on the east coast. The journey can’t be much more than 15 miles, but it took us around two hours, partly on account of the rustic, single-track nature of the road, though more because the bus also serves as a milk float, delivery van, school bus and mobile community news dissemination medium. This enthralling, multi-faceted cultural experience cost us all of £3.50 each.

The Hebridean Princess at Port Askaig withthe Paps of Jura across the Sound of Islay

The MV Hebridean Isles at Port Askaig with the Paps of Jura across the Sound of Islay

Shouldering our loads – camping kit, food and fuel for five days – we began the nine mile walk north to Kinuachdrachd, our destination for the night. We began walking under a clear blue sky at five o’clock and the hills and sea lochs that made up our view were imbued with a warm ochre-tinged evening light. Our path (on the east coast where they have such things) was essentially a land rover track, the going underfoot was good and we reached our destination in under three hours.

A mile before Kinuachdrachd, just off the track and lying in a small valley that slopes down toward the Sound of Jura, sits Barnhill. This rather charmless house – definitely not cottage, as I’m sure I’ve heard it described – is where George Orwell lived between 1946-48. It is here, in the years before his death in January 1950, from the tuberculosis that had seriously debilitated him for several years, that Orwell wrote 1984. Here, all but completely removed from mid-20th century society, it is hard to know how he conjured the claustrophobic dystopia of Airstrip One and the malign, omnipresent gaze of Big Brother. On such a mellow evening no answer presented itself, so we stepped on toward our billet for the night.

Fiona on the track above Barnhill

Fiona on the track above Barnhill

Our accommodation turned out to be an old outhouse – a satellite of the farmhouse at Kinuachdrachd. The owners are friendly people, but the ‘bothy’ is actually a miniature bunkhouse and it put me in mind of a dwelling from The Hobbit. The night we stayed there was also a herd of nocturnal mice in residence. Still, we made the most of the evening light and sat outside to cook our tuna and rice fandango on the trangia. As we ate, a family of domesticated goats came by and a rather cuddly kid-goat hung around us soliciting for food, affection and a space in our billet for the night.

Fiona engages in a bit of kidology

Fiona engages in a bit of kidology

We woke early. It had been a windy night. We crawled from our sleeping bags, brewed some tea and I cooked some fancy Sassenach porridge – which involved raisins – much to the outrage of Fiona’s austere Caledonian sensibilities. Our host came to collect payment and warned us that gale force winds and driving rain had been forecast to hit the island around the middle of the day. We packed our rucksacks and, with mild trepidation, stepped out on the last vestige of path, which runs north for two miles from Kinuachdrachd. As the path climbed a little, the island of Scarba, which lay directly ahead of us, gradually began to detach itself from the bulk of the northern end of Jura. The Gulf of Corryvreckan, a narrow strait separating the two islands and the often turbulent confluence of the Sounds of Islay and Jura, came in to view. The tidal convergence of conflicting currents in the Gulf are catalysed by a submerged rock, generating a whirlpool of some considerable power, which poses a real threat to any craft navigating the channel. In August 1947, George Orwell, when returning from a camping trip on the west coast with his three-year-old adopted son Richard and a nephew and niece, steered his small rowing boat into the Gulf and rapidly got into difficulties. The boat’s outboard motor was wrenched off in the violent tumult of water and disaster was narrowly forestalled as the party managed to scramble to safety on a small island when the boat capsized. Several hours later, they were rescued by a passing fishing boat. As we looked down on the Gulf, Fiona and I were hoping to spot this infamous, aqueous vortex, but we were disappointed. However, the sinuous power of the crosscurrents and undertows tugging and twisting through the strait was evident; the thousand yards of open water separating Jura and Scarba present a formidable obstacle.

Turning west, we left the path behind; this was a bit like losing the script and being let off the leash at the same time. Paths, particularly the way marked variety, offer the walker a certain amount of navigational security, especially in challenging environments such as mountains and jungle, but the challenge of reading the landscape and employing one’s navigational skills to forge a route can also be quite liberating. We had five days of orientational autonomy ahead of us.

Local wildlife

Local wildlife

The first route-finding issue to present itself to us was the need to remain vigilant in a terrain that is chock full of bogs with varying breadths, depths and degrees of, well, bogginess. A practical lesson in the perils of inattention soon arrived. I was some 20 paces in advance of Fiona, when I heard an anxious yelp. I turned to see that she had marched right into a particularly boggy bog that I had myself neatly sidestepped seconds before. She was stuck, right up to her knees, wearing a look which I can only compare with the dumb terror of cattle catching the first whiff of bovine blood on the air as they are herded into the abattoir. Placing Fiona’s arms around my shoulders and my arms around her middle, I gave her a good yank. She was really stuck. We took off her rucksack to reduce the unhelpful effects of gravity and attempted a variety of holds that owed much to a combination of Astanga Yoga and all-in wrestling. Finally, one leg at a time, I managed to pull her free. Resisting the impulse to photograph Fiona in her predicament, borne of a composite of respect for her human dignity and fear of the likely consequences, cost me dear.

For the next couple of hours, we were able to continue our walk in an incident free fashion. Keeping one eye to the weather – it had become rather blowy and we were anticipating the threatened gales – we marvelled at the great natural beauty of the landscape we were passing through. We forged a route beneath low cliffs, through rocky outcrops, around sandy bays and across raised pebble beaches. We passed a great many natural caves, including some of impressive dimensions; indeed, several showed signs of recent or continuing occupation by wild goats. Others had clearly been inhabited by men at some point; most likely fishermen or hunters. Dry stone walls enhanced the natural shelter of one, in which we found various fishing related equipment. Fiona also told me about an artist who had recently lived in a cave on her own here for an entire year, making ephemeral artworks employing natural materials and the elements.

Between a rock and a hard place

Between a rock and a hard place

After a lunch of bread, cheese and salami, we headed on toward Glengarrisdale, our destination for the night. The sky darkened as thick grey clouds bubbled up from the south, though the forecast gales had yet to materialise. The weather held for a further hour, then a steady rain began to fall just as we caught our first sight of the white-walled and orange-roofed bothy at Glengarrisdale. We negotiated our way along a spectacular, rocky stretch of coastline and, within half an hour, stepped on to the beach where the Glen opens out to meet the sea. The bothy sat 250 yards away, at the southern end of the beach. No smoke rose from the chimney, but we wondered as we approached whether we would have company for the evening. It is also possible to walk to Glengarrisdale from ‘Road End’, between Ardlussa and Kinuachdrachd, a distance of four and a half miles, as Fiona had herself done the previous summer. On that occasion she had had the bothy to herself when she arrived, but was joined later by four lads from Glasgow armed with guitars and plenty of booze. A convivial evening ensued.

Glengarrisdale bothy

Glengarrisdale bothy

This particular afternoon, however, the bothy was unoccupied – excepting the ubiquitous herd of mice – and, on account of the weather, we thought it unlikely that anyone would turn up later. The bothy was an old crofting cottage with two rooms and a tool store downstairs with the attic space given over for sleeping. A couple of netting arrangements slung from the rafters served as beds. One of the downstairs rooms had a hearth, the other a small, pot-bellied wood burning stove. It was cold and damp, so there was no option other than to head back out in to the rain and seek some firewood. An hour later, I returned laden with drift wood and got the stove going. We sat gazing at the flames and tucked in to our supper, which we supplemented with pasta and tinned kidney beans left by previous visitors.

The promised gales failed to put in an appearance and in the morning the sun was shining, the sky was blue. After a wash in a nearby stream and removing a deer tick from Fiona’s leg with her special Danish tick-remover, we shovelled down a plate of austere Caledonian porridge, packed-up and continued on our way. In truth it was a little cold for shorts, but Fiona valiantly persisted in exposing her pale limbs to the elements even after they had developed an interesting abstract arrangement of red and purple blotches.

We cut across the neck of a small promontory, to avoid what we had decided was an un-navigable stretch of coastline and tiptoed through some rather boggy old peat-cuttings before descending to the shoreline once more.1 We steered our way through broken, rocky outcrops, climbed grass-bottomed gullies and clambered across rocks on the shoreline. We were finding that forging a route beneath the cliffs was becoming difficult in places and on a couple of occasions we faced the choice of backtracking or extricating ourselves from an impassable stretch of coastline by means of some precipitate sea-cliff climbing. Obviously we opted for the latter. It was not always possible to tell from the map which stretches of shoreline were un-navigable, so we decided that if we were unsure we would stay above the cliffs; which we did for the greater part of the morning. Atop the cliffs, the going was generally easier and we were afforded some wonderful views across the hills in the interior as they tumbled down towards the sea.

The wild west coast

The wild west coast

We had discovered that goat tracks often made for the best routes along the cliff tops; many such tracks had been worn into very distinct paths, perhaps by generations of goats literally following in the footsteps (or hoof prints) of their predecessors. We were constantly putting groups of wild goats and red deer to flight; they probably don’t encounter many people and most of those that they do would be hunters. We were also frequently encountering goat and deer carcasses; the smell of putrefying flesh keeping in check our reveries about the great natural beauty of the environment we were walking through.

Expired goat

Expired goat

By noon, it had become a very beautiful day indeed. The chill had gone from the air and the clean, clear light rendered colours acid-sharp. The sea shone metallically – blue-black, permanent. Last year’s ferns, now rust-hued and buckled, swathed the hillsides and cliff tops in an orange-brown cloak. In summer, this stretch of coast must be a fecund riot of green as the new ferns unfurl. However, as Fiona observed, the new growth would make walking here very challenging indeed. As we continued on our way south, the low-lying northern tip of the isle of Colonsay appeared to the south-west and would stay with us for the next day and a half.

In the early afternoon we dropped below the cliffs once more and strode out along beautiful sandy strands and clonked across pebble-beached bays strewn with maritime detritus, including lobster pots, marker-buoys and fish crates. Eventually, however, we had to take to the cliff tops again to avoid an un-navigable stretch. We were rewarded by fine views of a spectacular stepped waterfall, the kind of cascade you might expect to find in Iceland. Further on, we encountered the first of a number ‘raised beaches’ – huge expanses of pebbles lying, inexplicably, up to a kilometre inland from the shoreline.

Waterfall at Sliabh Allt an-Tairbh

Waterfall at Sliabh Allt an Tairbh

Descending again, we plied a route through gullys and between rocky outcrops until we rounded a promontory and were delivered into the northern end of Shian Bay, which ran away from us in a mile-long, sandy-shored curve. Shian Bay is outrageously beautiful and, of course, there was no-one there – except a herd of Red Deer, which, upon our arrival, galloped off in a hectic blur of elegant but impractical headgear. To get to Shian Bay you have to take a boat (or sea kayak) walk at least eight miles from the nearest road or take a convoluted and challenging land rover track, which would wreck most so-called SUVs. Small blessings. We were happy to have the bay to ourselves. We pitched the tent and gathered fire wood. As night descended, the air grew cold and the fire we built served more than a merely decorative function. We looked out to sea and, at some length, gazed at the lights twinkling on the east coast of Colonsay.

Driftwood fire at Shian Bay

Driftwood fire at Shian Bay

The following morning dawned overcast and with the threat of rain in the air. After tea and porridge, we struck camp and continued on our way. We stayed atop the initially low-lying cliff tops and steered our way between a number of raised beaches as crossing these pebbly expanses makes for hard-going; it is, however, a truly remarkable landscape. After a couple of hours, we picked up some disjointed sections of old land rover tracks, which made the going somewhat easier. The wind had risen and we kept up a good pace to keep ourselves warm. A little further on we arrived at the bothy at Ruantallain (Rubh’ an t-Sàilean ) not far from the south-western tip of northern Jura. Ruantallain has a beautiful location; looking down on the western reaches of Loch Tarbert, across which lie the Paps of Jura. This morning, the Paps were capped with purplish-blue, rain-swollen clouds. We took shelter from the wind awhile in the rather forlorn bothy and fired up a reinvigourating brew.

Ruantallain bothy

Ruantallain and the bothy

Revived, we decided we should crack on to the bothy at Cruib Lodge as it wasn’t yet midday and the rain had held off. The wind was building and, zipped and poppered-up, we attempted to navigate a course that avoided too much height-loss or gain. Again, excepting animal tracks, there were no real paths to speak of, though a land rover track plotted a route higher up between the hills. Our route was servicable though not an unqualified success and we had to do a fair amount of up and down. The going was tough, often boggy and tussocky, and Cruib Lodge kept failing to appear over the next hillock. Eventually we spotted the bothy just above the shore in a small bay and descended toward the coast. Cruib Lodge is on one of Jura’s big estates and from a distance we could see that there were a couple of estate workers building a deer-fence around a coppice of young trees. They were the first people we’d seen for three days. Just as we arrived at the bothy it started to rain. Providence. Cruib Lodge is another example of the forlorn bothy; it and we both needed cheering up with a fire. Fiona retired for a wee disco-nap and I set about foraging for wood.

I returned shortly after, damp and virtually empty-handed. There are few trees on the island, excepting some coniferous plantations, and the drift wood that we had been able to gather on coastal beaches didn’t seem to drift this far up the loch. Outside it was wet and windy, inside the bothy the air was damp and chilly; a fire would be a great help. From outside the sound of an engine thrummed towards the rear of the bothy and stuttered-out close by. Moments later, a pair of oil-skinned figures passed the rain-streaked window. There followed a knock at the door, which I opened to the two men who’d been working on the deer-fence. Here were two of the finest examples of weather-beaten, horny-handed sons of the sea and soil you’d ever be likely to meet. ‘I don’t know if you’re planning on firing’, says the first man to me, ‘but there’s some kittens in the back of the vehicle if you want them’, jerking his thumb behind him. I thanked him very much and off they went to haul in their small motor-boat. I felt sure that he wasn’t offering me a batch of small cats, but I thought I’d better check. I walked around to the rear of the bothy, where their moon-buggy like forestry vehicle was parked, in the back of which was a pile of fencing-post off-cuts – ‘kittens’ – obviously! So we did have a blazing fire in the hearth after all and very welcome it was too.

Burning kittens at Cruib Lodge

The next morning was dry, but rain still looked a distinct possibility. We decided that we’d follow an old land rover track inland for a bit to avoid more of the ups, downs and difficult terrain that we’d experienced the previous day. The track climbed steadily and after a while we had splendid views back across the loch to the Paps. The track continued inland and we decided to drop down across a river valley and forge a route to the head of the loch. The morning sky had cleared somewhat and we were in good spirits as we negotiated a slightly tricky river crossing. We hopped across on large stones and kept our feet dry. We climbed up and over a spur and then kept our height for a kilometre before descending a diagonal path down a steep bank towards the marshy mud flats at the head of the loch. Crossing this area called for a little improvisation, but while attempting to jump a bog I stuffed my leg in up to my thigh in wet bogginess. This didn’t interact with my deterioating personal hygiene in a positive fashion.

Above Loch Tarbert

Above Loch Tarbert

Having reached the head of the loch, we had in fact completed the West Coast of Jura walk, however, we’d planned to continue along the southern shore of the loch to Glen Batrick Bay, which we’d espied from atop the Paps the previous summer. Initially, our route around the south of the loch was fairly straightforward and we were able to follow a trodden path for a while. Inevitably, this petered out after a while and we were back to route-finding by sight, using the map to keep on course. The terrain made for hard going – undulating hillocks gave way to tussocky bogs – and I was beginning to feel a bit weary. We narrowly avoided losing each other when I’d gone ahead a little to scout – a reminder of just how easy it can be to get into a pickle when you let your guard down. The rain had held off thus far, but it threatened to tip down at any time. The wind had picked up and we sheltered in a tor-like rocky outcrop to munch on our rye bread-cheese-salami lunch.

Continuing on, we dropped down to the loch shore and walked around a series of small beaches. Arriving at a larger pebble beach we had to cross the sluice-gate of a small dammed loch; this was a little hairy, though accomplished without mishap. Cutting across the next promontory we looked down on and marvelled at an impressive natural feature – a huge, banked pebble beach separating a large freshwater loch from Loch Tarbert. We dropped down and crossed the beach, then had to remove our boots for a chilly river crossing. Re-shod, we took on the last mile or so to Glenbatrick Bay.

Raised beach on the southern shore of Loch Tarbert

Raised beach on the southern shore of Loch Tarbert

Glen Batrick and its eponymous river descend for three or so miles to Loch Tarbert from Loch na Fùdarlaich which lies at the foot of the north-eastern flank of Beinn Shiantaidh, the eastern-most of the Paps. River and glen meet the loch at golden-beached Glenbatrick Bay and this is where we planned to camp for the night. My first thought on arriving at Glenbatrick Bay was: ‘what’s a bloody great house doing here?’; for there is a very large Victorian house perched in the middle of the bay, just yards from the loch shore. It’s a mite incongrous in its wild setting and rather impractical looking; a forlorn bothy would seem more appropriate to the location. Access to the house requires a six-mile walk in from the Craighouse-Ardlussa road or, more practically, a boat. Anyway, when we arrived, the house was shuttered-up and looked as if it had been for a while; so we felt at our ease to take advantage of its improbable front lawn to pitch our tent. Why is it that the British – and our Antipodean and North American cousins – always seem hell bent on nurturing a patch of lawn at all costs, even in the wildest or least conducive environments?

Tent pitched, we went about the evening ritual of wood gathering and fire building. Glenbatrick Bay was festooned with drift wood so we soon had a roaring blaze going in an elaborately fashioned hearth. After the evening’s business of eating and gazing out across the water had been conducted, we retired to the tent. Shortly after, it started to rain heavily. We both lay awake listening to the rain pummelling the flysheet and playing I-spy – which is a rather limited pastime in a tent.

Glenbatrick Bay

Glenbatrick Bay

The morning brought us fine weather once more and we marvelled at how we’d managed to stay dry all week, given the quantity of precipitation. We struck camp and headed up the Glen. Typically, the ‘path’ was a little inconsistent as we gradually climbed towards the Paps. Earlier in the week, there’d been big talk from both of us about knocking off a Pap or two on the way out, but we were both a bit knackered and the thought of showers, dinners and beers steered us straight past those lovely hills and then on down to the Craighouse road. On reaching the road, there’s a further four miles to be walked to Craighouse, so we put our heads down and strode onwards to our destiny with dinner. Fiona suggested taking a room at the minister’s house – which is a mile before Craighouse coming from Ardlussa – as he took in bed and breakfast guests. Unfortunately, it turned out that the minister was off on holiday that very afternoon – or so he said he was; perhaps our wild appearance and collective odour were too hideous a proposition. We stomped the last mile in to Craighouse and secured a room at The Jura Hotel, which is a comfy and inexpensive billet with good food, fine views and a convivial public bar attached. What’s more, the hotel’s cooked breakfast is excellent and plentiful.2

1 On a subsequent visit, we found that this stretch, initially north and then south-west of Glengarrisdale, is in fact navigable and very beautiful; there is a fine natural rock-arch two kilometres from the bothy. However, the going isn’t easy and it will take an hour or more to the next bay – Bàgh Gleann Speireig.

2 It’s also possible to camp on the lawn in front of The Jura Hotel for a small donation; showers and washing machines are also available for campers’ use.

If you enjoyed reading about the west coast of Jura there’s an account of a more recent trip I made with my friends Andy and Jen entitled A wet, wild and windy west coast wander,  and another visit to Jura is described in Rainberg Mór – The Great Rainy Mountain has its day in the sun.


42 responses

  1. Hi,
    loved the wee story there. Also I love Jura.
    I was onr of the four guys that Fiona met that year she was at Glengarrisdale herself. But we are not from Glasgow! We are/were from Clydebank.
    Met Fiona at the Folk festival the same year.
    I go to the folk festival every year with my wife and kids, looking forward to it this year as well as trying to get a walk done as well this year. So if the two of ye are going this year say hello. We will be in the massive green tent. two kids and a guitar and violin


  2. Stumbled across your posting by chance and it made for excellent reading. I’ve walked the western coast of the northern half of Jura about 9 times since I was 15 (I’m now 42!!) and never lose my love for the place -its a little piece of heaven. In fact if I am ever stuggling to sleep I try to remember the walk ( I usually start from Inverlussa and head straight across the island ) in my head – it works every time – I go to sleep smiling! Hoping to go back next year and kayak the coast… early days for my kayaking activities as yet but fingers crossed!

  3. Great description, and so well written, if I may say so! I’ve been intending to do that route for a while now, and it’s on the cards for next year – I’ll print it off and it will be with me when I next go to Jura. Sounds like we’ll need the gaiters……

    We once landed at Glenbatrick Lodge from Colonsay, and did the Paps from there – it’s an unusual approach but a really good one.

    Thanks for the post



  4. Awesome….is the word I’d use to describe Jura…really enjoyed your version of the island. I’m very keen to do the West Coast late March/early April so will defo pay attention to your pointers….I walked and camped from ‘road end’in 2003 with my X Jo Jo which including camping at the tip for the Corry…..amazin memories…so Jura here I come again!!
    Chin chin
    Geordie Ant

    • Hello Geordie Ant, have an excellent time on Jura and send my fond regards! I’m hoping to get back in early May myself. Have a look at A wet, wild and windy west coast wander as well if you can be bothered. It was written after a more recent trip and might give you some more ‘pointers’.
      All the best

  5. Wonderful to read your account. I have spent many happy days (and nights) on Jura over the past 25 years. Your photographs of the west coast brought back many memories. I have lead expeditions to Cruib Lodge (17 days on site) (check my email address!!), which allowed us every opportunity to explore the west coast on foot, by canoe and also by inflatable boat. We also spent time at Ruantallain, Shian and Corpach Bay. Stunning!!

    • Hello Rob

      Seems there’s a small but dedicated band of west coast of Jura enthusiasts out there. I think we must be a shy and reclusive species because in all my visits I’ve never encountered another soul on the west coast – that is apart from a bunch of loons doing an ‘Ultra Marathon’ a couple of years ago. They don’t count though really because they weren’t actually there when they were there so to speak. Anyway, maybe see you there some time.


  6. I’m YUKITO from JAPAN.
    Thanks very beautiful pics.And What’s a Wnder pics.

    I traveled islay island.And I wonder This island’s STANDING STONE.Next time I will travel at JURA and I want to see Dike and Standing Stone.

  7. Hi. I enjoyed reading of your adventures on Jura. I have stayed on Islay twice and had been looking up cottages when I came across your story.There’s no doubt that once you go to the Islands you want to go back. Not as active as I used to be, but still love the atmosphere and superb scenery of the islands,not to mention wild life.May the road always rise to meet you.Annette
    Good luck and may the road always rise to m eet you. Annette

  8. Hello Annette

    I keep returning to the Southern Hebrides because of their ‘atmosphere’ as well. Give Jura a visit next time you’re on Islay; there’s a whole load of atmosphere and not much else once you leave Craighouse behind. May the road rise with you also.

  9. This was a truly amazing account of your stay on Jura , I am planning a visit there myself in early 2011 , and am contemplating living wild there for a year or so , maybe even spending a while cave dwelling .

    • Hello Des, glad you liked the account. Living wild on Jura for a year would be a truly heroic endeavour. The artist, Julie Brook lived in a cave on the west coast for several periods – including an entire year – some years ago. The first thing you’d have to do if you wanted to live along the west coast for an extended period is to seek the permission of the various estates that own the land. The land is used for deer stalking and it’s important that they know you’re there. the west coast is a fantastic place, incredibly beautiful in an entirely wild way – but it can also be a harsh and unforgiving environment in many ways. I’d be interested to hear about your plans.

      All the best


  10. I enjoyed your article about walking the West coast of Jura. Made me want to return to the Isles.I stayed next door to the Port Charlotte Youth Hostel several years ago , in a cottage there. Love the place.
    Good luck for the future. Annette

    • Hello Anette,glad you enjoyed the wee post about the west coast of Jura. Port Charlotte is a splendid place indeed. Once people have visited they tend to return.

  11. Hi Peter.

    Thought you might be interested to know that Jura last weeknd hosted the island’s 17th Music Festival. A fantastic weekend of toe-tapping and foot-stomping with a wee dram or two as well of course! Jura has put together some video highlights packages of this weekend’s festivities featuring some artist performances and interviews which you can see at http://www.isleofjura.com/island-life/musicfestival.aspx. Well worth a view if you’re intrigued to get an insight into island life!


    • Thanks for that Harry. I’ve visited Jura many times, though only once for the Music Festival. I’ll have a look at the link and see who I can recognise!

  12. Just been to Jura..with mountainbike, and amazing island, met good people, the temps where very high, went through at least 5 litres of water on the 9 hour round trip by bike to Corryvreckan. Will be going back in August to do the Paps and west coast with my son and Sam our dog!…all the very best Jura! A fantastic week!

    • Excellent! Have a great time in August. Make sure Sam the dog has some protection against ticks though, the west coast is crawling with the blighters at this time of year. The O Tom tick fork is good for removing them.

  13. Hi Pete.
    What an amazing trip – I can’t believe I’ve been walking in Scotland for so long without realising the beauty of this unspolit and wild island. I love coastal walking but this area is true wilderness. I’m planning a trip to Jura next Easter with some friends, primarily to do the Paps (one of my pals is a bit of a bagger) but I’m more interested in the coast and high quality beachside wild camp. We were planning to walk from the ferry up the west coast for 5-6 miles and try and find a raised beach or similar to camp. Having read your post I’m wondering if taking the bus and walking to/from Glenbatrick might be better. I’d welcome any ideas you might have for good introductory visit to the island to take in some of magnificent coast with a decent wild campsite by the beach and climb the Paps in a 3 day/4 night trip.
    Off to read your other Jura post now – I’m inspired!

  14. Hmmm, 3 days, 4 nights? 1st night: bus to Ardlussa arrives 5pm, 3-4hr walk to Glengarrisdale bothy. Day 1: Glengarrisdale to Shian Bay (8hrs) Day 2: Shian Bay to Tarbert (7hrs), catch the 5.10pm bus to Craighouse. Day 3: Morning bus to three arch bridge by Ardfernal, walk the Paps (8hrs to do a round of all three), 5.15 bus back to Craighouse. These are all challenging days, however and the terrain can be pretty unforgiving. If you’re up for it though, the rewards are plentiful.

  15. Thanks Pete much appreciated. Thanks to your reports and advice I have a good feel for the island now and lots of ideas to discuss with the lads. I think it may take several beers to settle on a plan 🙂

    Sorry – I should have said 4 days and 3 nights not the other way round. travelling to the island Friday morning, and heading back Monday afternoon

  16. Great account. Have been visiting the west coast for the the last 25 years. Since I was 8 when the sea stole my boots at Glen Garrissdale and my dad walked to road end, drove to the Fletcher’s to borrow some of their kids’ boots and walked back. He was not too pleased! Going back there this Easter with him. Thanks for the read.

    Jim Innes

    • Hello Jim, thanks for your comment. That’s a heroic effort from your dad! Sat alone in the bothy for a few hours waiting for him then? Character building stuff. The west coast of Jura is unlike anywhere else at all, isn’t it. My favourite place on the planet.

  17. H, just reading your terrific Cicerone book. Quick question: where exactly is ‘road end’ on the west coast? Is it at the end of the yellow minor road as marked on the OS map (ie 670 930 )or is it further north? Planning a trip at the start of November and just trying to work out logistics etc.

    Thanks and keep up the good work. James

    • Hello James, glad you’ve enjoyed reading the guidebook. Road End is indeed at the end of the minor road at NR 671 928 or thereabouts. There is a small disused quarry there where you can park, no vehicles are allowed beyond this point othere than those of the people living at Kinuachdrachd. The route from Road End to Glengarrisdale across the island is shown on page 53 of the guide. If you’re planning to walk to Kinuachdrachd, just continue north along the track road for 1.5 – 2hrs. Looking at the guidebook now, I can see that for clarity I should put a grid ref for Road End on page 43 for the next reprint, so thanks for drawing that to my attention.
      What sort of route are you planning, I’d be interested to know? Whatever you do, have a great time – to my mind it’s one of the most wonderful places on the planet.


  18. Hi, thanks for that. I think we will do part of the west coast circuit…maybe go to Kinuachdrachd and head for Glengarrisdale (day 1) from there then follow coast round to Cruib Lodge (days 2 and 3) and walk out to road (day 4). Exact route depends on the ferry times for Nov which are not out yet!

    Imagine we will leave car at road end and get a land rover booked to take us up to collect it…

  19. Hello James, Sounds a great itinerary. Corpach Bay is a great place for a wild camp between Glengarrisdale and Ruantallain bothy in winter – plenty of shelter, driftwood and a burn for fresh water. To collect your car you could aim to leave Cruib Lodge early to coincide with the morning Jura Bus at Tarbert and take it as far as Ardlussa (8.20am – Tarbert is just after Lagg, see link to timetable below) or, if walking out from Ruantallain (5-6hrs) you could meet the 4.15pm bus. It’s 1-1.5hrs walk to Road End from there. If you want to book Mike Richardson with the Landrover, do so well in advance. He had been ill for a while with Lyme Disease so not sure if he’s still doing trips. I’d love to hear how you get on.

  20. Just been reading George Orwell’s diary he kept while at Barnhill and he mentions a trip to Glengarrisdale and staying for 3 days in a “shepherd’s cottage”. I wonder if it’s the same hut you stayed in. I am from South Africa but llived on Jura for over 2 months in Rose Cottage at Inverlussa and did a solo walk to Glengarrisdale and stayed in the hut. Also walked up the nearest highest peak. I think it was called Glengarrisdale mountain but not sure. It was amazing and your article reminded me of that time. This was in 1999. So a long time ago! Missing Jura very much right now.

    • Hello Matthew, Glengarrisdale bothy is indeed the ‘shepherd’s cottage that Orwell referred to. The hill you climbed is likely Ben Garrisdale. I know Rose Cottage at Inverlussa; it was on the market about 5 years ago and myself and my wife wanted to buy it – a real bargain – but were beaten to it. I imagine you enjoyed your time living there…

      • Hi. Yes, I loved living in the cottage. Such a long time ago but it still haunts me. I rented it from the Fletchers. I guess things have changed if it was on the market. What I would have done to afford that lovely cottage!

        Thanks for your writings which I have been enjoying over the last few days. Do you know of Steve still runs Jura Stores?

        I was most surprised to see the google street view has been all the way to Ardlussa!! A few years ago you didn’t even see it clearly on google earth!

        I am hoping the island is much the same as when I was there 13 years ago. 🙂

  21. Hello Peter,wonderful descriptions and photos.

    I am planning a short visit to Jura on 24th and 25th July this year (2012) and plan to go the shortest route to Glengarrisdale starting from the track past the old quarry.
    Visited Jura a few years ago and didn’t have time to make the trip over to Glengarrisdale, where my great grandmother Christina McKechnie lived (b. 1843).

    Coincidently my name is Peter and my partner’s name is Fiona !
    Peter Morrison
    Isle of Bute

    • Hello Peter

      Thanks for your comment. I believe there’s an impending McKechnie gathering? The walk over to Glengarrisdale should be quite boggy with some head-high bracken in places at the moment. The midges and ticks are rather rampant this year also; you’ll have a great time!

      Myself and Fiona finally got married last year, down in sunny Sussex, and had a piper from Bute to bring an exotic aspect to our celebrations in the heart of the South Downs!

  22. Really enjoyed reading about your walk around the West Coast of Jura. Have been to Jura twice and love it there. Walked from Road End to Corrywreckan and back which was superb. I’d love to walk from Corry around the west coast, along to north shoreline of Loch Tarbet, finishing at Tarbet. Please advise me how many days you think this would take so I can think about whether this is feasible or not. Many thanks

    • Hello David, thanks for your comment. It depends where you start, but the route we followed in the post that you read took us three and a half days to Tarbert from Kinuachdrachd. It’s possible to do it in less if you’re a very fit, strong walker and not carrying a very heavy pack, but I think allowing yourself four days is a good amount as there’s so much to marvel at en route. There’s a reasonably good guidebook covering the route published by Cicerone: Walking on Jura, Islay and Colonsay and an improved 2nd edition is due out in August. I can’t recommend the walk enough, myself and Fiona (now my wife) have just this minute returned from four wonderful days on the WCJ and every time I visit it just fills me up with joy…

      Get out there, you’ll have a wonderful time.

      • Hi Pete, I’m thinking of going for another walk on West Coast of Jura.Having read your guide, I was wondering if Mr Mike Richardson still offers lifts to Kinuachdrachd Harbour from Road end or Tarbert.I have tried to ring him on the number in the book but no answer, many thanks Bri

      • Hello Bri

        Sadly. Mike was taken very ill with Lyme disease and is well and truly out of action. If you’re planning to walk in company it may be worth considering going direct to Kinuachdrachd Harbour by water taxi from Croabh Haven with Duncan Philips (details in book). It’s £80 one way as of this year. There is also a good route out to the west coast from Ardlussa where the Jura Bus reaches its northern limit, which I’m happy to tell you about if it may be of use. Do you have a route planned?

  23. Wow! Really enjoyed reading about this epic journey on Jura. Hoping to visit this year for a bit of exploration. Been many years ago when we ‘lost’ our 4 children who thought it would be a jape to hide from their parents! They did a great job because we almost missed the last ferry. The fact that there are so few paths makes it all the more enticing. Just reading Waterlog by Roger Deakin who swam on Jura. Great book.

    • Hello Jennifer, thanks for your comment. I’ve read Waterlog a couple of times too; a wonderful book. I like the observation he makes that ‘hooves rather than boots’ are the most appropriate footwear for walking on Jura. Have an excellent trip!

  24. After about 18 months of dreaming, this weekend I’m finally heading to Jura. Your website was what planted the seed, and is what has kept my appetite whetted (along with the Jura posts on BackpackingBongos). I was going to go a bit later in the year, when the Scottish grasses turn that unique and beautiful rusty hue, but I can’t wait any longer.

    It’s a bit of a bark getting there if you don’t drive, but hopefully will be able to organise it so I’m hopping off the bus at Inverlussa in the early evening and yomping over to Glengarrisdale for the night. Once there, I’m unsure if I’ll stay for a couple of nights, heading out for walks and returning (forecast is currently uncertain) or try and get around the west coast. I’d like to see Corpach Bay, Ruantallain and all the other places I’ve read about on this site and in your books. Not having a car does make these things much more of a headache!

    After I’m done with Jura, I’m off up to Assynt for a week to climb Suilven, Cul Mor etc. It’s not a bad little country we live in is it? The more I explore Scotland, the less inclined I feel to head abroad.

    Anyway, thank you Peter for your wonderful blog and the inspiration it provides (and your Hebrides book was a thing of beauty also). Hopefully the bracken and midges are kind. Had a run in with midges in the Lairig Ghru the other week and the next morning, after I’d spent half an hour scraping and washing away the congealed paste of untold thousands of their dried and congealed corpses from my legs, the skin beneath looked like Giant Haystacks had been at it with a meat tenderiser. Turns out the Caledonian midge was every bit as bad as people had warned.

    Regards, Nathan.

    • Hello Nathan

      Thanks very much for your comment and your very kind words. I’m very happy to hear that you’re off to Jura this weekend. You’ll probably need to adapt your plans to the weather, but I’d recommend heading south from Glengarrisdale if you’re able. A bivouac at Traigh a’ Mhiadair (just south of Corpach Bay) then a night at Ruantallain would be just the ticket!

      I’m heading over in a few weeks time with my pal and our Labradors; we’re going to walk over to Corpach Bay from Ardlussa then down to Ruantallain the day after. Leave us a sign! Anyway, I’d be really interested to know how you get on so do let me know..

      The midges have been really shocking this year so hopefully you’ll have a breeze to keep them at bay. Have a great trip, Nathan.



  25. Hello Peter,

    I read your book about the west coast of Jura with pleasant anticipation and right now I’m planning a tour with a friend in May 2018. We want to take the boat from Crinan to Road End and then walk the straight route to Glengarrisdale Bothy. On day 2 we want to go to Corpach Bay or Shian Bay, depending on the weather and our fitness. On day 3 to Ruantallain Bothy. On day 4 to Cruib Bothy. On day 5 back to the Main Road and take the bus to the ferry over to Islay. So except on day 2 there not really much time pressure. Do you have any further recommendations? I doubt if we can collect enough driftwood to get a good fire going. What are your experiences? And one more thing: I have the first edition of your book. Are there a lot of changes/updates in the second edition? Should I get the latest one? Many thanks in advance.


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