Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Joys of Jura/Islay

The crossing to Port Askaig was idyllic on a calm sunny evening with the 3 Paps of Jura beautifully lit as the sun set. I soon found a place to spend the night and then headed to the south east of Islay passing many of the famous distilleries before walking from Claggain Bay up to an MBA bothy north of the remote MacArthur's Head lighthouse - 6 seals cavorted in the bay and as I returned at dusk a pair of otters played in the swift flowing stream. The next few days were spent exploring the island's many natural attractions, often on the bike as there were many old tracks out to distant headlands and quiet lochs. Views from the Rhins across to Mull reminded me of previous trips to that island and a superb couple of days were spent based at Machir Bay where some of the thousands of geese that overwinter on the island filled the evening skies. I took the brief ferry crossing to Jura for the Easter weekend and set off down the island's only road.
As I'd hoped it was very quiet and I spent 2 days on a large bay north of Craighouse with a walk up the Paps in initially good but then rather poor conditions - with only four months elapsed since my coronary capers I decided just to do two of the tops - the right decision given how tired I felt on my return. A drop in temperatures proved the value of the small genny I now carry as I was able to stay warm and cosy and enjoy a couple of films each evening.
Further north I walked out to a future bothy on the north side of West Tarbert loch - popular with visiting yachties and sea katyakers as it provides good shelter on the exposed and rugged west coast. North of pretty Inverlussa and the Ardlussa estate the road ran out and I based myself for two nights at the start of the long rough track north to the tip of Jura. This passes Barnhill where George Orwell wrote '1984' and finally Kinuachdrachd which remarkably seemed to be in permanent occupation despite the inaccessibility. 
Two miles beyond here were stunning views across the swirling waters of the Corryvreckan whirlpool to rugged Scarba but for me the highlight was observing a pair of white tailed sea eagles gliding around their eyrie perched high in a conifer : not wishing to disturb them my photos were of low quality due to the limitations of my small digital camera but it was a remarkable sight. 
My final night was spent on the Sound of Jura after a bike ride around rough tracks to the south west of the Paps - the estate is finishing off a substantial £7m hydro scheme that will supply both islands with power from later this year, pay for itself in 7 years and then produce a handsome £1m p/a return for the far sighted owner.
Today (11th April) sees me in Oban after another memorable sailing from Islay via Colonsay with views that reminded me of the superb coastal scenery at the northern end of NZ's South Island : many of the communities live a similarly independent life relying on ferries and privately owned boats to keep in touch with mainstream life.
With a couple of days to get to Mallaig for a ferry to Skye and the generally fine weather continuing I shall visit another couple of bothies before meeting friends from Bristol for a week in a cottage which should be very entertaining.
Piccies here and Spotties here.

Slides look back at early days in NSW.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Simon,
    I hope you are doing ok? Missing your regular travel blog.
    I was just re-reading your blog about Jura and Islay as planning a trip there myself this April. Was it Corran Sands you camped at just outside Craighouse on Jura?
    Did you know that the link to the photos is broken?


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