Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Jura, Scotland

Alex and friends enjoying a hike on the island of Jura, Scotland Alex and friends enjoying a hike on the island of Jura © Alex MacLeish

Alex MacLeish, Key Account Manager at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a trip to Jura in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides.

Tell us more… My friends and I enjoy both hiking and making things difficult for ourselves, so we opted for a trip to what George Orwell described as an ‘extremely un-get-atable place’. Situated in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, this tiny, mostly uninhabitable island is reached from the mainland by two ferries and a whole lot of driving!

In a nutshell… Jura is a fairly unforgiving place. Much of this mountainous region is bare and infertile, and largely covered in peat bog. This might explain why there is a population of only 200, outnumbered by deer 30:1! Despite this, it has a rugged beauty and is great if you want to get away from it all, do some tough hiking or try to spot a rare Jura Cromie, a type of stag unique to the island.

A rare Cromie stag silhouetted against moody skies A rare Cromie stag silhouetted against moody skies © Alex MacLeish

Good grub? There are only a couple of eateries on Jura: a pub and a bistro, the latter of which serves sandwiches and afternoon tea. We opted for the pub and had a lovely meal – the portions are massive, which is just what you want when you’ve been walking all day. As there are so many deer on the island I had to try the local venison, and it was delicious. The pub also has an excellent selection of whiskies, including several rare ones made on the island. For more local tipples, the Lussa Gin distillery is well worth a try.

Defining moment? After several hours of walking on squelchy, boggy ground, unsure if we were on the right path because of all the deer tracks, we finally reached our destination – a hunting lodge on a beach on the west side of the island. We sat and ate our hard-earned picnic on the beach in the sun with not another soul in sight. It was a great feeling.

Barnhill farmhouse nestled among the remote landscapes of Jura It doesn't get much more isolated than at Barnhill farmhouse © Alex MacLeish

If you see one thing…There are two things that you should definitely see on Jura, and you can see them both if you drive to the very end of the ‘Long Road’ (there’s really only one road). After you park your car (there are signs telling you that you’ve reached the end of the road and to walk the rest of the way), you’ll come across Barnhill farmhouse where George Orwell lived while he was writing 1984. You can even stay there if you really want to experience a remote island escape (it’s 25 miles from the main town).

If you keep going along the same track, you’ll reach the footpath that leads to the viewing point for the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, the third largest in the world. Time the tide right (a spring tide is best) and you will see a swirling, roaring mass of water. It’s pretty forbidding – George Orwell and his young son were shipwrecked after attempting to cross it. After a day's walking and soaking up the sights, head back into town for a wee dram at the Jura whiskey distillery where you can take a tour before sampling their wares.

Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Destination Editor Tasmin Waby got up to on her recent trip to Uluru, Australia.