When I was a young man (sadly many years ago now!) I had a passion for travelling to remote places throughout the UK and overseas. Some of the most memorable places I visited were the Western Isles off the coast of Scotland. They include some of the most unique landscapes in this country, and a step back in time to a more simple existence for the people who inhabit these islands.
Going back through old photo's of my travels, I came across a few from the Isle of Jura which brought back many happy memories. After a short ferry ride from Tarbert, the island rises up roughly from the sea proudly displaying its famous Paps which soar over 2500 feet above the coast. There is just one road on the island, so it wasn't difficult after departing the ferry to decide which direction to head. I was carrying enough food for a week, a tent and outdoor gear so it wasn't long before I decided to hitch a lift from a local who kindly took me the few miles to Leargybreck where my hike up the Paps Of Jura would begin.
I found a small wooded area to leave my tent and non-essentials, tucked out of site for the day, allowing me to travel light over the rough steep terrain of the mountains. It was a perfect spring day, warm and sunny with light breeze to keep cool and climbing to the top of Beinn an Oir, the highest of the peaks at 2,575 feet, was a pleasure despite being a tough walk over heavy scree in places.
The view from the top was simply stunning, the mountains dropping steeply down to the sea then endless miles of ocean and neighbouring islands. It would have been nice to stay there for hours and explore the other two peaks, but I wanted to make further progress up to the north of the island before it got dark. The walk back down the mountain was much quicker than the ascent.
After hitching another lift I reached the end of the road after Loch Tarbert, and from here there was no choice but to lug my heavy pack across country to the western side of the island and my destination of the Glengarrisdale Bothy. There can be few more dramatic and remote locations for a mountain bothy than Glengarrisdale Bay, and not surprisingly there was nobody else there when I arrived.
The bothy was dry and warm, there was plenty of driftwood for the fire and I soon had plenty of food and drink to enjoy in the setting sunlight at the end of a remarkable day. The next day was overcast and a good one to rest and relax, exploring the local coastline and discovering that I had the company of several snake nests to keep me alert. The following day was bright and sunny again, so I headed north up the coastline to the tip of the island at the Gulf of Corryvreckan where there was a notorious whirplool in the shallow waters between Jura and the uninhabited island of Scarba. George Orwell had reportedly nearly lost his life in a small boat passing through the Gulf, but today it was as calm as a mill pond.
I took the opportunity to walk the few miles to the remote cottage of Barnhill, where Orwell finished his final book 1984 shortly before his death after a long illness with TB. It was easy to see where his inspiration came from, the place is about as far away as he could get from the trauma of the 2nd world war and the social nightmares he was trying to articulate.
After another day of rest at Glengarrisdale, it was time to head back to the road and hitch a lift back to Craighouse to enjoy the delights of the Isle of Jura distillery for a few hours before catching the ferry back to the mainland.