I recently returned from the remote and beautiful Isle of Jura, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. The trip was a prize in the ‘Community Spirit’ photography competition run by Jura Scotch Whisky which I wrote about here on the blog last year. Together with the other two competition winners, Todd Winters from the U.S.A. (who was joined by his father Sidney), and Malcom Tabberer from the U.K. (who was joined by his wife, Rose), we spent five nights on the Island; we were also joined for three days by photographer David Nightingale of chromasia.
In order to reach Jura, it was necessary to fly first to the neighbouring island of Islay, since Jura does not have an airport. Despite being a commercial pilot and having flown thousands of hours, I would number the short flight from Glasgow to Islay as one of the most beautiful I have ever experienced: the weather was glorious, and the views from the small turboprop aircraft were stunning.
On Islay, I met the other photographers with me on the trip; we collected hire cars and drove across Islay to catch the ferry to Jura.
If you are used to urban life, Jura takes some getting used to: the population of the island is less than two hundred (residents are outnumbered around 40 to 1 by the red-deer population), and there is one road, one shop, one pub, one hotel, one church, one…. well, you get the picture.
The ferry service is susceptible to disruption in bad weather, at which point you are effectively cut off from the outside world; or as writer George Orwell put it: “extremely unget-at-able”. However, it doesn’t take long to adjust to the slower pace of life, and it is a very relaxing place to spend a few days. The single road runs from the ferry port in the west, around the south and up the eastern shore of the island, petering out before reaching the northernmost point. There is no access to the interior of the island nor to the north-western shore without some serious hiking through peat bogs and marshland. One of the most striking features of Jura is the three mountains, known locally as the ‘Paps’, visible from almost any point on the Island.
We stayed in the wonderful Jura Lodge, part of the world-famous Jura Distillery, in the main settlement of Craighouse. The Lodge is a great place to escape from the world: eccentrically charming; very comfortable; and normally available to rent for an eye-watering £2,500 (US $3,800) per night. There is no television in the Lodge, the mobile (cell) phone coverage is very patchy, and the Internet connection slow and decidedly intermittent. In other words, a great place to to read a book, listen to music, go out and explore, spend time getting to know new friends, drink some fine malt whisky, and put the world to rights. It made an excellent base from which to explore Jura together with the other photographers I was there with. We were thrown together for the week: preparing breakfast together, dining together, and sharing a dram (or, many) of whisky most evenings. It was a great group: we all got along famously, and have stayed in touch subsequent to the trip.
Our complimentary stay included a great bus tour of the Island with Alex, from Jura Island Bus Tours (at least the bits accessible by road); a boat trip up to the dangerous Corryvreckan Whirlpool, during which we were able to see the house where George Orwell wrote his iconic novel ‘1984’ in 1947-48; and a tour of the whisky distillery. There were also several bottles of the various malt whiskies sold by the Jura Distillery generously provided for us to drink in the Lodge during our stay. I still struggle to look a whisky bottle in the eye after the amount of whisky we consumed that week.
Here are a few of my favourites from the images I made on Jura. Click on any image to enlarge – and if you hover the mouse over an image, the EXIF data should be visible.