Today I'm taking you on a virtual tour to the neighbouring island of Jura. Niall Colthart was kind enough to sent me ten breathtaking images of a trip he made yesterday up the Paps of Jura. In between the pictures you can find Niall's comments. Niall: The initial intention was to see how far up the highest Pap, Beinn an Oir (the mountain of gold) I could get my bike as the ground here is fairly dry at the moment. When I arrived at Port Askaig the cloud was completely covering the Paps and I seriously considered plan B which was a cycle out to Bholsa. The forecast was for an improvement so I decided to head over anyway and was glad I did. It worked in complete reverse to my last trip to Beinn Caolais earlier in the year when it was clear right until ten minutes from the summit when it clouded over, this time it cleared as I went.
With a few detours I headed for a part of the hill normally hidden from view on Islay which is the ridge on the north side of Beinn an Oir. This ridge ascends in a gradual sweep around Loch an Oir with the only steep bit the final few hundred feet. Having ditched the bike earlier with a view to making a circular route, and after a bite to eat and some photoâ€™s on the summit I descended down the right hand scree gully. This gully is fairly steep, especially the entrance and is full of loose scree for its full length. It is a dramatic spot with cliffs rising sheer on either side, the Garbh Lochanns at the bottom and the best aspect of Beinn Caolais (the hill of the narrows) ahead. After that it was a quick trip back to the bike and an easy and fast run down the track to the ferry.
Hydro Dam at Inver
On the way up I spoke to one of the workers at the new hydro dam which is being built on Inver Estate. Although cosmetic work is still being carried out on the dam it is due to be handed over on Monday and will be producing electricity shortly afterwards. The water levels in the Glenastle Lochs (the two lochs will become one large loch as the glen is flooded) are still very low and there was still a normal flow of water down the river system. Following handover and as part of the tidy up phase of the project the road which has been put in to facilitate the laying of the large water pipes will be completely reinstated to its natural pre-contract state. Continue reading....
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James Deane sent me a nice series of pictures taken on the last day of 2010. The images show a cloud inversion on the Isle of Jura. To explain what a cloud inversion is I found a quote from Wikipedia: "Under certain conditions, the normal vertical temperature gradient is inverted such that the air is colder near the surface of the Earth. This can occur when, for example, a warmer, less dense air mass moves over a cooler, denser air mass. This type of inversion occurs in the vicinity of warm fronts. With sufficient humidity in the cooler layer, fog is typically present below the inversion cap." This is most likely the case on the images James sent me. What also surprised me was the fact that the snow on the Paps of Jura has completely disappeared. Thanks James for the nice pictures!
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There are ferry problems on Islay's neighbouring island, the Isle of Jura. Although Argyll and Bute Council has decided back in the spring of 2008 to financially support the Jura passenger ferry it now looks as if the financial future and with that the future of the ferry is very uncertain. What's the problem you might wonder. I personally think it's a chicken and egg situation. If the price is too high too few passengers use the ferry, lower the price and the revenue drops, in both cases the council has to pick up the bill. Last year the fares were raised with 17% in a time when people were anxious to spend money due to the economic crisis and as a direct result the passenger numbers dropped with a third. This drop in passenger numbers was blamed to the bad weather, soaring fuel prices and economic situation but I personally think the increase in the fare price is the most important reason.It's not known what the price for a return ticket will be next year but I can imagine that people will be even more reluctant to spend their money next year with the uncertain economic situation. The government is flat broke and budget cuts are putting the pressure on council budgets. Earlier this year I wrote about the same subject on the Jura Blog and a couple of days ago the Scotsman published an article titled 'Who will pay the jura ferryman'. This Jura ferryman however is from Islay and runs Islay Sea Safari. Continue reading....
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Tonight I'll take you on a flight in an ultralight aircraft from mainland Scotland to the Isle of Jura, Islay's closest neighbour. You get to see the ultralight airplane take off somewhere on the mainland after which it flies over the Sound of Jura towards the Isle of Jura. I particularly liked the middle and final part of the video where you see beautiful aerial views of the sea and land and and the end the approach to Knockrome, Ardfernal and Lowlandman's Bay. The plane lands at a small private airstrip south of Knockrome, now in use by the Air Ambulance Service and built by the Jura Distillery in 1964. As the title suggests, there is a part 2 as well which I will save for a later date. Enjoy part 1!
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Every now and then I used to write something about the Isle of Jura on this blog but about a year ago, when I started a blog dedicated to the Isle of Jura, I stopped blogging about Jura on this blog. Instead I started to publish interesting facts, images, videos and everything else that's interesting enough to mention about Jura, on the Jura Blog, which is more or less similar to this one. The Jura blog can be found on the Jurainfo.com website and it's updated at least a couple of times each month. Last weekend saw a complete makeover of the layout of the Jura Blog. This change came together with an increase in the number of images in the updated Jura Picture Gallery where you can now find more than 70 beautiful Jura Pictures. Continue reading.....
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Some of you probably know that I also run a website for the Isle of Jura called www.jurainfo.com. It's a logical follow up on the Islay website and it's online for almost three years now. It's not a website where I spend much time on but every now and then I update some images and/or text. Recently I have changed the layout to match the www.islayinfo.com website but altered the colours somewhat so that the two websites are not exactly the same. The site also has a blog where I post some Jura related snippets every now and then, usually a couple of times a month.
For those of you interested in Islay's neighbour, and who isn't, I can recommend a visit to the changed Jura website. Besides the changed layout I have also added a couple of really nice panorama images in the new Isle of Jura Panorama Images page and a whole new Jura Image Gallery. If you have any suggestions for the Jura website or if you want to add some information or news yourself please contact me.
Paps of Jura Panorama - click here for more Jura panorama mages
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Mark Unsworth from Islay Studios sent me a trully stunning panorama picture from the Paps of Jura. Mark was planning on making this trip for several days and waited for the perfect conditions, which ultimately would be no wind for beautiful reflections in the loch which was frozen over as you can see. The loch in the picture is Loch an t-Sion and can be reached when you follow the river Corran opposite the road to Knockrome at the arched bridge. This is one of the most used tracks to access the Paps of Jura. The picture Mark took yesterday is the most beautiful image I have seen so far from the Paps and I'm grateful that he gave me permission to publish it on my blog. The bigger image will be posted later on Mark's Photoblog.
The mountain on the left is Beinn a Chaolais. Right-back is Beinn an Oir (Mountain of Gold), the highest of the Paps with 785m/2576ft and is the only Corbett. Right-front is Beinn Shiantaidh (The Sacred Mountain).
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Gavin, a reader of the Jura Blog, sent me a link to a remarkable Jura related website which turned out to be a highly interesting resource. The website is hosted at rootsweb and is a treat for genealogists and others. The pages are created by Susan M. Rumble and are about her family tree which contains information personally researched. These pages also include research gifted by fellow researchers. Besides many family names from which many generations are written down and go back as far as five generations. Besides the family trees there is a lot of information and pictures of graveyard inscriptions for Jura, Colonsay and Oronsay.
The site also holds a most enjoyable image collection with black and white photographs of Jura, like the on attached below. The photographs are mainly about the people who lived on the island and not so much about the landscape. I have spent a lot of time on the website looking at all the pictures which is great fun. This is a highly recommended website. Click here to visit.
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It's always been strange to me that the Isle of Jura didn't have its own (vehicle) ferry. That is if you don't take the Port Askaig - Feolin ferry into account. Almost every island in Scotland has a vehicle ferry and even Gigha, an island with half the population of Jura, has one. The reason can't be the distance since the shortest possible ferry route would only be three miles which is Lagg on Jura to Keilmore, Argyll. I don't understand why Argyll & Bute council spends millions on an airport in Colonsay (population 108), a pier in Bruichladdich (still not functioning properly), even more millions on the Port Askaig project (still problems) and not a penny on a vehicle ferry for Jura. It's true, there is a passenger ferry but only for a trial period of three years and ONLY in a short summer period. From what I read online here and there, the Jura Passenger ferry is a success and brings more visitors to the island, which is economically absolutely necessary for the island.
Now you might think this is the time for the (local) government to think a bit further ahead and make plans for the period thereafter. This however doesn't seem to be the case since the Argyll and Bute council rejected plans from the Islay & Jura Ferry Co. Ltd. Perhaps they are afraid that a possible Jura ferry will be used for people to travel to Islay? Or are other forces at work here? And why does Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage disapprove the current plans, as well? The following article regarding the rejected ferry plans was published in the Ileach: Continue reading....
In April the Times Online started the Green Spaces Challenge, focussing on worldwide and UK travel destinations. Today the Times Online reported that the Isle of Jura has been nominated by Lesley Beryl Hawker in July for the 2008 Green Spaces Travel Awards. Other nominees are Bamburgh in Northumberland, Minsmere Nature Reserve and other places from all over the world. It's interesting to read the motivation from Lesley and specially what she writes about Islay after her Jura trip: "returning to Islay after three nights of solitude was weird - all those roads, restaurants and people". Fact is that Islay has more roads, people and restaurants than Jura although this almost sounds like a difference between day and night, but everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion of course. About the Isle of Jura she writes the following:
Jura in the southern Inner Hebrides is my favourite green space. It is about 30 miles long with a population of 200 and a wonderful friendly community who welcome visitors with a special brand of hospitality. The island has many acres of moorland, lochs, wild coastline and forest where you can enjoy solitude, beauty and freedom. There are about a hundred species of birds including golden eagles, rabbits, hares, about 6000 red deer, otters, seals, dolphins, and occasionally passing whales if you're lucky! You can explore the island on foot, by car, boat or on a guided tour and the adventurous can even see the Corryvreckan whirlpool where George Orwell nearly drowned while he was living in the north of the island writing "1984"
Peace and Tranquility on the Isle of Jura
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The ForArgyll website reports today that Jura is holding a civic reception at Craighouse on the 1st of August. The two main reasons are the award of funding for development of the Antlers building as a tearoom, interpretation and craft centre. The second reason is the launch of the passenger ferry between Tayvallich and Craighouse which proved to be very succesful. A quote from the ForArgyll website:
Jura is holding a celebratory civic reception at Craighouse on the 1st August, attended by residents and businessmen from Jura and Tayvallich, Argyll MPs, MSPs, local Councillors and Argyll and Bute Councilâ€™s Transport Spokesman. The passenger ferry has seen the numbers carried tripled on average since its launch. It now carries an average of 68 per week and the target for sustainability is to get it up to 120 per week. Itâ€™s being used by locals, businesses and tourists. The option of a fast service direct from the mainland has helped people with holiday homes on the island to spend much more time in them - good news for Jura as well as for them.
Talking about the Isle of Jura and perhaps the third reason for celebration is the fact that the Scotsman reported on 8 July that the street lights on the island had finally been switched off. The lights stayed on continuously from December last year until late June due to a fault and the absence of a locally based electrician. So much for energy savings ;-)
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Big was our surprise when we visited the Isle of Jura in May to find a burger van on the side of the parking place at the Feolin Ferry. I must admit that it's a great idea and getting yourself a snack and a tee or coffee makes the waiting even more pleasant. Why didn't somebody think about that on Islay? Fact is that the new catering unit belongs to Grahame Petit who happens to live on Jura, in Craighouse, hence the location. It's by the way the same Grahame who runs Small Isles Photography and owns the gallery in the Feolin Ferry House. I wrote about him a while ago, when he still lived in Keills on Islay. Grahame offered us both a nice cup of coffee and we had a chat about his new venture called "Small Isles Catering", named after the beautiful bay opposite Craighouse on Jura. We didn't have much time for more conversation since the ferry arrived but Grahame promised me to send me some more information about his new catering bussiness.
This morning Grahame's email arrived and he gave me the following information: "The catering unit of Small Isles Catering is in full swing now and permently based at Feolin. We sell a variety of hot and cold drinks and hot and cold snacks. We can be contacted for any catering requirements on email@example.com and our tel number is 07789441021. We are available for events & private functions etc. Our specialities include Cajun venison Wraps, home baked Muffins and Flapjacks, blue cheese mayo Burgers, garlic mayo Burgers etc etc. We are open Monday to Sunday 8am untill 6pm and we can also provide packed lunches for walkers and visitors. My business partner is Stephen Prust who is the financial aspect and hard working partner in this venture!" Good luck Grahame and Stephen, well done!!
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During our last visit on Islay we did another trip to Jura as well. Jura is such a beautiful island and when the sun is out and it's warm it feels like paradise. It was on the 5th of May that we had these exact conditions and it turned out to be a magnificent trip. We saw three Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers and many many deer, which is not strange when you consider there are more than 5000 of them living on the island. That's almost 28 of these majestic animals for every person that lives there. I'll let you do the maths.
As you might know I am running the www.jurainfo.com website as well and tonight I have uploaded fifteen new high res images from this trip. The images can be found in the Picture Gallery. Below are a few examples of what you can expect. I hope you like them!
The island of deer, and the Paps
The Stone Pier in the Small Isles Bay, Craighouse
The sign to "Evans Walk", one of the approaches to the Paps
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The Press and Journal reports about the public meeting that will be held on the island of Jura tonight, July 1. This will give the islanders the opportunity to blow off some steam at Argyll and Bute Council. Ever since the new Jura ferry slipway at Port Askaig was ready there were problems for cars to board and leave the ferry which caused a lot of concern for the people on Jura, specially in relation to emergency services. Therefore the new link span for the Calmac ferry was often used as an alternative when possible. A quote from the article:
The Argyll and Bute Council-run ferry which links the 200 strong community to the mainland, via a crossing to Port Askaig on neighbouring Islay, has been fraught with problems. In addition to the repeated occasions when the ferry has been unable to sail in poor weather conditions, it has encountered berthing difficulties since the recent reconstruction of the Jura ferry slipway at Port Askaig. Residents fear the disruption could one day mean that back-up fire and ambulance crews from Islay won't be able to reach the island to assist local emergency teams.
Andy Law, the council's head of operational services, who will be attending tonight's meeting, said: 'We are working away with our consultants and we are seeking the best resolution to continue to provide as good a service as we can. My purpose in going to Jura is really to listen to what folk are saying and to give them some explanations of the works that have been done." Scottish industrialist Sir William Lithgow, whose many business interests include Inver Estate on Jura, claims the Jura ferry and its new berth, which has been built as part of a Â£12.9million 'improvement' scheme at Port Askaig, are simply not fit for purpose.
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I received the following news release two days ago about the setting-up of a temporary amateur radio station in Craighouse on the neighbouring Isle of Jura by a group of enthusiasts at the end of April:
If you're on the Isle of Jura at the end of April, you may spot a few additions to the Craighouse skyline. The temporary aerials behind Braeside are the work of a group of Cheshire radio enthusiasts looking to bring the island to the world's airwaves.
Interest in the Macclesfield and District Radio Society transmission, which will run for one week from 26 April to 3 May, has come from around the world with web sites in the USA, Australia and several European countries reporting on the plans. The club predicts that between 1,000 and 2,000 people from all corners of the globe will attempt to make contact with the island radio station during its time on-air.
Because of its sparse population, Jura is among the most sought-after of almost 200 Scottish islands included in the popular 'Islands on the Air' scheme run by the Radio Society of Great Britain, in which radio operators attempt to contact as many worldwide island-based stations as possible in order to win awards. Continue reading.....
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The directors of the Islay & Jura Ferry Co and associated companies felt they had no option but release the attached statement.
Argyll & Bute Council Planning Authority have just informed the Islay & Jura Ferry Company that their planning application for a new ferry service from the Island of Jura to the mainland will never be determined. The proposal was for a new slip at Lagg on Jura and Keilmore on mainland Argyll. These would have allowed the company to operate a small vehicle ferry, which would have sailed several times a day giving islanders easy access to the mainland. Historically this was the traditional route between the islands and mainland. At present, residents on Jura have to travel to the neighbouring Island of Islay to get a mainland connection.
The Planning Authority claims that the application is of a fragmented nature with insufficient detail and has an inability to satisfy consultees. The council claims that during the four and a half years they have held the application there was ample time to agree content with the consultees. Following the placement of the application Historic Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage both requested further studies to be undertaken. These were completed by EnviroCentre the companies agents but Historic Scotland and SNH have demanded further long term research be done. Both claim that there is not enough evidence that this is the best route. This company point to the fact that several investigations have been done over many years, all funded by the public purse and these concluded that the only sensible option is the traditional route, Lagg to Keills. The Islay & Jura Ferry Company and its agents have continually attempted to allay Historic Scotland fears about the possible impact on the Telford piers in these areas. All attempts have been made to supply the detail to the exhaustive requests from SNH about the environmental impacts on the National Scenic Areas, the Special Areas of Conservation and SSSI.
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As a follow up on yesterdays story about the Islay Canoe Club, who are planning a 4day trip to Jura next year (there's no way back now Mark!), I would like to draw your attention to a kayaking related website which I found a while back. The website I'm talking about is the Scottish Sea Kayaking Photo Gallery. This site is packed with great photography from all over Scotland and I was really impressed by all the beauty Scotland has to offer seen from a kayak's point of view. A quote from their website will bring you in the right mood:
Imagine wanting to climb one of the Munros but not knowing where to set off, not knowing if there would be a path, not knowing how long it would take, not knowing what you might find, finding your own way in solitude. That is what the Scottish mountains were like four decades ago when I started exploring them. Today sea kayaking gives the same sense of adventure, exploration and solitude that is now found in the hills only in bad weather in the depths of winter. Sea kayakers follow and create no paths or erosion and our footsteps on the beaches are washed away by the tides. When sea kayaking the west coast of Scotland you are exploring one of the last wildernesses in the world.
In 2003 Tony Page made a kayaking trip through the Gulf of Corryvreckan, the whirlpool between the islands of Scarba and the north of Jura, the place where George Orwell almost drowned when he wrote his book 1984. The Corryvreckan whirlpool was also the place where a Scandinavian Prince, named Breackan, fell in love with a princess of the isles and drowned when his boat sunk in the same whirlpool. Tony had more luck and was able to put his whereabouts on paper. He made a 60km paddle from Crinan through the Gulf of Corryvreckan. During his trip he took some extraordinary pictures of a place in Scotland which only a few (lucky) people get to see.
In 2004 Tony took it a step further and circumnavigated the Isle of Jura. "A 115 Km paddle from Carsaig Bay across the Sound of Jura to circumnavigate Jura via the Sound of Islay and the Gulf of Corryvreckan". The wild westcoast of Jura is appealing to many of us being so remote, lonely and full of wildlife. Looking at the pictures was a real eyeopener for me, seeing the west of Jura in all it's endless beauty.
Jura's west coast - Ruantallain
The pictures are courtesy of Tony Page
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Already in 2006 I wrote about a possible passenger ferry from Kintyre to the Isle of Jura. Back then the proposal had to be approved by the Argyll & Bute council. Decided was to run a trial ferry service first to see if a ferry from Kintyre to the Isle of Jura would be feasable. The trial was held in the period from 10 to 28 September 2007 and proved to be very succesful. Below a report of the trial written down by the Isle of Jura “Initiative at the Edge” team.
The three week passenger ferry trial has been successfully completed with 30 return trips made and just one day lost to the weather. A total of 220 passengers were carried which represents a load factor of approximately one third capacity. The very limited time between deciding that we could run the trial and actually starting it, meant that it was not possible to advertise the service other than locally on Jura and at Tayvallich. This is reflected in the usage which increased week by week as more of us became aware that we could make a day trip to the mainland and visitors realised that they could get to Jura. The service also proved a real hit with Jurachs exiled on the mainland, who quickly realised that frequent weekend visits were now a practical proposition. Adding this real usage of the ferry to the data we have collected from our marketing survey shows there is real demand for this service.
'Travel from Craighouse Stone Pier, Jura to Tayvallich on the mainland in under 1 hour!'
You can even have a day out in Oban and return the same day!
Earlier I wrote about a possible ferry from Kintyre to Jura, and for a while no further news came available which gave the impression that this important project for the Isle of Jura was stopped. This proved however to be quite different and a Trial Feasibility Service will now be held from Mon 10th September to Friday 28th September (subject to use and demand). The community of Jura will be operating this Trial Feasibility Passenger Ferry Service to the mainland from Craighouse to Tayvallich at Carsaig Bay Kintyre, to show a possible demand in order to secure funding for a three year seasonal service starting 2008.
*All services will meet with onward public transport to Lochgilphead, Oban and Glasgow. The following timetable is in place:
MONDAY - THURSDAY
Depart Craighouse 0845 - Arrive Tayvallich 0945
Depart Tayvallich 1000 - Arrive Craighouse 1100
Depart Craighouse 1515 - Arrive Tayvallich 1615
Depart Tayvallich 1630 - Arrive Craighouse 1730
(allows connections with 0910 Oban and 0900 Glasgow services)
Depart Craighouse 0700 - Arrive Tayvallich 0800
Depart Tayvallich 1000 - Arrive Craighouse 1100
Depart Craighouse 1700 - Arrive Tayvallich 1800
Depart Tayvallich 1815 - Arrive Craighouse 1915
The fares are:
Â£20 Adult return 16+
Â£10 Child return 15 and under
No concessions for this trial
*Timetables and further information is available at the Islay and Jura Service Points.
One of Islay’s closest neighbours is the Isle of Jura, a little more than a stone-throw away from Islay’s east coast and separated from Islay by a narrow strait called the Sound of Islay. Jura is roughly the same size as Islay and its name is believed to originate from the Norse “Island of the Deer”. Despite its size Jura is only inhabited by approx. 180 people, who are outnumbered by the huge population of deer. Latest counts by gamekeepers show that Jura has almost 5,500 deer, making an encounter with one of these majestic animals inevitable when visiting Jura. Speaking of which, Jura can be reached by car from Port Askaig. A small ferry, suitable for eight cars, will take one car and two passengers across for £15, reservations are not necessary. A stop at the local petrol station at Port Askaig however is recommended. The ferry runs at approx 30min intervals daily from 7.30am till 6.30pm.
On a clear day the trip from Port Askaig to Feolin on Jura is a delight with stunning views towards the famous Paps of Jura. Feolin is nothing more than an anchoring place for the ferry and starting point for the only road on Jura, officially classified as the A846, which is actually more then it deserves in some places. The single track road follows the Sound of Islay south-east for the first few miles before it turns north-east just after Jura House, built around 1880 by the Campbell’s of Jura. There is a beautiful walled garden open for visitors near Jura House and well worth a visit. Jura House itself is not open for the public.
After another three miles of beautiful landscape the little village of Craighouse appears, which is the main village on Jura. Here most people live and this is also the place of Jura’s only whisky distillery, which is open for visitors by appointment only. Craighouse is a very quiet and lovely little village, home to the Jura Hotel, the local village shop and post office, a gift shop/tea room and the local Parish Church which is open for visitors and has a room in the back of the building with a display of old photographs.