Jura (Gaelic Diùra) is an island in the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. It's 30 miles long by 7 miles wide, with a population of only 196 in 2011. It has poor boggy soil and three conical hills known as the Paps of Jura. It's on the same latitude as Edinburgh and Glasgow and lies within 5 miles of the mainland, yet feels very remote, with bleak terrain and lack of direct transport links. Most visitors come here as part of a trip to nearby Islay.
Jura has 7,000 red deer, and its name probably derives from Old Norse Dyrøy, "deer island". Much of the land is used for deer-stalking, and during the season (Aug-Oct) it may be unsafe or prohibited to enter these areas.
The main access point is Feolin on the southwest coast, where the ferry arrives from Islay. From here a narrow lane, grandly designated the A846, winds over the hills to Craighouse. This tiny settlement is Jura's capital, with the only shop, hotel and pub on the island, and the only two places to eat out. The Jura whisky distillery is also here. The entire south part of the island is designated as a National Scenic Area, notable for bird life, and its seas are similarly protected. The Paps - i.e. breasts - rear up just west, though from this close they look like what they are, bleak pyramids of scree surrounded by bog. The classic views of them are from some miles away on the mainland or Islay, perhaps louring with cloud or set against a golden sky as the sun westers behind them.
The west coast of Jura is uninhabited. The island's residents live along the more sheltered east coast, and from Craighouse the A846 continues north through Lagg, Tarbet and Ardlussa. Here the road forks: go right (south) to its terminus at Inverlussa, where it is possible to wild camp. The left fork runs north for 3 miles to the end of the public highway. A private track (permission and 4WD essential) continues from there to the north of the island. It passes Barnhill, where George Orwell (Eric Blair 1903-1950) stayed towards the end of his life, seriously ill with tuberculosis, and wrote his dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. A footpath to the island's north tip gives views of the Corryvreckan whirlpool.
- "An extremely un-get-at-able place" - George Orwell's reason for taking a cottage on Jura
There's no air service so you come by boat, usually via Islay - see that page for long-distance travel options. The ferry from Kennacraig on the Scottish mainland sails either to Port Ellen, or to Port Askaig which is also the ferry pier for Jura.
1 Feolin Ferry on Jura is reached by a small ro-ro from Port Askaig on Islay. This sails year-round hourly M-Sa and every two hours Sunday, taking 5 min. It's run by ASP Ship Management on behalf of the Council, so you won't find the definitive timetable on the Calmac website. No booking, just pay on board, return fares (until April 2024) are £21.60 per car and driver, £4.40 per adult passenger, £2.40 per child. Don't be tardy at Feolin Ferry, as the ferry is battling against the wind and currents in the strait, and won't stay on the pier a moment longer than it needs to. The "terminal" is little more than a cabin, but at least it gets you out of the rain.
2 Craighouse the main settlement (since it's the only settlement) is the landing point of the Jura Passenger Ferry, a foot passenger service April-Sept from Tayvallich near Lochgilphead on the mainland. There are two sailings M and W-Sa, and one on Sunday. It takes 45-60 min in a bouncy Rib, which has a cabin so you stay dry. Fares in 2023 are £25 each way, bikes £2.50, children under 5 and dogs free, 20 kg luggage limit. Advance booking is needed (online or +44 7768 450000). A day-trip gives you six hours on the island.
Jura is the largest Scottish island to have no direct car ferry from the mainland. From time to time there's talk of instigating one, but it would need heavy public subsidy to build port facilities and meet the operating costs, so it doesn't seem at all likely.
By bus: The one and only public bus along Jura's one and only road is Bus 456 operated by Garelochhead Coaches (+44 1436 810200). This runs between Feolin ferry pier and Craighouse up to five times a day, taking 20 min, fare £2.40. It continues north to road's end at Inverlussa twice a day, more often on school days. The bus makes other runs on request, by phone the previous day.
Discover Jura run guided tours.
By car: Most visitors bring their own car over from the mainland, or hire one on Islay. There's no car hire on Jura, but see above for minibus hire.
It's a long long narrow windy road, calld "The Long Road" oddly enough. You can seldom reach 40 mph, so don't cut it fine returning to the ferry pier.
Do pick up hitchers if they're not hopelessly dirty or weird, you may be their last hope of catching the ferry.
By bike: via the ferry, or hire from the Jura Hotel. The hills aren't massive but there's a lot of up and down, and it'll also help if you like rain and stiff headwinds.
- 1 Beinn an Òir (Mountain of Gold) is the highest point of Jura at 785 m / 2575 ft, a Corbett;
- 2 Beinn Shiantaidh (Holy Mountain) is 757 m / 2484 ft, a Graham since it only has 303 m prominence;
- 3 Beinn a' Chaolais (Mountain of the Strait) is 733 m / 2405 ft, a Graham of 359 m prominence.
- - these are the three Paps of Jura, dominating the landscape afar. They're conical quartzite hills, and "paps" of course means breasts. From many viewpoints you only see two, and certainly in photos and paintings. On Islay as you drive down the Rhinns past Port Charlotte, the profile of Jura expands into an entire reclining woman, but the third breast becomes extra prominent.
- Craighouse is a pleasant small white-washed place. Whisky Island Gallery is an art photography studio by the pier, open M-F 12:00-16:00, Sa 12:00-15:00.
- Bay of Small Isles is the sea inlet at Craighouse: the ridge continues across the bay as a chain of uninhabited islets, sheltering the pier. But it also bars the approach to large craft, so a port for car ferries couldn't be built here.
- 4 Lagg (meaning "The Hollow") in the 19th century was Jura's main ferry port, crossing from Knapdale. Almost no-one lives there now.
- 5 Tarbert standing stone is the best of Jura's many menhirs, a slender prehistoric slab 2.5 m tall by the roadside. An Tairbeart in Gaelic means a neck of land where you can drag a boat from one body of water to another. So from here you can portage from the east coast to Loch Tarbert, which almost bisects Jura.
- 6 Inverlussa is the little cove at the north end of the public road; Lussa gin distillery is nearby. You're more likely to be sharing the beach with red deer than with cattle.
- 7 Corryvreckan is the notorious channel between the north tip of Jura and the island of Scarba; in Gaelic Coire Bhreacain means "cauldron of the speckled seas". It's called a whirlpool but is more like a white-water cascade of violent eddies and standing waves. On an ebb tide, the falling sea level within the Sound of Jura draws in water from the Atlantic which speeds quietly - "laminar flow". The mischief is on the flood, when the narrowing of the Sound of Jura funnels the flow to a speed of 16 kph (8½ knots), which is made turbulent by the irregular sea bed. It's already good and shook-up as it enters the channel from the east, where it encounters a hole 219 m deep, then a basalt pinnacle rising from 70 m to within 29 m of the surface. This creates great up-and downflows and a roaring maelstrom. It's at its height under equinoctial spring tides, and with a strong west wind to add further "wind-over-tide" turbulence . . . yet it's not the worst. North side of Scarba, "Little Corryvreckan" or "Grey Dogs" is a narrow channel separating the island of Lunga, and this is the one that the Admiralty rated as "unnavigable". You can view Corryveckan by a long hike from Ardlussa, but most visitors take a boat trip from the mainland, preferably with an experienced operator.
- What's on? Read Ileach or Islay-Jura Events. Ceilidhs and other live entertainment are often held in Craighouse village hall.
- Walk: the island's trails come in all grades. Easy hikes taking an hour or so are at Craighouse, the bay near Feolin Ferry, Corran Sands, and coast-to-coast at Tarbert. The classic hike is the Paps of Jura, a 10-hour, 10-mile slog through bog and scree to reach all three peaks; the highest Beinn an Òir is 785 m. A 15-mile round trip, from the road's north end at Ardlussa, follows a track to Barnhill then a rough boggy path to the view over Corryvreckan.
- Golf: Ardfin, the island's only course, is only available to those staying at the Quads or Islay House. Those on a mere mortal's budget should drive down to Feolin Ferry and cross to Machrie Links.
- The fell race is held in late May, starting and finishing in Craighouse. The course record for this 28-km, 7-summit, slog-in-a-bog is just over 3 hours. The next race is probably Sa 27 May 2023, tbc.
- Jura Music Festival is held in Craighouse on the last weekend of September, 3 days of traditional music and dance. The next event is 22-24 Sept 2023.
- Jura Community Shop, Craighouse PA60 7XS, ☏ +44 1496 820231, email@example.com. M-F 09:00-13:30, 14:30-17:00, Sa 09:00-17:00. This stocks fresh and frozen food and other necessities. They take orders and can deliver. It's also the Post Office and a branch of Spar.
- Fuel: The community fuel pumps at the pier are open on certain days. Check in with Camella Crafts at Unit 1 for opening times. The e-charging point is open 24 hours.
- The Antlers, Craighouse PA60 7XP (Above the shop and Jura Hall), ☏ +44 1496 305317. Su-F 09:00-17:00. Cafe and takeaway, one of Jura's few places for lunch so there can be a long wait. Pleasant decked area to watch the world go by.
- Jura Hotel (see "Sleep") is open daily for lunch 12:00-14:00, dinner 18:00-20:30, but Nov-Mar dinner only by reservation.
- Jura Distillery, Craighouse PA60 7XT, ☏ +44 1496 820385. M-F 10:00-16:30. Founded in 1810, it's been in and out of use, with the present run from 1963. It's owned by Whyte and Mackay, which since 2014 has been part of Emperador. The range of single malts are typically lightly smoky and peaty, with a distinctive sherry-sweetness. Tour £6.
- Jura Brewery is in Craighouse, no tours.
- Deer Island make spiced rum. They're by Craighouse pier and open May-Aug M 10:30-14:30, W-F 10:30-15:30, Sa 10:30-13:30. Tours available.
- Lussa Gin Distillery is a micro-distillery near the end of the road 25 miles north of Craighouse. Tours M-F 11:30 & 14:30 must be booked in advance on +44 1496 820196 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jura Hotel has the island's only public bar; see Sleep.
- 1 The Quads, The Long Road, Ardfin PA60 7XY, ☏ +44 1496 820071, email@example.com. This could be a game-changer for Jura: a luxury "destination" hotel on an island with limited other amusements. Farm buildings have been converted to 13 upscale hotel rooms, max occupancy two adults. Guests have the use of the private golf course. Nearby Islay House has been converted into an events venue and is only available for exclusive hire. B&B double £1600.
- Jura Hotel, Craighouse PA60 7XU, ☏ +44 1496 820243, firstname.lastname@example.org. A trad hotel with 17 bedrooms in the main village, with restaurant and bar - the centre of Jura's social life, and they get very busy during annual events or on the night of a ceilidh. It was family-owned until 2021 then sold to Ardfin Estate, who intend to continue it as before. B&B double £150.
- 2 Barnhill (5 miles north of public road at Ardlussa), ☏ +44 1786 850274. The remote cottage where George Orwell wrote 1984, can be rented for self-catering by the week. No mains electricity but there's a small generator, gas-powered fridge, and coal-fired Rayburn for hot water. You'll need to be self-sufficient for food, and get here by 4X4 up the rough track, or arrange a boat to bring you in and out. From £1000 / week.
- Camping. The Jura Hotel provides camping in a scenic field situated between the hotel and the shore. Campers use toilets and showers at the hotel. No charge, but donations are accepted in the hotel bar. There are also many places on the island where you can wild camp, including Corran Sands (2 miles/3.2 km north of Craighouse). Please note that in the spirit of "wild camping", sites should be well away from the few places where there are residents' housing (ie in a wild place) unless permission is given. There is no lack of wild space in Jura so please respect the privacy of residents. See https://www.visitscotland.com/accommodation/caravan-camping/wild-camping/ for reference. Take some midge/mosquito repellent - you will need it!
- There's bed & breakfast at Craighouse, Corran and Ardlussa, plus some two dozen self-catering lets, search online with Jura Development.
- 3 Lorne Cottage, Lorne Cottage, Craighouse, PA60 7XR, email@example.com. Two bedroom self catering cottage with sea views over Small Isles Bay.
As of April 2022, there is no mobile signal on Jura from any carrier. Finish up your calls at Port Askaig.
- Back to Islay is the usual route.
- On Wednesdays & Saturdays you can immediately sail on from Port Askaig to Colonsay, and in summer a day trip there is possible.