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A Day on Jura – part 1: Nothing To See Here

The main road on the isle of Jura

This the main road on Jura that runs from the west coast to Ardlussa on the east. There isn’t a lot to see, but the wilderness is part of its charm. George Orwell wrote 1984 here, calling it an ‘un-gettable’ place.

The Paps of Jura

What you can’t miss is ‘the Paps’ of Jura. These three mountains are visible for miles around, and make the island’s skyline easy to identify from any direction. Even though they are omnipresent, they are also strangely out of reach.

Red deer at Ardlussa, Isle of Jura

Jura is also famous for having more deer than people (around 7,000 deer v 200 people), so there’s always that.

The Islay-Jura ferry

To get there, there is a car ferry from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin (a 5-10 minute crossing) or the Jura passenger ferry that runs from Tayvallich on the mainland to Craighouse, the main town on Jura.

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The long walk to Oronsay

Oronsay Island, Southern Hebrides

Oronsay is a tiny island, connected to Colonsay by a beach which is only accessible at low tide.

The walk between Oronsay and Colonsay, Southern Hebrides, Scotland

A 4-5 hour circular walk takes you over the crossing to see the priory and an RSPB sanctuary.

The beach between Oronsay and Colonsay, Southern Hebrides, Scotland

Compared to the other tidal islands I’ve visited (Burgh Island, St Michael’s Mount, Cramond Island) the walk to Oronsay was a long and not particularly enjoyable schlep across wet sand and standing water.

The marker on Oronsay island, Inner Hebrides

I’d love to say it was worth the walk, but I was so fed up I turned back as soon as I got to the waymarker. Sorry Oronsay! Another day perhaps.

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A trip to Colonsay

Colonsay bookshop and sheep, Isle of Colonsay

Colonsay is a small island (population 125) in the Southern Hebrides (part of the Inner Hebrides) off the west coast of Scotland. The ferry runs daily from Oban, or from Islay twice a week in summer.

There is a bookshop, a microbrewery, two gin distilleries and Colonsay house and gardens (closed when we visited). It is also covered with beautiful quiet beaches and has its own species of bee.

We hung about on Colonsay Golf Course, which has a fantastic setting, like the Bunabhainneadar tennis course on Harris. It operates via an honesty box, and local rules allow “a free drop for balls disappearing into rabbit-holes or taken by the ravens”.

It was covered in relics of something or other and led down to a deserted bay.

After a trip to Oronsay (of which, more later) the last stop was something to eat at the excellent Colonsay Pantry before the beautiful journey back to Islay.

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Islay – a round church, a square lighthouse and other architectural highlights

Portnhaven Church, Isle of Islay

Portnahaven Church was designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1828. The two doors are reputed to allow the populations of Portnahaven and the neighbouring village of Port Wemyss to enter separately and remain segregated when inside. Very Christian!

It is one of the best remaining examples of a ‘parliamentary church’, part of a wave of church-building (funded by Parliament) designed to better serve churchgoers in remote areas. Thanks Maraid for the tip-off.

The Round Church in Bowmore, Isle of Islay

Kilarrow Parish Church, more commonly known as The Round Church sits at the top of Bowmore’s main street. It was built in 1767 and is one of few round churches in the UK. The story goes that it was designed to be round so the devil couldn’t hide in any corners, but this seems to be more fiction than fact.

The church is not usually open apart from Sunday mornings, but you can arrange a visit by contacting the parish clerk on the number at the entrance.

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse, Port Ellen, Isle of Islay

Carraig Fhada Lighthouse on the Mull of Oa is a beautiful thing from any angle. We visited at 7.30am on the hottest day of the year.

It is Scotland’s only square lighthouse, and was commissioned by Walter Frederick Campbell, the Laird of Islay, in memory of his wife Lady Ellinor Campbell who died young in 1832. There is a beautiful dedication to her on one side of the lighthouse.

You can walk across the little path to get right up close (except at high tide). The lighthouse itself is not usually open to the public.

Further reading: a great tour of the lights of Islay and Jura by a very dedicated lighthouse-bagger.

The Royal Arch Masonic Hall, Bowmore, Islay

And finally… a pleasing doorway. Bowmore’s Royal Arch Masonic Hall has been beautifully restored and is now Bowmore Lodge holiday accommodation.

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The lonely petrol pumps of Islay

Port Askaig garage, Isle of Islay

I’ve been on the Isle of Islay for a few days. This Brutalist shelter was the first thing I saw after getting off the ferry at Port Askaig.

I thought it was a bus stop, but it’s a lone petrol pump. The shape of the island is cut out of one side.

Port Charlotte Garage, Isle of Islay, Scotland

After that, I couldn’t help noticing other tiny garages. This one was in Port Charlotte.

Bowmore Filling Station, Isle of Islay, Scotland

Bowmore Filling Station, in the middle of one of the main town’s streets seemed like a megastore in comparison.

All operated by Gleaner, a family-owned Scottish fuel supplier.

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A postcard from Corrie

Corrie Harbour with sheep, Isle of Arran

I found this idyllic harbour last week in Corrie on the Isle of Arran.

Corrie Harbour with sheep and swan

Corrie lies on the north-east side of the island. It has two harbours – this one is known as Sandstone Quay because of the sandstone that was quarried locally and shipped from here.

Sandstone Quay at Corrie on the Isle of Arran - harbour view with black sheep and rocks

The sheep came from the Glasgow Garden Festival, and are a fun presence. There is also a lot going on rock-wise, if you like that kind of thing (I do).

Corrie Harbour with swan. Isle of Arran

The shoreline is full of plants, lichens, birds and sealife. The textures and colours are amazing.

Corrie sand, Isle of Arran

The colour of the sand is warm and inviting. It reminded me of butterscotch Angel Delight.

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Recent reading

Haven’t been out much recently, so I’ve been travelling the world on a small screen.

Humberston Fitties, historic plotland developments on the bank of the Humber in Cleethorpes, lovingly documented by Seagull Swamp.  


How curling stones are made – quarried from Ailsa Craig, a well-known landmark off the west coast of Scotland, and made to Olympic standard by one company in Mauchline – photos by Andy Buchanan


Presenter Kirsty Young has bought the uninhabited Scottish island of Inchconnachan, home to a group of wallabies.


The Hermit of Treig – a great documentary about Ken Smith, who has lived alone off-grid on the shore of Loch Treig for the last 40 years. Incredible for his hardiness and indefatigability, I was fascinated with his thorough approach to record-keeping and the daily admin of being a hermit. (Not currently available on iPlayer but it has been repeated a few times).


The story of Clarion Clubhouses, founded by socialist organisations for the benefit of walkers and cyclists visiting rural areas. Found via a Guardian article about the last Clarion House in Lancashire, which I would very much like to visit.


Slow Ways – help create a national walking network.


Current reading: Tiny Islands: 60 Remarkable Little World Around Great Britain by Dixe Wills.

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King of Piel

The Ship Inn and Jetty, Piel Island

Piel Island – a tiny island in Cumbria off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness – is looking for a new ruler. For reasons that have become slightly hazy, the licensee of the Ship Inn, Piel’s only pub, is crowned the King or Queen of Piel.

The King of Piel's Throne, Piel Island

The ‘coronation’ ceremony involves sitting on a throne and having beer poured over their head.

Piel Ferry to Piel Island

Piel is a tidal island, and can be reached by ferry from Roa (at times).

Tide's out, Piel Island

At low tide, it’s possible to walk across the sands (careful now).

Pilots' Houses, Piel Island

For a small island, it punches above its weight with one substantial ruined castle, one thriving pub and one row of very solid-looking houses.

Piel Island artefacts in the Ship Inn

When we visited, there was a great display in the Ship Inn, full of historical artefacts.

If you like to get away from it all, it might be worth a shot.

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A trip to Rothesay

Wemyss Bay station ticket office

Thought I would squeeze in another island while the weather is still decent. Off to Rothesay we go.

Rothesay is the main town on the Isle of Bute. It is easy to get there from Glasgow by train and as a bonus, you get to go through Wemyss* Bay Station, one of the most beautiful railway stations in the UK.

(*pronounced Weems)

Wemyss Bay station

Get off the train and go down the adjoining walkway to get the ferry (operated by CalMac). The scenic crossing through the First of Clyde takes around 35 minutes.

Rothesay fountain

Bute is one of the easiest islands to visit, because it’s so accessible. Get off the ferry and you’re right in the centre of Rothesay. The Esplanade has a lovely vintage seaside feel.

Rothesay puppets

There are all kinds of shops and odd things to look at. Sadly, Zavaroni’s, home of the Top Hat (an ice cream cone with a Tunnock’s snowball squashed into it), and the Victorian toilets were both closed.

Gents Hairdresser, Rothesay

This little gem was still open – I was taking a picture of the shopfront, thinking it had long closed, when the owner came back from lunch and gave me a wee look inside. He said he’ll be closing up at the end of the year.

Wesley Snips, Rothesay

How can you compete with young guns like Wesley Snips?

After that it was time to head home again, with a beautiful view of all the Victorian villas along the shore and a plan to see more of Bute on my next visit.

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Bonus island: Luing

While we’re on the subject of islands, here’s Luing, from a visit in 2017.

Luing is one of the Slate Islands, in the same group as Easdale.

There is a small car ferry that runs from North Cuan on the mainland to South Cuan on Luing.

It is quite an unusual shape. The crossing takes about 5 minutes.

The island itself is great for walking. We walked from the ferry landing to Cullipool, the main settlement, and visited the Atlantic Islands Heritage Centre.

It was very picturesque and unspoilt – an easy way to get away from it all.