Friday, 12 July 2013

Islay & Jura, July 2013

Tilly decided it was time she and I had some quality time. She'd had a great adventure on Harris & Lewis at Easter so suggested another pair of the Western Isles; Islay & Jura in the Inner Hebrides. I asked if she minded if Bernie joined us and, reluctantly, she agreed but only with the proviso that he slept on the floor. Normally when the two of us are away she has one of the single bunks and I the other and she could see no reason why that should change simply because Bernie was tagging along. In the end, she did allow Bernie to have her bed but only cos I let her sleep on the end of mine!

Rising early on a Sunday morn, we scurried up the motorway system to Glasgow, then followed a circuitous route round to Kintyre and our port of departure; Kennacraig for the 6pm ferry. By 8:30 we were settled by the cemetery just out of Port Ellen cooking chilli.

Next morning dawned and we drove up the road north east of Port Ellen to Claggan Bay, where we left the van and set off on a 10 mile route taking in Glas Bheinn and Beinn Bheigier, the highest mountain on Islay at 491 metres. Starting from sea level makes this a tough walk.

And back to the van for coffee and cake and a night spent listening to the soothing sound of waves on sand.

The following day was wet, so we restricted ourselves to an easy walk on the Oa peninsular to the American Monument, raised to the memory of American servicemen lost on two ships sunk near here in the Great War.

We visited Bowmore in the rain and I took shelter for a while in the round church, presiding magnificently atop the hill, overlooking the little town.

Finding a beachside location Tilly and I took a damp meander along the sands before settling down for dinner and a cool, wet and windy night.

Over the next couple of days we explored historic sites and enjoyed coastal walks.


Then, with a wary eye on the weather forecast, it was off to Port Askaig and the ferry across the Sound of Islay to Jura, the island of the deer.

Off north east then north along the only road we soon found ourselves at an unofficial campground on the beach.
Our target, the iconic Paps of Jura. Rising early next morning, we donned sacs and boots and set off on this challenging route. The weather was hideous, the forecast having failed miserably, as were the photos.
Sincere apologies for those awful pics; indicative of not only the weather but also the spare effort I had after ascending the peaks.
Nine hours later we arrived back at our home on wheels, having conquered two out of three of the inglorious Paps. We were tired - ( NB: MASSIVE understatement alert!).
Having spent the afternoon alternately eating, drinking and sleeping ... we did more of the same for the evening but were still tired so we ... went to bed.
In the morning, keen to explore more of Jura we drove to the end of the road at Cnoc na Airgh-seilich.  But first we made a shopping trip to the teeming metropolis of Craighouse and its excellent community store. Plus I HAD to buy some malts from the Jura distillery shop - be rude not to.
The drive from Craighouse took us around an hour; it's just 24 miles. I've driven some pretty wild roads around the world but this pushed the definition of a surfaced road to its limits.
From here we walked the 4 miles to Barnhill; the house where George Orwell wrote 1984, and back.

We then returned to a camp above Craighouse in readiness for the ferry back to Islay next morning.
Having caught the first ferry that Sunday morning, we were the lucky enough to get on the first tour of the Caol Ila distillery and had the guide, Lynzie, all to ourselves. She was very good and, after a dram or two, I was very grateful to Bernie for buying me a pressie of a bottle of their 12 year old malt. Cheers Bernie.
For the rest of our final day on the islands we visited Finlaggan; once home to the Lords of the Isles, walked most of the length of the beach at Laggan Bay and finally settled near the beach just outside Port Ellen to be best placed for our ferry to the mainland on Monday morning. Tilly and I enjoyed a walk on the headland, the site of the old Carraig Fhada lighthouse. On the morning before we departed we bumped into a herd of feral goats on the headland.
Finally, here's a short video to show you what a bouncy, bonkers choccy lab looks like at 7 in the morning on the day after, probably the hardest walk she's ever done, over the Paps of Jura.
Be assured, dear reader, she was soon back to her normal boisterous self and is currently engaged in geeing Dixie up about how exciting our upcoming summer trip to the mountainous areas of France is gonna be!
And happy travels from me an' Tilly.