George Orwell decided that Jura was the place for him when he wished to escape from the world after the Second World War to write 1984. He rented a remote farm cottage on the north side of the island and proceeded to have the most miserable time, suffering personal bereavement and illness, a complete failure to farm food for himself and almost drowning in the Corryvreckan whirlpool.
Visitors to Jura these days however, particularly if they stay at the Jura Hotel, are likely to encounter nothing but conviviality, bonhomie and great hospitality.
Wining and dining
At one end of the hotel is a proper Scottish shinty pub, serving bar meals in a relaxed atmosphere. At the other is a fine dining restaurant with the best of local produce imaginatively presented alongside a good wine list. They specialise in daily landed fish and seafood and the local venison for which the island is famous.
To fully appreciate what the hotel has to offer, you probably need to stay more than one night and work your way through.
Budget or boutique?
There is something for everyone here. The refurbishment of the hotel has created two guest lounges overlooking the breathtaking harbour in front, one suited for conversation with other guests about the best places to visit, the other for quieter contemplation of the view, or perusing the guide books and library. On a sunny day, there are tables and chairs outside.
From the suites, double rooms and family rooms, which have all been recently renovated in a sumptuous Highland Tweed style with chic en suites boasting whisky scented toiletries, to the single room designated for the walker or fisherman who just wants plain accommodation in a good hotel, again the hotel manages to cater for all-comers. What you won’t find is an in-room TV – all the better to enjoy the peace.
There is a camping field in front of the hotel which shares its views of the harbour. A new shower block means you won’t be roughing it even if you are under canvas.
We had a charming corner suite in the hotel with a view of the sea. Within five minutes of arriving, an obliging tall ship hoved into view and moored just offshore, perfectly framed in the window, to enhance the romance even further.
Worth getting out of bed for
It’s a bit of an adventure just getting to Jura. After the Islay ferry from the Kennacraig on the mainland drops you off at Port Askaig, it is a five-minute hop on a little car ferry to Jura from where it is a spectacular eight miles of single track to the hotel. Alternatively, those on foot or bike can get a fast passenger ferry direct to Craighouse from Tayvallich on Kintyre.
There is plenty to do for a few days’ stay. Dedicated walkers might want to challenge themselves to bag a Pap, of which there are three – confusingly for anyone who thought paps usually come in pairs. Or to get to Barnhill, Orwell’s isolated farmhouse, a good few miles’ hike beyond driveable roads.
The passenger ferry offers sealife safaris and those brave enough can head out to see the Corryvreckan whirlpool if conditions are right.
Jura House has a garden that is open to the public.
We chose to see both sides of the island – the change in landscape from one to the other is remarkable – and opted for a walk through the narrowest point to Loch Tarbert.
There are quaint clachans along the road which runs up the east coast of the island, never losing sight of the sea on one side and the impressive hills on the other. Most of the west coast is uninhabited and unreachable even by boat.
Back in Craighouse, the hotel’s next-door neighbour is perhaps the biggest draw. The Jura distillery attracts visitors from around the world – the tall ship was carrying well-heeled whisky enthusiasts from all over Europe on what must have been a very enjoyable fact-finding mission. Tours can be booked daily, or you can skip the education and just go for a tasting.
Visitors rave about the hotel, its standards of food, accommodation, service and the setting. Where else can you watch otters play on the shore while you eat breakfast?
Prices for bed and breakfast per room for The Jura Hotel start at £105 for a double, £65 for a single. A premium double is from £125. The Jura Hotel, Craighouse, Isle of Jura PA60 7XU, 01496 820243, www.jurahotel.co.uk