Forget Tony in Tuscany... here's the Camerons' holiday bolthole on Jura

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IT WAS never going to be quite as warm as Barbados. Nor would it have the same cosmopolitan charm as Chianti-shire. Nonetheless, the wind-lashed peninsula of Rubha nan Crann is set to become an equally celebrated holiday destination.

This craggy corner of Scotland, on the east coast of the Isle of Jura, can be revealed as the holiday home of David Cameron, the man expected to be named the new Conservative leader next month.

For the past decade, Cameron has enjoyed family holidays at the homely six-bedroom Tarbert Lodge, which is owned by his wife Samantha's stepfather, Viscount Astor.

With Cameron now tipped to become the next Conservative Prime Minister, the 200 residents of this remote island are eagerly anticipating that some of the stardust currently surrounding their famous visitor will fall their way.

The Cameron holiday home makes for a marked contrast to the more exotic locations favoured by Tony Blair, such as the luxurious Barbados villa of Sir Cliff Richard and the various Tuscan villas he has stayed in, including Prince Girolamo Guicciardino Strozzi's Renaissance-style palace, which the Blairs hired in 1998.

Yet it is no less fascinating for that. Bought in the 1920s as a holiday retreat by William Waldorf Astor, it was used during the Second World War as the refuge of Lady Nancy Astor, Britain's first female MP.

David Astor, the legendary post-war editor of the Observer, was also a frequent visitor and famously persuaded George Orwell, then a war correspondent, to rent a remote farm nearby called Barnhill in which he wrote much of his best-known novel, 1984.

Cameron's Jura connection was revealed last week when he spoke for the first time about his love of the island. "I fish and try to catch the odd sea trout or mackerel," he said. "It's a wonderful place. And I love swimming in the sea off Scotland. I don't mind cold water and there are really beautiful beaches up there. The quality of the peace and quiet you get is fantastic."

Jura residents are now hoping that his endorsement will boost the island and attract more tourists over to enjoy its trappings.

"He is very high-profile now, so the fact that he has praised it can only be good for the island," said local councillor Robin Currie. "It's a very beautiful and welcoming place with a great atmosphere, as anyone who has been there will tell you."

Sharon Hoverty, secretary of the Jura Community Council said: "We have to wait and see now whether what he said has any effect on people coming here. If he does become Conservative leader or even Prime minister then, yes, that may make a difference. People might be interested in taking a look at Jura for themselves."

However, she added: "It's not the first time someone famous has said something about Jura. We have had many people here such as the Queen and various other MPs who have stayed where David Cameron stays."

According to the islanders, the Camerons have been a largely anonymous presence on the island up until now. Their home is 12 miles north of the main village, Craighouse, and is isolated even by Jura standards. "They have their boats coming in and out so they don't tend to come through the village," Hoverty said.

When the Camerons return for their annual holiday next year, however, it is likely to be a different story. When Blair visited Italy in 1999, an entire beach was cordoned off for security reasons, a precaution which will also be taken if Cameron becomes Prime Minister.

Nevertheless, Fiona Walton, manageress of the Jura Hotel in Craighouse, agreed that Cameron's love of the island could help boost tourism. "The island is on the up anyway with any properties coming on the market being snapped up," she said. "People come here for the Paps of Jura and the wildlife."

Cameron's holiday home is situated within the 19,500-acre Tarbert estate, owned by Viscount Astor, a minister in John Major's government who married Samantha Cameron's mother, the 1960s "it girl" Annabel Jones.

The Camerons must love the place dearly as the journey to get there from the couple's London home is tortuous. By road, visitors must drive from Glasgow, turn west at Loch Lomond, before taking on the winding road to Tarbert on the Mull of Kintyre. A two-hour ferry crossing to Islay follows before the quick ferry ride across to Jura and an hour's drive to the lodge.

The lodge is available for rental, at up to 1,200 a week, through CKD Galbraith's upmarket castles and cottages brochure. Visitors can enjoy the Aga-warned kitchen, the open fires in the drawing room, and bedrooms with unspoilt views of the Sound of Jura.

Cameron's colleagues said that despite his lofty new status, he had no intention of turning his back in future for more exotic locations. His spokesman said: "It is somewhere they go every year. It is just a nice relaxing break for them."

Blair's wanderlust

DAVID Cameron's holidays within the sparse surroundings of Tarbert Lodge are in marked contrast to the more luxurious breaks enjoyed by Tony Blair, whose controversial annual trips abroad have become part of Britain's political fabric.

The Prime Minister has developed something of a passion for subsidised overseas holidays, as the guest of one of several wealthy benefactors.

His first trip, in the summer of 1998, to the plush Tuscan villa of Prince Girolamo Strozzi set the tone. The Blairs have enjoyed his hospitality twice and have been guests of Sir Cliff Richard at his lavish home in Barbados on two occasions.

They have also accepted the hospitality of Sir Anthony Bamford, the JCB billionaire, on the same island.

The Egyptian government has looked after him and his brood at Sharm el-Sheikh several times, and the Italian authorities have laid on a state-owned villa near Pisa.

The most spectacular of the many luxurious houses in which the Blairs have stayed was the 27-room hideaway of the Italian billionaire President, Silvio Berlusconi, in Sardinia. The two-day stay at the stupendous villa would have set them back 40,000 had they paid, according to travel industry experts.

The Blairs' trips have been fraught with controversy. During one holiday in Tuscany in 1999, the villagers of San Rossore reacted furiously after a whole section of their beach was cordoned off to ensure the family's security. On that trip they were staying in the Pisa villa of Tuscany's regional president, Vannino Chiti.

This year, the row grew to farcical proportions when Downing Street asked the media not to report where the Prime Minister was holidaying, for fear it would attract a terror threat. However, he later appeared at a public event in Barbados to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

The Blairs have tried to dampen the row over freebie trips by usually making a donation to charity. They have also made token attempts to boost the British tourist trade - in the wake of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 they spent a short time in Cornwall, before heading abroad.

Of course, Blair is not the only Labour leader to have met with controversy. Last New Year, Jack McConnell was embroiled for weeks in a conflict-of-interest row after it emerged he was spending his own holidays at the Mallorcan villa of broadcaster Kirsty Wark.

There appear to be no such problems for Cameron, who does not need to rely on wealthy friends for a holiday home. Such are the comforts of privilege, it seems.