Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Burning a Million Quid

(or, "Why I Love Jura For Many More Reasons Than The KLF").  

This post is partly a way of me getting my thoughts straight about a trip that I've been meaning to take for about ten years.  It's partly inspired by the reminiscences in this post and also by the amazing trip that an acquaintance is making that you can see here.  

I've been a bit obsessed by the Isle of Jura off the West Coast of Scotland for about fifteen years since I read about how George Orwell (still my favourite writer) lived there whilst writing Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Never one to do things by half I travelled there as part of a trip to Islay and Colonsay in-between leaving University and starting work.  Anyone who is foolish enough to give me the chance or who was unfortunate to meet me on the training course I was on last week will know that I will drone on about how beautiful and amazing the Western Isles are for hours.  

Sadly when I went back in 2004 I was strictly analogue in my photography so only have paper copies of my photos - so will link to a few images from other people to show how beautiful this place is;

You can also read a bit more about the island a various trips there at Peter Edward's excellent blog, 'Writes of Way'.  

I love the fact that the island used to accommodate 3000 people and is now where less than 200 people call home.  

I love the fact that Orwell called it "extremely un-get-at-able".  

I love the fact that the island's bus service is also the Royal Mail delivery service.  

I love the fact that the three main mountains on the island, the Paps of Jura, are named for their supposed resemblance to a woman's breasts

I love the fact that the Gulf of Corryvreckan nearly took Orwell's life and is also supposed to be the inspiration for the whirlpool in Homer's Odyssey.  

I love the fact that the Gulf Stream strikes the southern base of the island making it temperate enough to support a tropical garden with orchids and palm trees

I love the whole place and when I left the island after an amazing four days back in 2004 I promised myself, "I'll be back".  Since then, well, life has got in the way but I've vowed that this year is the year that I will go.  It's a bit of trek to get there so needs some planning.  

My current plan is something like the following;

Thursday Night: Travel down to London (all will become clear shortly) and take the Caledonian Sleeper to Glasgow.  (I've obviously been influenced by my sleeper train action in America but there is a certain efficiency about travelling down to London to then go North, as odd as that sounds).  

Friday Morning: Either - bus to Kennacraig OR hire a car and drive.  I'm still in two minds about this - I like the idea of not having to worry about a car and driving in Glasgow always terrifies me (not surprisingly really given there is a motorway right through the city centre) but the coach is a right faff.  Then - ferry from Kennacraig to Port Askaig.  Then - mini-ferry from Port Askaig to Feolin.  Then - either walk/hitch or drive to Craighouse.  

I'm then planning to spend just under a week on the island, wild camping, walking and generally enjoying the fact that you can often turn a complete circle and see no sign of civilisation at all.  

A lot of the walks in this book look really enticing, including a trip down the totally uninhabited West coast.  A great account of a trip like this here.  

I'm a bit frustrated as it looks like the only official campsite on Jura is closed for refurbishment.  The message is a bit ambiguous so I need to check it out properly.  The alternatives are booking a couple of nights of accommodation in the hotel to get me settled or just wild camping throughout.  Need to do some more thinking about that.  

I'm also intending to scale at least one of the Paps of Jura - just need to hope for some good weather.  

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