Eileen Diùra or Isle of Jura; land of deer

What a place! If you ever get the chance to go, go. So much wild space (142 sq mi), so many deer (6000) and not very many people (192).

Where to begin…? Well for all you ferry spotters out there who’ve been waiting with baited breath, these were our second and third ferries of the day.

Ferries...getting smaller!
Ferries…getting smaller!

We then hopped on the bus (the bus, there is only one service – a minibus) along the road (the road, there is only one road and to most of us it would be considered a lane or track) to Craighouse where we pitched our tents on the patch of grass (the grass, there was only one flat grassy area and it was an extension of the beach, the village green, the rugby pitch, the football pitch, the picnic area, the pub garden and the campsite.

Our tents are in the bottom left hand corner of the photo (to the right of the boat) - it was very handy for the hotel bar and distillery!
Our tents are in the bottom left hand corner of the photo (to the right of the boat) – it was very handy for the hotel bar and distillery!

Unfortunately the distillery was closed by the time we arrived but that evening we sampled the whiskey in the hotel bar. The next morning it was an early rise to catch the bus as far north as it goes; Ardlussa. And just past the estate house was our first deer sighting:

Stag nr Ardlussa
Stag nr Ardlussa

And so the walking began, at first we were on a track for a few kilometers then we turned off into the boggy, tussocky ground and headed up and over Ben Garrisdale and then down into Glengarrisdale Bay to find our bothy.


We're off!
We’re off!

When we arrived at the bothy Marcus was pleased to see that it had been renovated since he was last there – in its previous state he disregarded the bothy and camped instead. It was a large white cottage with a bright red roof and was visible from quite a way off. It had a hallway, a large storage cupboard and two rooms (a larger one with an open fire and enough of a sleeping platform for 8 people and the other with a stove and space for 3). We took the larger room, unpacked our things and then headed to the beach to explore and search for driftwood. On the beach there was, amongst other things, a beached minke whale, – which according to the bothy book had been there at least 3 days but judging by the smell probably a lot longer – a goat carcass, a few goat skulls, some small pieces of wood plus a 6ft fence post, oh and some seals…live ones.

Back at the bothy, once the mist had rolled in off the hills 2 guys turned up with a sack of coal and a bag of fire wood and then later a boat landed on the beach and 5 people got out to inspect the whale – suddenly it felt like we were in a busy place! We ate dinner and whiled away the hours in front of the fire drying out various items of clothing (mostly socks), sipping whiskey and having a bit of a sing song with Marcus on the ukulele. Having lugged the giant post back to the bothy I only had the energy saw off one log so we kept the fire going by trading whisky for some coal and extra wood with the other occupants.

Leaving Glengarrisdale
Leaving Glengarrisdale

The walk the following day was to be very different from the previous day – it was all coastal. We scrabbled and scrambled and squeezed our way up and over the boulders  and under the cliffs that make the jagged west coast of Jura such a stunning place. After 6 hours we reached Bàgh Gleann nam Muc (bay of the pigs) where we stopped to pitch our tents on the beach before heading off around the northern peninsula of Jura unladen. Off the top of Jura is a small, uninhabited rocky island called Scarba and between them is the Gulf of Corryvrecken where the underlying rock formations and the tides entangle to create a whirlpool. There are myths, legends and modern accounts that talk of this treacherous stretch of water and from high up on An Cruachan you could see unusual patterns and shades in the water. I was glad to be on solid ground!

Deer on An Cruachan
Deer on An Cruachan

Once we returned to camp, Marcus set about constructing a fire (in an existing spot) but without firefighters we were all dubious. It turns out that alcohol gel soaked toilet roll wrapped around a stick makes a good substitute!

The campfire
The campfire

After another evening conversing around a fire we headed to bed when the fire had burn itself out. We struck camp at 9am,  after I had removed 10, yes that’s 10 ticks – the little blood thirsty buggers (no-one else reported to have any, grrr). We headed back to the east coast to where we had got to the previous afternoon and found the footpath which led past a bunkhouse to the house known as Barnhill. Barnhil is where George Orwell came with his family in 1948 to write 1984. We were motoring once we hit the track which led back to Ardlussa where we had been dropped off 2 days previously. By 2:30pm we were down by Inverlussa bay drinking tea and eating  cake (self-service from a horse box – there’s a first time for everything!). We enjoyed lazing about in some strong afternoon sunshine waiting for the bus – a well deserved rest.

The end at Inverlussa. Group shot (L-R) me, Marcus, Louisa and Lisa
The end at Inverlussa. Group shot (L-R) me, Marcus, Louisa and Lisa

For the 3 ladies it was the start of a long journey home. Mine went something like this; bus, bus, ferry, ferry, bus, bus, train and mum taxi! Marcus is still island hopping somewhere…no surprises there!

A Sunny Holy Isle, a canter across Kintyre and off to Jura we go!

(I wrote this on the ferry on Tuesday, thought that it was published but when I got back on the return ferry today, turned out it hadn’t, so here it is…I’ll let you know how Jura was soon, I’ll probably write about it whilst experiencing the Megabus Gold sleeper service later on tonight!)

The Holy Isle worked its magic! The sun has been shining over Arran.

We took the boat over from Lamlash and were welcomed onto the isle – it was the first western Buddhist retreat of its kind in the west and is open to all. We headed up to coast first via the caves of St Molaises, the healing spring (not approved for drinking by the EU!), the private retreats for women committed to lifelong solitary meditation and a square lighthouse. Then it was a short scramble up to the trig point where it was a moment for reflection and sun salutations!

After we’d had our free tea we headed back to Lochranza for dinner on the campsite and then to the pub to catch up with the few others that climbed Goatfell.

Here’s the sunset over Lochranza castle on the way to the pub:

This morning we packed up – slightly nonchalantly – and ended up half running for the ferry which arrived just as we did. On we got and then it was a 5mile schlep on a narrow road across the Kintyre peninsula to catch the next ferry. Just one more ferry and a bus until we reach the campsite for tonight!

Experiencing Arran’s April Showers

Happy Easter from the gardens of Brodick Castle, Rob didn’t make it a particularly tricksy hunt…

On the first day out in the hills we got the bus westwards and down the coast to Dougarie Point and initially headed up Glen Iorsa as a group of 18 and then split up. 8 of firstly us headed up Sail Chalmadale, towards Loch Tanna – the largest but also most remote loch on Arran.

We scrambled up Beinn Bhreac and the winds had become quite strong so instead of heading up Mullach Buidhe we headed due north around Meall nan Damh to Catacol where the hotel was calling to us! After some well deserved food and drink we helped it down with a post dinner walk back to the campsite via the Lochranza Hotel Bar which was extra rammed. That and the lack of staff made for an extra stroppy barman!

This morning we headed south east to Brodick Castle to wander round the gardens is the rain…this is the roof of the Bavarian summer house beautifully adorned with fir cones:

After a rather brief tour of Brodick – cheese shop, aromatics, cash point, outdoor gear shop and cafe for coffee and cake we got the bus up to Sannox and walked the coast path back to Lochranza whilst keeping an eye out for local wildlife.

All of this has been accompanied by many many April showers, hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow!

Off to Arran

After starting at the Great Nepalese outside Euston, a few of us set off from London in the sleeper train bar – classic! Then it was another train, a ferry and a bus to get to Lochranza.

We eventually pitched our tents on the right spots in the field..initially ‘where the cars need to park’ then on the ‘tractor route’, grrr. Then it was off to check out the local spots; the sandwich pavilion at the ferry port, the hotel, the castle ruin, the golf course, the craft shop and then the distillery for a flight of delicious Arran whiskeys.

On our way back from our wander we passed the ‘natural hazards’ surrounding the 8th hole, wouldn’t fancy trying to play a ball from under one of their hooves!!

Finally a nice view of the castle on the way to the hotel for a nightcap.

The preparations are almost complete…

Maps to study and guidebooks to read.

I’ve got a lot of things to do before I leave and one of those things was to set up a blog, so that’s something I can tick off the list!

So this is my walking blog where I plan to document not just my big adventure for this year; walking Land’s End to John O’Groats this summer, but hopefully many more walks in the future.

I’m off on my final ‘training’ trip with the mountaineering club that I’m a member of; the Rockhoppers. We’re going to the Isle of Arran over Easter and a few of us will be extending the trip to explore the wilds of Jura too. That will also be the first test of trying to post blog entries from the ‘field’ as it were. So come back and visit soon to read about that and LEJOG which I currently plan to commence on May 7th.


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