Our trip to the Isles Islay & Jura, Scotland

November 2016

Our trip to the islands of Islay and Jura was going to be special enough but just to add some extra specialness, we were also going to stop off at Aileen’s favourite town – Inveraray and visit its famous Inveraray jail. Then on to an overnight stay at Stonefield Castle before catching the ferry to Islay the next morning. Our trip included 3 overnight stays – Stonefield castle, Islay hotel and Jura hotel. Hopefully packing in as much as possible.

Inveraray is situated on the A83 in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It is on the western shore of Loch Fyne and has a long history, which has helped define it’s architecture and hospitable way of life. I can well understand why Aileen enjoys visiting this special wee town. When entering the town from the east, you will go over a humped back bridge and if you look to your right, you will be met with a sight to behold. Inveraray Castle with its unusual green colour and gothic style.

On this particular visit, though, we decided to visit Inveraray Jail. We choose the self guided tour, complete with headphones, allowing us to wonder around a building that oozed history, tragic stories and fascinating facts.  We would thoroughly recommend a visit to this thought provoking place.

After a quick lunch, we were on our way again. Staying on the A83, we finally arrived at our accommodation for the night, Stonefield Castle .  It’s a bit pricey, although there are Groupon deals available at times but it’s worth it if you are looking stay in a castle for the night. It’s well maintained grounds are perfect for a stroll and the views across the Mull of Kintyre Peninsula   are very special. Again, this would be an ‘On the Way’ recommendation.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we set off for the fishing village of Tarbert where we would catch the ferry to Islay. Arriving early, we decided to climb a nearby hill and say hello to the locals!

This would be our first trip to Islay and the tight schedule created a bit of a whistle stop tour of the Island. So once we had checked into the Islay hotel, we set off in the car for a quickish look around.

I don’t know if it’s because Aileen and I have been spoilt by Scottish scenery over the years but personally, I was underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, It’s a beautiful Island and I feel I am doing it an injustice considering we only stayed for one night but I’m being honest with how I felt.

There were highlights such as quaint little villages like Portnahaven.

Distilleries galore and not just whisky but also Gin as its popularity continues to grow.

Most Scottish Islands will regularly delight you with glimpses of their wildlife and Islay doesn’t disappoint.

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Port Ellen, where our hotel was situated, had a sleepy charm to it with colourful houses and the village of Bowmore had an unusual round church The local grocery shop is an interesting place to stand and observe the local’s interactions. Clearly the weekly shop is a great chance to catch up on all the Island gossip.

So yes please go to Islay and explore it but you might need to stay longer than one night!

The next day we set off for Jura. This trip involved a short ferry from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin on Jura, the journey takes only 10 minutes. 

Jura has fewer people living on it than Islay, it basically has one main road the A846, which becomes a single track road from Lussagiven, taking you from the Feolin Ferry port to Kinuachdrachd at the north of the Island.    Along the way you will treated to the Paps of Jura to your left and to your right you can see the Scottish mainland with endless hills and mountains. 

I loved Jura. I loved its remoteness, its scenery, it’s hotel and its single track roads.

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 Again, we only stayed for one night but for some reason I remember our stay in Jura much clearer than our stay in Islay.

Of course creating memories needs moments in time than linger with you and become hardwired into your special memory bank and Jura did that.

During our ‘Jura road trip’ we decided to go off the beaten single track and take a road that we hoped would lead to a spot for some seal watching. This road had no passing places with little room for error either side. We eventually reached a set of large gates, possibly the entrance to a local estate owned by laird! This created a dilemma as our journey back would mean reversing at least a couple of miles and who’s to say what we would meet. Maybe an angry laird! So I persuaded Aileen that I could do a 3 point turn. With a sharp fall into a stream at one side and a bog to the other, Aileen got out and began to give me some instruction. I began to manoeuvre the car, quickly realising that a 3 point turn had been a tad ambitious. I kept a close eye on Aileen’s instructions in the mirror. To be honest, her instructions closely matched a highland dance routine. Arms flying in all directions and darting from side to side. I decided to make a executive decision and inch a bit further into the bog. I was now perfectly place for one last reverse and we would be on our way. That’s when my heart sunk as I heard that unmistakable sound of my front wheels spinning frantically and mud was now flying in all direction.    Luckily Aileen had avoided the mud but our car was covered in it and we were now stuck in a bog in the middle of nowhere. 

Just as this scene was about to turn into the domestic of all domestics, we both heard the squeak of the large iron gates being opened and out drove a man looking bemused by what he was faced with. Was it the laird coming to give us a telling off for ruining his bog?

As it turned out, it was a fellow tourist who had had the sense to drive up to the gate, open it and drive on to the seal viewing point. This wasn’t a gate to a lairds private land but nothing more than a benign boundary gate. He was now on his way back, luckily for us, and was more than prepared to help push our car out the bog; at the risk of being covered in copious amount of mud. As it turned out, he was also staying at our hotel.

We were now back on the road deciding to waste no more time and head for the north of the Island.

We quickly rejoined the single track road north but before long, we had stopped again. This time we were hypnotised by the views of snow capped mountains and miles of nothingness.

We felt the need to get out for wee stroll into the nothingness but with no obvious established paths, we decided to turn back as we didn’t want to disturb the flora. Although there was time for Aileen to have her obligatory loss of footing and nose dive into the bog. Luckily I managed to pull her out without the need for any help from a passing tourist!

The remainder of our trip to the north of the Island was relatively incident free and we relaxed into our default setting of wonderment.

Later that evening, back at the hotel, we met the tourist who had helped us get our car out of the bog. Let’s just say he was shown our appreciation with some large glasses of alcohol.

And that was our trip to the Islands of Islay and Jura. As you will no doubt have realised by now, we don’t do typical travel blogs full of step by step facts or 10 things you should know about – whatever.

No we prefer to include some helpful links and give you a general personal flavour of our trips. Please feel free to read our other blogs, set out in a similar personal and times humorous way.

 

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Bridge over the Atlantic

We decided to take advantage of a spring Groupon deal and headed to Argyle, Scotland. We arrived at our hotel Lochmelfort for an overnight. Once checked in, we were shown to our room. The hotel had a certain amount of grandeur about it but it also had a more basic wing and this is where we were shown to. Unfortunately the room door was locked from the inside and our hotel rep looked concerned. Was there still somebody inside? Was there a body inside? How would he get us in we wondered. He proceeded to ignore every hotel health and safety book and opened the room next to us, climbed out onto the balcony and completed a manoeuvre that Spiderman would have been proud of! Opening our door, now from the inside, he calmly stated ”sorry about that” handed us our key and walked off. Needless to say our balcony door remained firmly locked for the remainder of our stay.

Clachan Bridge is about 8 miles from the town of Oban on Scotland’s west coast and was built between 1792 and 1793 and links the Island of Seil to the mainland.

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Our trip to this bridge took in some lovely scenery as well as the historic Kilmartin Church, with its ancient carved stones.

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Clachan Bridge is well worth seeing. It might just be because of its unofficial name but it felt like a special place to stand on and take a selfie – as you do.

2016

2016 We decided to make up for our lack of camping the previous year and made a concerted effort to get on the road as much as possible.  Of course our wandering spirit also resulted in another year of tent free side track travels:-

Crinan cannal

Bridge over the Atlantic

Lake Lugano

Haltwhistle and

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In between these adventures, we did make plans regards camping and our first plan involved purchasing a Daxara trailer.   We were fed up with cramming all out camping gear into the back of our car and it was becoming a dangerous place for our dog Sam, who was going to be squashed to death one of these trips.  We invested in a hardtop lid for the trailer complete with roof bars and a roof box. Finally, we were able to pack the majority of our camping equipment into the trailer and roof box. Sorted!

This camping business suddenly seemed more expensive than we had thought it would. ‘’FFS we could have spend a week in Spain all inclusive with the money we’ve spent!’’ was a regular rant.

We also decided to research a new tent. Not that our Kampa was giving us any problems but now that we had the storage sorted, it seemed that we needed something else to get right in our never ending quest to find the ultimate camping experience that would be the perfect combination of storage, transport  and stress free tent erection.   

Meantime in between our tent research, we had some camping to do and off we set to  Nicholaston Farm south Wales then back up to Scotland and off to Inver caravan park Dunbeath (Links to follow)

We knew we could manage one last big camping excursion before the season finished and this focused our minds in finding that elusive tent that would make our camping experience even better. We decided to buy an inflatable tent. We did our research and bought an Outwell Vermont 7 berth. This would eliminate the need for a separate bag for poles, it would go up quickly and would be the answer to all our small issues. At least it had better! It cost a small fortune.

Truth be told this tent turned out to be the wrong decision. Yes it was big and had a well thought out interior but it was too big and as for space saving with no poles – the air beams and the tent combined just created a big mass of tent that had to be squeezed into a large bag, all the time trying to squeeze out the air. Its dismantled bulk was heavy and now our small trailer was full. Our tent was too big!!  We quickly realised that we had also limited what campsites we could go to but we had no choice. It had cost a lot of money and we would just need to accept it and be aware of where to camp.

Our first outing with our new tent was to Fields end water caravan park Cambridgeshire (Link to follow). We managed to squeeze it into our pitch but it stuck out like a sore thumb. This was a perfect tent for a family who wanted to go on holiday for a week or two but not for a couple with their wee dog who just wanted to stay a few days then move on to anot her site. It was too big, too much hassle putting it up and packing it away and  took up too much space in the trailer. It had to go! Just not yet.