A night on Jura
by Stefan1 » Sun Jul 08, 2018 9:15 pm
Route description: Beinn an Oir, via Loch an t-Siob
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn an Òir
Date walked: 06/07/2018
Time taken: 24 hours
Distance: 56 km16 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Jura is one of the Scottish islands on my dwindling list of islands I want to visit but haven't yet. It was time to check it off the list. Part of the reason that Jura has remained untouched by me is the difficulty of getting there - especially without a car. While Oban and Mallaig, gateways to so many beautiful islands, are well served by truly beautiful and enjoyable train journeys, Kennecraig is not. To get there requires a bus. This is, of course, a terrifying prospect. Buses are well known sources of misery and disease. However, needs must. The now familiar train to Glasgow passed quickly, and I soon found myself at the bus station. I admit that looking round at the destinations on the front of some of the buses has rather tempted me for future trips to parts unaccessible by train... but that's for another time. For now, I found my bus. Bus, is, of course, not the correct word. Long distance buses like these are coaches, clean, spacious and mercifully air-conditioned. Couple that with a brilliantly entertaining driver and I will admit I enjoyed the bus ride more than many a train ride! The pretty route didn't hurt either.
Jura appears in the distance.
Closer under a grey sky.
We arrived to Kennecraig late, so there was only time to buy a ticket and board to boat. A spot of lunch was followed by an enjoyable journey out on deck, watching the world go by. Far too soon, it was over and we arrived at Port Askaig on Islay. I was on Islay for all of 5 minutes, before the little ferry to Jura pulled away on its short crossing. Although the crossing is only 5 minutes, that 5 minutes was enough time for the clouds to disperse and give the clear indication that the rest of the day was to be sunny. I stepped off the ferry onto Jura. The first step of many on this wonderful, wild island. I headed up the west coast, watching the Islay shoreline slip by on my left, enjoying the views of Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain which I had visited almost 2 years earlier! The good dirt track was baked dry and made for easy progress. Until it started to rise. I am not the world's fittest man by any stretch. I have, however, done enough walking to be able to convince myself that the hard going was not just the effect of too many pies, but also partly due to the extra weight I was carrying - extra water, food a tent and sleeping bag. The plan was to sleep somewhere out in the wilds of Jura. At least the weather was perfect for it.
The cloud starts to break.
It got me to Islay, but now time to leave the big boat behind and head for Jura!
Sadly not the boat we took!
I have seen people refer to Jura as a wilderness. Untamed. Wild. Remote. These are the words I have often heard banded about regarding the island. "One road, one distillery and 6000 deer". I have to say that these were not my initial impressions. The deer were undeniably everywhere. But wild? As the miles slipped by on the well-made dirt track I couldn't help but feel it was all rather tame. And as for remoteness? Well, I could see houses on Islay, and the lump of land a bit further north was Colonsay - which I'd also been too. Nope, can't say it felt that remote. Of course, that's not to say it wasn't beautiful. As the path rose, the sun warmed and the view grew evermore expansive. Also, as much as it didn't feel too remote, I didn't see a single other person all day - not even in the distance. Maybe it was remote after all.
No shortage of these on Jura.
Rather sunny now.
As the track skirted he side of Beinn a'Chaolais, I briefly flirted with the idea of going over the top of it to get to my goal. Fortunately, reason returned to me quickly and I realised what a stupid idea that was. It was hot. I was tired. So tired I couldn't even be bothered to brush away the clegs which were annoyingly plentiful whenever the slight breeze dropped. The point where I realised quite how tired I was came as I neared the far side of the hill. The track dropped some 30 meters ahead of me, before forking right up the valley between Beinn a'Chaolais and Bainn an Oir. "Ah hah!" said my brain, "Why bother dropping, only to have to climb that again, when we could just contour the hill?" Now, this is something that I always think when walking. Of course, in general leaving the track for a "short-cut" is a terrible idea. The tougher terrain invariably takes more effort, and more often than not you end up in a bog cursing the idiot that came up with the idea (which is, of course, yourself). But... maybe this time it might just work... Ahhh... foolish optimism. It did work actually. Sort of. A bit. Maybe. There certainly were no bogs. Weeks of baking heat and barely any rain had seen to that. The terrain, however, was of course much tougher than the track had been. I ended up requiring hands as I clambered round exposed rocky ledges. This sort of walking is much more fun than the relentless grinding trudge on the trail, however, so I felt vindicated in my decision - which is unfortunate, as I may end up taking this sort of decision again in the future!
Deer on all sides, though usually far away.
That looks an intimidating climb.
More deer greeted me at the bealach, and quickly dispersed as my heavy footsteps drew me closer. It was time to find a way up the hill. Beinn an Oir looked rather steep from here. Indeed as I started to climb I was surprised how rocky it is, and indeed was reduced to genuine scrambling in a couple of places, although this was probably due to my poor navigation, rather than the actual difficulty of the real path, which I managed to lose at several times. Fortunately, the 4G reception was brilliant this high up, and I was able to listen to the England India cricket match as I climbed! I can thoroughly recommend this as a way to take your mind of the hard, tiring work of walking! A final push up a relentless quartz scree slope damn near killed me. I sank 3/4 of a step back for every step I took, and progress was painfully slow. Finally, a few more rocky meters and I'd made it. The summit. Not a bad view.
Starting to get higher.
There was a big problem though. I don't know much about tenting, other than it's uncomfortable and I don't like it. However, I don't think you're supposed to pitch your tent on broken rock and scree. This was a big problem as the summit was made exclusively of the stuff. Bother. I rested for a while on the summit considering my options. Eventually I decided to explore further down the summit ridge, surely there'd be a grassy patch somewhere. As it turns out there wasn't. In fact, there was something better. Thick moss grew in between the rocks and boulders, and in a couple of places this moss had even spread to cover the tops of the rocks. There it was, some 10 meters below the summit, a patch just big enough to pitch a tent on. Much softer than grass, this looked perfect. Some large rocks placed on top of the tent pegs (which were really not doing a great job of anchoring the tent into the soft moss) and I had a home for the night. I added a few more rocks to secure it in case the wind picked up and eventually, satisfied that it was secure I crawled inside to listen to the rest of the cricket, and wait for the sun to drop a bit. Eventually, I went back to the summit armed with my camera for the sunset. The breeze was cold and I regretted not bringing a jumper - or at least I did until I reminded myself how heavy my pack had felt anyway! No jumper was fine. Less weight was definitely the correct shout! The sun sank over Colonsay and I clicked away merrily on the camera, shuddering in the breeze. A slightly disappointing sunset, but then again, maybe I've just been spoiled in the past. Sun gone, it was time for bed.
Evening light. looking towards the mainland.
Whisky peeking up at me from Islay.
Colonsay looks so small!
In the evening light, Beinn a'Chaolais looked even better.
Found a spot for my tent!
Light and shadows.
Off goes the sun.
Mull looking rather peaceful.
Ah, finally a snap of the actual summit.
Ok, the pictures are getting rather repetitive, but it's a good view, so why not!
The tip of Islay in the last of the light.
The unmistakable shapes of the Dutchman's Cap, Lunga and even Staffa peering out of the distance.
Time for bed.
My alarm went off at 4:45. I had not slept well. But then again, I don't think anyone ever does in a tent. No matter. Sunrise time. And what a sunrise! Far to the Northeast the sun was peaking above the mountains, a streak of cloud directly above it and more clouds overhead. The colours were breathtaking. Warm yellows and intense pinks and purples, turning evermore yellow as the run rose to meet the cloud. I had a wonderful time watching it and enjoying the warmth it brought - I'd got a little cold in the night! All too soon the sun was up, and tucked itself away behind a cloud. I returned to my tend and packed up.
Good morning! And what a morning!
Colours towards Mull
Brilliant sun over the mainland.
Not a bad spot!
Bit more of a panorama.
Back at the summit.
A darker one.
So many layers of hills!
A slight mist only helps things!
Views to the east coast are perhaps the best.
Beinn Shiantadh stands guard.
Sea and mountains.
Arran my "go to" island looking inviting!
Maybe my favourite snap of the morning!
Sun getting higher as the day gets going!
But the cloud starts to thicken up.
Ok, one last look at that view!
Time for another long walk - but all down hill this time. I quickly went down the east side of the mountain, and was pleased to find this route much less steep and much easier than the way I'd come up. The moorland below was dry, although gave every impression of being a bogfest 99% of the year. I was lucky. It took me nearly 2 hours to reach the road, and I set off trudging down it. I was keen for a swim to wash away some of the grime of all the miles I'd walked, but knew I'd just get hot and sweaty again soon after. Although the morning was cloudy, it was still warm and muggy. I got to within 30 minutes of Craighouse before stopping for a swim. Seals gambled around, some lazily sitting on rocks, others joining me in the water. One very curious little fellow came to within 5 meters of me. It was lovely. The water was beautifully clear and refreshing. I enjoyed floating there - finally the weight off my feet.
Looking back to the hills from below.
A very calm sea greats me.
Abstract art... or a seal in the sea...
Getting dressed took a long time. The feet had not fared well from their rest and every step I took back on dry land felt painful! Eventually I was ready to go, feet encased within their boot-prison again, and readjusting to walking. I arrived in Craighouse at about 9:30, had time to sit and watch the swans a little before my important appointment at 10. 10 am was distillery time. As it turned out, I was the only person mad enough to want to tour a distillery in the middle of nowhere at 10 am on a Saturday, so a solo tour it was. And what a great little tour (the bonus whiskies offered me from behind the counter didn't hurt either!).I took the opportunity to refill my water bottles (with water, not whisky!) and was soon back on the road again. The clouds had decided that covering up the sun was too much effort and had disappeared somewhere, leaving the sun beating down again. The long walk back to the ferry passed uneventfully, and I was soon back on Islay. I briefly considered staying another night and poking my nose into some more whisky, but tiredness got the better of me. So then the mainland ferry appeared at 3 pm, and I was only too keen to get back on it. 24 hours I'd spent here. I'd walked well over 50 km and felt like I'd crammed a week's worth of activity into a day. I'm not ashamed to say I slept the entire ferry ride, bus ride and train ride back to Edinburgh - half waking up to move between the different vehicles. Eventually (after another few km walk) I found myself back in my own bed. More comfy than a tent for sure. But when your tent is on top of a mountain on an island in the middle of nowhere... sometimes, somehow you do miss being in that tent.
Ah hah, looks like a lovely spot for breakfast. And in this heat, the palm trees don't look too odd!
And some whisky (I only tried one of these... I mostly got to try the below the counter stuff! yum!
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by Mal Grey » Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:10 pm
The really remote bits of Jura are those of the northwest coast, beyond Loch Tarbert. As you say, though, you don't exactly see loads of people in the "popular" end!
I will never forget climbing to the summit from the east, aged 16, and suddenly this view of endless sparkling sea, studded with islands, appeared as the hill fell away in front of me.
I sleep very, very well in a tent.
by iangpark » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:51 am
by Phil the Hill » Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:03 pm
If I did that trip I'd be terribly weighed down by bottles of whisky by the end!
by litljortindan » Tue Jul 17, 2018 10:04 pm
Did you turn off at Cnocbreac on your way up or did you carry on north from there?
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