ISLAY & JURA
Pronounced Eye-la, the Isle of Islay is Known as “The Queen of the Hebrides”, it lies in Argyll just south west of Jura and 25 miles north of the Irish coast. The island’s capital is Bowmore where the distinctive round Kilarrow Parish Church, said to have been designed to ensure that evil spirits had no corner in which to hide is located.
Kilarrow Parish Church, the circular design was to prevent evil spirits hiding. Mind you, the plethora of whisky distilleries was a pretty effective second line of defence you’d imagine
There is ample evidence of the prehistoric settlement of Islay with stone circles, carved stones and crosses, remains of forts and castles and evidence of Bronze Age settlements. The first written reference may have come in the 1st century AD. The island had become part of the Gaelic Kingdom of Dál Riata during the Early Middle Ages before being absorbed into the Norse Kingdom of the Isles. The later medieval period marked a “cultural high point” with the transfer of the Hebrides to the Kingdom of Scotland and the emergence of the Clan Donald Lordship of the Isles. Improvements to agriculture and transport led to a rising population, which peaked in the mid-19th century. The island has a long history of religious observance and Scottish Gaelic is spoken by about a quarter of the population.
Peat is still cut from the mosslands which cover much of the interior, giving the unique flavour to the ‘Islay malts’ – world-famous whiskies such as Bowmore, Laphroaig and Ardbeg. Most are still in production and welcome visitors to watch the production process and, even better, sample their delights.
The Laphroaig whisky distillery ticks the boxes for quality and convenience. Imbibing this golden elixir visits mysterious memory altering properties on golfers. Poor shots are miraculously erased from the memory, whereas as modest efforts come to assume superlatives
To the immediate north of Islay lies the isle of Jura, population 180. A small ferry links the two, it only takes a matter of minutes. The landscape of Jura is dominated by the ‘paps’, the island’s distinctive mountains. The Paps of Jura, seem to dominate every view off the west coast of Argyll.
Sailing in the Sound of Islay with the Paps of Jura in the background
Jura is one of the wildest and most mountainous of the Inner Hebrides. With just one road, which sticks to the more sheltered eastern coast of the island, Jura is an ideal place to go for peace and quiet, something writer George Orwell realised. He lived here in a remote farmhouse called Barnhill, at the northern end of the Island, where he worked to complete his famous work, “1984”.
Monday is the only day of the week where we could play Machrie and concievably take in both Jura and Islay, before returning by ferry to the Kintyre Peninsula in a single long day. As ever, our time will be limited but this is where the value of our car comes in. A non-golfer could conceivably do both and get a flavour of Jura by simply driving out into the wilderness