Except for our dinner Sunday night, there wasn’t a moment on this trip to Scotland that wasn’t perfect. What struck us the most was how easy it was to get around, even when our plans had to be altered because of the weather. But considering how far our Jura is and how many connections we had on the way there and back, it’s incredible that we barely had to wait more than 10 minutes anywhere. What I can recommend is to plan properly though. Many of the ferries and buses only run a few times per day, so it’s important that make sure they have connections to the next part of the journey. My other recommendation would be to have a little extra budget for taxi rides. We ended up having to take taxis three times because there were no buses, with the rides being £14 Talbet-Kennacraig, £30 Feolin-Craighouse on Jura, and £25 from the ferry at Tayvallach to the Glasgow bus on Lochgilphead Lochnell Street since the buses didn’t run on weekends. Buses and ferries were quite cheap, ranging from £5-20 depending on the distance. The hotels in Tarbert and on Jura were about £100 per nights including breakfast, but we also met some campers so budget traveling with a tent is definitely possible. Regardless, I can definitely recommend a visit to Scotland and the Hebrides – it was one of the most stunning and at the same time most peaceful places I have ever been to! From a stop with the bus on the way back to Glasgow
I am now on my way back to Washington after two and a half day in Edinburgh. Or barely two and a half day. Although the way back from Jura went super smoothly, we didn’t arrive in Edinburgh until Saturday afternoon. So after cleaning up a bit (we got a deal at the Sheraton through some site, so the room was very comfy), we went for a walk around the new town and sat down for dinner at an outdoor terrace of a pub on Rose Street. The weather had cleared up compared to previous days and it finally felt like spring was in the air. (Some of the trees in Princes Street Gardens actually started blossoming while we were there.)
The next day, we did what I normally do when I have little time in a city, namely took a sightseeing bus around town and picked one must-see attraction. The hotel concierge recommended Edinburgh tours (green buses) because they have live guides instead of audio guides, and although I don’t have anything to compare with in Edinburgh, it’s definitely the best guided tour I have had in years. As for the must-see attraction, we decided to visit Edinburgh Castle, where we also got a guided tour. After a late lunch on the Grassmarket, we decided to split up for a while and I headed down the Royal Mile to the Queen’s Palace, where, more interestingly, Mary Queen of Scots had spent her short reign, but I ended up not going inside as the tour included so much more than just her apartments. (Admittedly, my history intake quote was kind of filled for the day.) Instead, I ended up walking around the city and picked up a Scottish wool shawl. Our dinner that night was our only disappointing meal and ambiance during the entire trip, but we compensated it this morning by having breakfast at the Red Squirrel close to our hotel. Fantastically cosy environment, friendly and welcoming staff, and great food. A perfect ending of a perfect trip!
The cemetary is where Adam Smith is buried – couldn’t pass by without going in. The restaurant pics are from The Red Squirrel.
I have to say that I LOVED Jura Hotel, where we stayed these past three nights. Everyone working there were so nice and helpful, and the hotel had island charm but was comfortable and felt quite newly renovated. We had all our breakfasts and dinners there, and sat reading with a coffee or a drink in the pub several afternoons before dinner. The rooms had small kettles with tea and hot cocoa, and Scottish shortbread, which was perfect for reading time as there were no TVs in the rooms. It also seemed like all the rooms were individually furnished. I can really recommend a stay there dor anyone who visits the Scottish Hebrides!
From the top: 1) Jura Hotel 2) the view from our window 3) tea and Scottish shortbread kit in our room 4) hotel library 5) breakfast and dining room 6) our breakfast table
Earlier this morning, we took the Jura passenger ferry back to the mainland. Alex told us that they ran it since seven years with the Island Trust that they had set up some years back to support local services, but he thought that this year might be the last for the direct ferry. (The other one we took runs from Feolin on the southern end of Jura, via Port Askaig to Kennacraig, while this goes directly from Jura’s main village Craighouse to Tayvallach on the mainland) Nicol was the captain and he also gave us a bit of a guided tour during the 40-minute journey, and among other things we saw the remains of Castle Sween, one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland (from the 1100s). He also gave me a postcard and helped us call a taxi to pick us up in Tavallich and take us to the Glasgow bus at Lochgilphead Lochnell Street about 20 minutes way Immensely helpful!
I was actually really sad to leave Jura – we had such tranquil time there.everything just felt silent and peaceful and pure in some way. I can’t see now when I would go back, but I do hope I do get to see Jura again some day!
When we came back from our hike yesterday, it was past the lunch hour at our hotel and the restaurant wouldn’t open again until two hours later. Instead we went to The Antlers lunch cafe and souvenir store across the road, (where I had bought an island-made wool hat earlier as I had forgotten to bring a hat) and the lunch there was so good that we ended up going back today too for lunch, and coffee and Easter-decorated Victoria cake after.
And reviews on Tripadvisor here.
We somehow didn’t manage to book our guided tours until our last day, so we did both the Jura Whisky Distillery tour this morning, and then “Alex the bus” drove us around the island and told us about its history, nature, and everyday life. I personally found Alex tour more interesting than that of the distillery, but I’m not really a whisky drinker. Alex stories about the life on Jura were fascinating – it wasn’t an easy life for the inhabitants, and the landlords, the Campbell family, didn’t exactly make it easier. (But with a curse thrown at them, justice was allegedly served in the end.) Many people also left for the U.S. In the 1800s, some of them with a resettlement grant from the British Government. Today, life is different of course. While Alex told us that when his wife grew up there, people shopped clothes and other things when the traveling salesman came by, and then the day after everyone were wearing the same clothes, today with internet, everything can be ordered and reach the island within a few days. It takes maybe 5 hours to get to Glasgow by ferry and bus, but there are also flights there from the mainland so people can go for a day if needed. So in a way, it’s possible to have all conveniences. But finding work still seems to be a challenge, and also keeping many of the necessary services alive such as certain ferry routes, food services, and a little convenience store. Jura attracts about 20,000 visitors a year, but the permanent population is no more than 200 people and it’s difficult to get permits to build on the island as there are a lot of restrictions in place to protect the landscape. A challenge to find a balance as the population also needs a sustainable size to keep the island inhabited. Three fascinating and informative hours on the as you can see! I recommend anyone who visits the island to give Alex a call and book a tour
The tour ended with a visit to the little church where they had a fantastic photo exhibition of the life and the people of Jura from the late 1800s and onwards.
The weather was a lot better today and so we decided to go for a hike. Neither A nor I are frequent hikers, so we picked a medium leveled hike of about 5 miles, that ended up taking about 3 hours. It was perfect! The landscape was gorgeous and the view was spectacular once we reached the top of the hill behind which the loch was located. Here are some pics:
After a lot of climbing, we finally reached the lake.
After a Scottish breakfast at the Anchor Hotel this morning, we booked a taxi to the Ferry Terminal in Kennacraig as no busses connected until much later in the day. Well on the ferry, we bumped into a woman that had been on the bus yesterday, and who was on her way out to this part of the country for the first time. It turned out that she was on het way to her first day of work in the cafeteria on the ferry. She was a bit nervous and it was quite sweet. But what a fantastic job to be on that ferry! The ride took about two hours hours and the view was spectacular, even though it rained a lot. Andreas and I drank coffee and caught up on everything that had happened since last time we met.
The stop in Port Askaig was quick and all we had time to do was to walk the 30 meters or so between the ferries. The little hotel where we were supposed to have stayed was right there in the harbor by the ferries, and both Andreas and I thought when we saw it that our involuntary overnight in Tarbert might not have been a bad thing after all, since the little town where we had stayed seemed a little more happening than Port Askaig.
Once we reached Jura, the bus schedule seemed to have a lunch break and wouldn’t leave until about 2 hours later, so we called the hotel who called “Alex the bus”, who picked us up 20 minutes later and gave us a tour on the way up to Craighouse and the hotel. He offered a guided tour during our stay, which I think we will take him up on before we leave.
We are now back at the hotel (The Jura Hotel, which is lovely by the way) after walk up to the little cemetery in an abandoned croft village a bit up the hill. It’s raining a bit, but it’s not too cold and the fog and the mist somehow adds to the beauty of the landscape. A little tired after our walk, and with a book and a small glass of Jura Whisky at the hotel pub (which is seemingly the only pub in village), and with the rain tapping on the windows, we both feel like this trip is already everything we expected!
I didn’t spend many days in the U.S. after my trip to Rwanda, before taking off again; 2.5 to be exact. Had I known I would be traveling for work, I would have planned better, but I didn’t at the time when I booked my holiday and so I barely had time to repack before I was on my way out to Dulles again, heading for six day’s holiday in Scotland. Why Scotland? I’m not sure how the idea came up exactly, but my travel companion Andreas and I started to form some kind of vision of a journey through Scotland when we were in San Francisco a few years ago, and then a few months later National Geographic Travel had an article on the Hebrides, and this trip has been in our thoughts ever since.
And now we’re here! Since Andreas lives in Stockholm, we met up at Edinburgh Airport and took a bus to Glasgow (about one hour ride) where had lunch. We were then supposed to take a bus to Kennacraig and connect with a ferry to Port Askaig, where we were supposed to spend the night before taking a last ferry over to our end destination, Jura. However, the weather worked against us, or at least not according to our plans, and the bus driver told us that the ferry between Kennacraig and Port Askaig had been cancelled due to the strong winds. But we took a chance anyway, and got on the bus and started calling hotels in Tarbert (an area close to the ferry, where the bus driver said there should be rooms), and after three calls, we got a room at the Anchor Hotel – a lovely inn in the Tarbert Harbor. A few hours after we arrived, the storm came in and we were warned that the electricity might go out, but in the end, all we got was a cozy rain storm and some hail while we enjoyed Scottish ale pie in front of a fire place in a small local pub. Somehow it was exactly as I imagined Scotland.