It was to the tiny island of Jura in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland that English author and critic George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) escaped to for writing his famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Although life was not easy on this remote island with a sparse population in the 1940s, it fitted with Orwell’s plan to find ‘an un-get-atable place’ where he wouldn’t be disturbed. It was so remote that, according to Orwell’s biographers, the author could not get anyone to come and stay and type out the manuscripts. He had to do the typing himself. The typewriter is on display at Barnhill, the house where Orwell stayed. Barnhill is still owned by the Fletcher family from whom Orwell had rented the place and today they offer the big whitewashed building for self-catering stays of minimum seven days.
With the Atlantic Ocean to its west and picturesque bays on the east, Jura is nearly as remote as it was when Orwell lived here. You can go cycling along the paths, watch the sea eagles hovering over the bays, or catch a glimpse of a Red Deer as it watches you passing by. Or just take off to the coastline to catch a scintillating sunset.
If you want to meet the island’s residents and have a conversation, Craighouse, the capital, located on the eastern side of the island, is your best bet. Located here is the Jura Hotel, the Antlers Bistro Restaurant, the Community Shop consisting of post office, provisions and general stores, business enterprises, school and village hall, etc.
From almost anywhere in the island, you will catch a glimpse of the Paps of Jura, so named because of the conical shape of the three quartzite hills which lie on the western side of the island. Although climbing the Jura Paps can be a challenge, according to visitors, it offers a panoramic view of the island and its neighbours.
One of the popular but dangerous attractions is the Corryvreckan, a whirlpool along the coast, which almost caused the death of Orwell and his son when their boat got sucked into it. Fortunately, they were able to swim to a cove from where they were rescued by a passing fishing boat.
Jura is also part of the famous whisky producing islands of Scotland, namely Arran, Islay and Jura. According to media reports, the islands were completely sealed off when Britain imposed a countrywide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Only ferries arriving with supplies were allowed to visit the islands while only people with medical emergencies were allowed to leave the island. The distilleries were shut and production halted until May, for most.
The island is home to a single distillery, also called Jura, located in Craighouse, which mostly produces Single Malt whisky and is well known for its original bottlings. According to the website whisky.com, the Isle of Jura’s core official range is made up of four bottlings of Jura: Origin 10 year old, Duirach’s Own 16 year old, Superstition, and Prophecy. All of the bottlings vary in flavor and age. The distillery also has several other bottlings.
Unfortunately, the famous whisky tours are yet to take off owing to pandemic-related distancing norms in place.