Jura's Hills & Whisky
Jura has a spirit of its own. Mountainous, rugged and home to just a couple of hundred souls, it’s the perfect antidote to modern life. Go to Jura and you’ll be stunned by the raw beauty of the landscape, amazed by the incredible wildlife and in awe of the people who live here. There are two things you can’t miss: the island’s three impressive peaks – known as the Paps of Jura – and the world-famous Jura whisky. Fancy experiencing all of this in one wonderful week? Then make a date with Jura on the last week in May. You’ll be treated to a double bill that will leave you delirious – the Isle of Jura Fell Race and Jura Distillery.
Isle of Jura Fell Race
The Paps of Jura dominate the island’s landscape. They make for fantastic hillwalking. And if walking them isn’t enough, every year hundreds of intrepid fell runners take them on in the Isle of Jura Fell Race. It’s one of the toughest challenges in British hill racing at this distance; a true test of hillcraft, endurance and technique. The route is a circular one across punishing terrain, starting and finishing in Craighouse, taking in the Paps as well as four other peaks. At sixteen miles long it entails 17,500 feet of ascent and descent with 7,500ft of ascent coming in the first ten miles.
It has been described as more of an event than a race with participants coming for the weekend or even making a whole week of it. And despite the rigours of the race, everyone still seems to have the energy to enjoy the event’s ceilidh which has been known to start at 1.00am!
If you want to take part in the event, entries open early December and will fill up quickly. Be aware that you’ll need to be able to prove your competence in tackling mountain running before you’ll be allocated a starting place. The race is not for the faint-heated or unfit, nor is it for those who are inexperienced in mountain environments. Don’t fancy running? Come along, cheer on the competitors and toast them with a dram or two in the Jura Hotel.
As part of the Islay Festival of Music and Malt, the Isle of Jura whisky distillery throws open its doors. Designed to inspire new ways to enjoy whisky, there’s everything from unique tastings and island tours, to whisky masterclasses and live music. There’s even a long table lunch with the locals, where you can ‘join the Diurachs (Jura residents) for a dram’.
Getting to Jura
As there’s no airstrip on Jura most people get to the island via Islay, which has both regular flight and ferry connections to the mainland. CalMac operates the ferry service from Kennacraig on Kintyre to Port Ellen or Port Askaig. During the weekend of the Jura Fell Race an amended timetable operates to facilitate travel. Islay and Jura are separated by the Sound of Islay, a half-mile wide stretch of water, with a ferry operating from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin on Jura. Another other option is to catch the passenger ferry from Tayvallich in mid Argyll to Jura which runs from Easter until the end of September.
Most people tend to stay in and around the Jura Hotel. The hotel itself gets booked up a year in advance for the race weekend and Tastival. You can also camp on its front lawn overlooking the Sound of Jura.