Follow in the footsteps of George Orwell

Jura is a Scottish island like no other. It’s mountainous, wild and sparsely populated. There are huge tracts of uninhabited and remote moorland and hills to explore, much of it only accessible on foot. On Jura you can expect peace and solitude. Indeed, you’re more likely to encounter the island’s deer (there are between 6000 and 7,000 on Jura) than a fellow tourist. So it’s no surprise that George Orwell moved to Jura in 1946 to give himself ‘six months’ quiet’ to write one of his most famous novels 1984. 

Visit the Isle of Jura in homage to George Orwell

Many people make the journey to Jura in homage to George Orwell. Barnhill House, the isolated property he stayed in, remains in the hands of the Fletcher family from whom Orwell rented it. Barnhill is now run as a holiday home and is available for let. It’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of 21st century life and chill out as you channel the ghost of Orwell.

Barnhill House

Barnhill is just as secluded as it was in Orwell’s time. You’ll still need a boat or a 4x4 to get there and you’ll rely on a generator for electricity. A coal-fired Rayburn takes care of the hot water and a cast-iron stove in the sitting room will keep you toasty in the evenings. And because there’s pretty much nobody here, you’ll find lots of wonderful wildlife. A pair of sea eagles nest nearby, wild goats and deer wander in the garden and you can fish from the bay.

If you don’t plan to stay at Barnhill House, you can still walk to this famous landmark on Jura (although being a holiday let, it isn’t open to ‘drop-in’ visitors). Follow Jura’s only road north. The public road officially ends about three miles beyond Ardlussa Bay. It then becomes a private track and four and half miles along it you’ll find Barnhill House. It’s a beautiful walk into solitude and remoteness, following the same track George Orwell had followed on his first journey here.

The Gulf of Corryvreckan

If you do walk to Barnhill, make sure that you have plenty of time to reach the northern tip of Jura. This path can berough and boggy, but the views over the Gulf of Corryvreckan and its infamous whirlpool to the uninhabited island of Scarba are well worth the effort. With its whirlpools, powerful currents and standing waves, the stretch of water lying between Jura and Scarba is considered by sailors to be one of the most treacherous anywhere in the British Isles.

George Orwell himself almost perished there, along with his three-year-old adopted son, a niece and a nephew. While attempting to navigate the Gulf, the outboard motor of their small boat became detached. Carried away by strong currents, Orwell’s nephew managed to row them to a small island, Eilan Mor, as the author held on to his son at the stern. The vessel overturned as they clambered onto the island and they were eventually rescued by a passing boat.

If you want to experience some of the thrill of the Corryvreckan, boat trips are available with Islay Sea Adventures from Port Askaig on Islay. Don’t worry, you won’t be marooned on Eilan Mor as Orwell was!

Getting to the Isle of Jura

In Orwell’s day, it was possible to take a ferry to Craighouse on Jura directly from Tarbet on mainland Argyll. Today, the main route is via Islay. The short hop from Port Askaig on Islay to Feolin on Jura marks the start of the journey. In the summer the Jura Passenger Ferry from Tayvallich in mid Argyll will drop you at Craighouse. From here, it’s a twisting, 21-mile drive on a single-track road to reach the point where the road runs out and the track to Barnhill starts.

There are plenty of other things to see and do on Jura. The island’s distinctive peaks, the Paps of Jura, offer fantastic hillwalking. The island is also home to the historic Isle of Jura distillery, which is well worth a visit. And if you really are following in the footsteps of Orwell, you might even make a start on your own novel!

Find out more about things to see and do on Jura.