A quick hop in the Romahome to the island of Jura
The day dawned bright and breezy so I decided to nip across to Jura, a ferry trip of about ten minutes from Port Askaig, my port of entry onto Islay. Port Askaig was extremely busy, with separate queues for the Jura ferry and the mainland one. The big mainland ferry was already boarding, and to my horror, as we began to move forward, those cars at the tail end of the mainland queue were being instructed to turn round and reverse onto the ferry to fill up the last available spaces. I'm feeling anxious just writing this...what if I'm at the back of the queue when I'm heading back to the mainland? I know that I couldn't reverse onto a ferry for love nor money. I'd have to wait for the next one. So, an ultra early start on ferry day to make sure I'm at the front and not the back.
Anyway, first I've got the ordeal of driving onto the smallest boat ever, the one that's chugged up to the quay and put down the narrowest gangway I've ever had to make my way over. I did it! And after a choppy crossing I did it again at the other side and drove onto Jura, onto the only road on the island, which runs along the east coast from bottom to top, and is single track for most of the way. It's very wild country, all owned by five huge estates and used mainly for stalking red deer.
I drove straight to Craighouse, the small village which is the main centre of the island, with a Spar shop, a school, a pub, a church, and of course a distillery. All this with the backdrop of the three mountains known as the paps of Jura and the sparkling turquoise sea.
Walking through the village and investigating various jetties piled with lobster pots, the road ran alongside the shore, with small sandy beaches looking out onto the Small Isles, one called Goat Island, home for wild goats, and one called Useless Island, presumably because it's useless. Most of the houses are old cottages, many with Gaelic names. One fairly newly built house had an engraved stone nameplate by the front wall... The Newhouse. I suppose it makes it easier for the postie to spot.
We came to a sign pointing inland saying "cemetery" and decided to investigate. The track went up and up, passing by some ruined cottages and renovated houses, eventually reaching the cemetery, with a stream on two sides of it, set amongst the blazing yellow gorse. There were some ancient stones with Celtic carvings alongside others from the 18th 19th and 20th centuries. An older couple were tidying one of the graves and said that these days they know more people in the cemetery than their living family and friends.
Back down to the village for some soup and a pot of tea at the Jura Hotel. Everyone who came in was talking about a recent wedding in the village, clearly a good bash. Heading back to the Romahome we passed a Royal Bank of Scotland mobile bank, parked up by the Spar shop and it later joined the ferry queue going back to Islay. I don't know how often it goes to Jura, but it really struck home for me the real remoteness of this very large but sparsely populated island.
We were near the front of the ferry queue but by the time it came there were too many cars, vans and mobile banks to fit on, so quite a few people just had to wait for the ferry to come back forty minutes later. The wind had whipped up and the turquoise waves swayed us about on the short crossing back to Islay, which now feels like a metropolis in comparison to neighbouring Jura.