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Issue 32 - Whisky island paradise (Jura)

Scotland Magazine Issue 32
April 2007


This article is 11 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Whisky island paradise (Jura)

A new luxury lodge on the Isle of Jura is the perfect place to relax and discover the island's whisky made just next door, as Kate Ennis discovers

One of the joys of visiting Jura is in how difficult it is just to get there in the first place. From Glasgow, the journey equates to a three-hour drive and two-hour ferry ride to Islay, or taking a gamble on the unreliable small plane service, proceeded by a drive to another ferry before you even set foot on this Hebridean island off the south-west coast of Scotland. However, the closer you get towards this wild and windswept isle that’s just 24 miles long and eight miles wide, the further you move from the mania of modern life. Welcome to the blissful place of no mobile phone coverage.

To experience such rugged beauty, the retribution usually involves forgoing luxury along with those other modern conveniences. Jura has never exactly been brimming with enticing accommodation to make you want to stay here.

But that’s all changed with the opening of Jura Lodge. This unexpected haven of Parisian chic in the island’s village-like ‘capital’ of Craighouse is now available for rent as the ultimate house party getaway.

Owned by Isle of Jura distillery, the lodge is perfectly positioned overlooking the bay and right outside the distillery gates. This once bland whitewashed building, originally used to accommodate company visitors, has undergone a serious cosmetic makeover to become a stylish holiday bolthole.

As you climb the stone stairs, you come to the first floor and the sleeping quarters where the lodge’s five bedrooms – four doubles and a twin – are found. The one to bag is the white bedroom at the far end of the hall with the freestanding roll top bath. With the crisp white French linen, plus sea shells and pebbles scattered around, it has that refreshing calm of the seaside.

Upstairs again is the floor geared around socialising. The music room is the chill-out space packed to the hilt with an eclectic clutter of objects, with a big bass drum that once belonged to a Royal British Legion now masquerading as a coffee table. The open plan kitchen, dining and living room next door is equally comfortable, with the classic leather sofas, roaring open fire and antlers cover the walls but they are from antelopes and gazelles as well as deer. Bambi has appropriately featured deer wherever she can, so there’s also chair made from antlers and chinaware decorated with deer motifs.

Although the lodge is self catering, you can arrange for someone to come in and cook or alternatively prepare something delicious for heating up when you return from an excursion. There’s also a great selection of wines in the cupboard and a plentiful stock of Isle of Jura whiskies, of course – perfect for curling up with in the evening when the rain’s pelting against the windows.

To fully appreciate that often bracing climate, the incentive to head outdoors is for activities like shooting and hunting, which can be easily arranged. You might also fancy a spot of fell walking and climb the ‘Paps of Jura’, the island’s three conical mountains. Of course, the sea is omnipresent here so there’s plenty of fishing and sailing opportunities.

You don’t have to go far to appreciate the wildlife and there are often playful otters or dolphins spotted along the coast.

For more relaxed pursuits, the lodge also hosts ‘Lobster Weekends’ for foodie types with cookery masterclasses from Islay-based chef Francois Bernier. It also hosts an annual writer’s retreat program for authors as a nod to the fact George Orwell came to Jura in the 1950s to find the seclusion write his novel 1984.

However, the concept taking experience tourism to a whole new level is the Jura Fellowship, an intensive five-day course for whisky aficionados who have the opportunity to work alongside the mashmen, tunmen and distillery manager – the night shift is optional! You’ll help to produce the uniquely Highland style malt from Jura’s tall stills that imbue the spirit with a light, fruity and floral character. It’s only lightly peated, in complete contrast to the typical style found on neighbouring Islay, famed for particularly peaty whisky. Whisky fans could hop over to Islay during their stay if they wished but after spending time on Jura, they might just find the pace of life there a little too fast.

Jura lodge sleeps up to 10 people, with prices from £1,000 for a long weekend (Friday to Monday) and £1500 for a week.

Jura Lodge, Craighouse, Isle of Jura Tel: +44 (0)1296 820 240