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Most visitors to Jura arrive at Feolin via the ferry from Port Askaig on Islay and then drive the nine miles or so to around the southern end of the island to its only village Craighouse. Craighouse is home to most of Jura's human population; to its most obvious visitor attraction, the Isle of Jura Distillery; and its main accommodation provider, the Jura Hotel. As a result it is quite possible to feel you have bagged Jura without ever progressing beyond Craighouse.
Which would be a shame, because it is only when you explore the scenery and the tiny settlements along the 15 miles of single track road that runs up along the southern two thirds of Jura's south eastern shore that you can begin to really appreciate the true character of the island. Indeed, it is arguable that to really understand Jura you need to stray into the wild and mountainous interior or west coast, inhabited only by the island's estimated 6,000 deer. But we will leave that for others: this page takes you on a journey along the 15 miles of the A846 north of Craighouse, a strong contender for the title of Scotland's worst maintained "A" road.
As you drive north out of Craighouse you pass Jura Parish Church on your left, and further on the island's primary school. Look out for minor roads that form a loop for half a mile inland to the collection of cottages at Keils. In the mid 1800s there were 22 crofts in Keils which were home to 102 people. The settlement declined steadily during the 1900s and today you find a small number of attractive cottages and houses plus the stone walls of abandoned buildings. A short walk uphill from Keils brings you to Jura's main graveyard at Kilearnadil, once home to a large settlement in its own right and the site of a very early church dedicated to St Earnadail.
Back on the main road you pass the broad sandy beach, Corran Sands, at the northern end of Small Isles Bay. This part of the bay was once the island's main deep water anchorage, and many of the hundreds who left Jura for ever in the 1700s and 1800s did so by being ferried out to waiting ships from the beach here. To the north of the bay and a short distance from the main road is the crofting township (a description that usually implies a scattered hamlet) of Knockrome.
The road north now takes a route further from the coast and a little higher up the flank of the island. This gives broader views, especially inland towards the Paps of Jura, and east across the Sound of Jura to the Kintyre peninsula and the distant mountains of Arran. Look our for "Evans's Walk" which heads north west across the island for five miles to the west coast at Glenbatrick.
The road regains the east coast at Lagg. This was once the terminus for a drovers' ferry to Keillmore on the mainland, which used the slipway and pier built here in 1810. The nearby drovers' inn is now a farmhouse. An account from the mid 1800s suggests this quiet spot was once frequently the site of riotous drinking as drovers waited for delayed ferries to sail. The cattle and their drovers would travel together in open boats that would have been highly vulnerable to adverse weather. In more recent times Lagg has been the proposed terminus of a small car ferry to the Scottish mainland, but press reports suggest that this was unable to gain the necessary support to proceed.
At Tarbert, the island of Jura comes close to being divided in two, with less than three quarters of a mile of land separating the head of the deeply indenting Loch Tarbert in the west and Tarbert Bay in the east. Traditionally, Loch Tarbert was the landing place of people living on Colonsay who would then pass down the road built for the purpose in the early 1800s to Lagg to make the crossing to the mainland. A standing stone beside the road here is an indication of ancient residents, and there are many who feel that the presence here of the ruined "Cill Chaluim Chille", or the Chapel of St Columba, links Jura with the island referred to in St Columba's biography as "Hinba", where he established a monastery before moving on to found the better known one on Iona in AD563.
Further north the road takes another slightly inland diversion before approaching the shore again at Lussagiven on Lussa Bay. It then crosses the Lussa River. Many architecture books and tourist guides feature this as a three arched stone bridge. Sadly the old "Crossman's Bridge" was condemned as unsafe and replaced by something altogether more utilitarian. A side road just north of the bridge takes you to Inverlussa, where in summer you can enjoy tea on the beach. This road passes the graveyard at Kilchianaig which is home to the grave of Mary MacCrain, who is claimed to have died at the age of 128 in 1856.
Progressing north you drive through the steadings at Ardlussa before passing the exceptionally fine Ardlussa House itself. It is worth looking out for the odd metal structure beside the road in the steadings which, on closer inspection, turns out to be an antique petrol pump. A little further north is the exquisite Ardlussa Bay. The public road continues for three miles beyond Ardlussa Bay. It then becomes a private track, four and a half miles along which is Barnhill House, where George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1948. This area was used for ferrying cattle to Criagnish Point on the mainland until Lagg was established as the main point of departure. The very northern end of the island can only be reached on foot, and offers views over the Gulf of Corryvreckan and its infamous whirlpool to the uninhabited island of Scarp.