Friday, 18 October 2013


I cycled past Jura's whisky distillery at Craighouse on the island's only tarmac road. I wanted to watch seals that I knew were just ahead. How did I know this? At 6am in the morning my wife got me out of bed to find some wildlife. It was completely dark. Now I enjoy watching wildlife but this seemed faintly ridiculous. Anyhow I got up and washed with whisky scented soap from the Jura distillery. This is how to get intoxicated without any of the risk. You just wash with whisky scented soap and the aroma stays with you. We set off to find some wildlife with the morning light beginning to appear. Our first encounter was nearly walking into 3 deer obviously with bad eyesight. We discovered a blissful sunrise and lots of seals.

Late in the afternoon, I decided to check these seals out on my own. It was high tide. I watched two seals for several minutes. They swam together, then bumped each other and dived only to come up and do it all over again. Sitting on a rock is a favourite pastime for seals. This is their way to chill out. One such seal was sitting on a rock just underwater. It had its head and tail in the air and looked like Moses walking on water. It sat there imperiously until a few minutes later another seal came along, grabbed it by its tail and pulled into the water. There was great flapping and commotion as it tried to stay on but tumbled off. Two more seals gave a display catching fish.
This is yet another Hebridian island friendly to cyclists and many locals have old mountain bikes.

A road bike is of limited use here as many of the roads are rough tracks leading you to isolated farms and coastal bays. This is however what makes it very interesting on the bike. A cross or mountain bike is best. My Trek X1 is built like a Landrover so it was really happy. The west coast is virtually unaccessible due to the mountainous landscape where the Paps of Jura are almost as famous as Skye's Cuillins but don't be deterred as there is a track to Loch Tarbert. The east is hilly and full of tiny inlets from the sea with several tracks. The whole island is full of deer. It is rutting season and stags are calling all over the place. I had many sightings. What with deer and seals, there are also plenty of otters, salmon, trout and lots of birds.

What should you take home from Jura? Whisky, whisky scented soap and venison. A good place to stay is the Jura Hotel, opposite the distillery where you will receive one of the finest welcomes in the Hebrides

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