NEW BOOK SEPTEMBER 2014
Walks Islay, Jura & Colonsay Authors: Paul Williams & Richard Hallewell
This month sees the publication of our guide to Islay, Jura and Colonsay. Though they lie close together, the islands have different characters. Islay – the largest and most populous – is very varied, with heather hills and moorland, fertile farmland, fine woodland, miles of magnificent sand beaches (photo top left – The Singing Sands) and tall cliffs (photo bottom left – The Soldier). In addition, there are picturesque coastal villages, a wonderful range of bird life and the famous malt whisky distilleries. The walking is varied and dramatic. Jura, in contrast, is more mountainous, and comprised almost entirely of moorland hills – notably the famous Paps of Jura: a distinctive cluster of peaks visible from many places on the west coast – while Colonsay is like a smaller version of Islay, though without the extensive moorland.
Most visitors to Islay will reach it by the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries from Kennacraig (near Tarbert, on Kintyre), while Colonsay is usually reached from Oban (there are occasional alternatives: check www.calmac.co.uk for details). Jura is almost always reached via the narrow crossing from Islay. There is accommodation on all three islands (more on Islay, as you would expect) or it is possible to spend a week on Islay and visit the other two islands on day trips.
The walking is terrific. The islands lack the scenic grandeur and scale of Skye or Mull – there are no Munros, for instance – but they make up for it in the variety and charm of the landscapes and there are many memorable routes: along the wide sands by Loch Gruinart; the track to the Gulf of Corryvreckan (see left) – one of the world’s largest whirlpools – at the north end of Jura; or the walk from Colonsay to the old priory on Oronsay across the tidal Strand. For the walker – or bird watcher, or general tourist – this is an area well worth visiting.