Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Monday, 4 August 2008 15:01 UK

Ferry link returns to remote Jura

By James Shaw
BBC News, Jura

ferry at pier on Jura
The new ferry is a large rigid inflatable which can carry 12 passengers
One of Scotland's wildest and most beautiful islands now has its first direct link to the mainland for more than
30 years.

The last ferry sailed away from Jura in the early 1970s. And the islanders cannot have imagined then that there would not be another one until after the turn of the century.

Until recently a three-hour journey via the neighbouring island of Islay was the only way to get to this west of Scotland location.

Many people were put off visiting, despite the island's many attractions, like the rugged peaks of the Paps of Jura, its rocky coastline and the infamous Gulf of Corryvreckan whirlpool at its northernmost tip.

view from Jura over the Bay of Small Isles
The view from Jura looks over the Bay of Small Isles
But because of its status as a remote and marginal community, it has won about 500,000 of public money to set up new facilities in the village of Craighouse, including a tearoom and visitors' centre.

These developments, along with the ferry, should make a big difference to Jura's prospects.

The new ferryman, Nicol MacKinnon, says the island is already getting more visitors: "Everybody's so excited about it. It's going to give the island a huge boost."

The chairman of the local community council, Willie MacDonald, remembers a time when he wondered if the community would survive at all.

map of Jura

"The ferry is a major step forward but we still have to be aware that there are other things to be done and the population is still at a fragile level," he said.

A few years ago there were less than 170 people on Jura, well below what was thought to be a sustainable level. Even now he says it will be a constant struggle to secure a future for the island.

In fact the population has started to grow somewhat over the last five years. It is now a little over 200. Some young people have been encouraged to return to the island to develop family crofts.

Orwell masterpiece

Willie MacDonald, chairman of the local community council
Islanders hope the new facilities and ferry will attract more visitors
One attraction for new visitors will be a remote farmhouse called Barnhill on the island's north east coast, where George Orwell finished his final masterpiece, 1984. He had hoped that the fresh air of the Inner Hebrides would help cure his tuberculosis.

But his new home was cold, damp and many miles from the nearest doctor. It was also dangerous to his health in other more dramatic ways.

Returning by boat from the west side of the island with his adopted son, Richard, then aged three, he was caught in the Corryvreckan whirlpool and nearly drowned. His only recorded comment afterwards on the near disaster was: "I thought we were goners".

Users of the new ferry - a large rigid inflatable which can carry 12 passengers and a small amount of freight - are unlikely to have such a terrifying crossing.

Nicol MacKinnon and his father, Donnie, probably know the difficult waters around this rough jewel of an island a little better than the author of 1984.


SEE ALSO
When the boat comes in
24 Jun 08 |  Business
Lower ferry fares to be piloted
13 Aug 07 |  Highlands and Islands

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