Walking on Jura, Islay and Colonsay
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This guidebook to Jura, Scarba, Islay and Colonsay in the Hebrides describes 14 challenging day walks plus a 5-day 77km coastal walk on Jura. The day routes range from 5 to 30km and cover a multitude of rough terrain that is suitable for fit, competent walkers. Even the coastal walks offer challenges.
SeasonsSpring and autumn are the best seasons to visit, though these routes can be waked all year round. Winter can be wet and wild with short days and in summer midges and bracken can be a real problem.
CentresJura - Feolin, Craighouse, Tarbert, Ardlussa, Kinachdrachd, Glengarrisdale, Ruantallain, Cruib, Glenbatrick Bay. Islay - Port Askaig, Port Ellen, Port Charlotte, Bowmore, Bridgend, Ballygrant, Bunnahabhain, Ardbeg. Colonsay - Scalasaig, Oronsay, Kilchattan, Kiloran. Scarba - Kilmory Lodge, Gleann a' Mhaoil bothy
DifficultyThe west coast of Jura, a round of the Paps or an ascent of Cruach Scarba should only be undertaken by fit, experienced walkers who are competant navigators and equiped for rough terrain and wet weather. Walking on Islay and Colonsay is more accessible, though navigation, weather and terrain remains difficult.
Must SeeThe wild and remote wet coast of Jura with spectacular geological formations and diverse wildlife. The coastal routes on Islay and Colonsay with dramatic landscapes, beautiful white sandy bays and challenging walks. The summit of Cruach Scarba between the infamous tidal races of the Gulf of Corryvreckan and the Grey Dog.
The Southern Hebrides are an undiscovered walker’s paradise – the west coast of Jura has dramatic geology, glorious empty beaches and abundant wildlife, with the inhospitable and rugged Scarba lying a kilometre to the north in the infamous Gulf of Corryvreckan. Islay is famous for its birdlife, its historical sites and its distilleries and Colonsay has a tranquil character all of its own that echoes much of the natural splendour of its neighbours.
The terrain can be tough and trackless but the clear descriptions will introduce experienced walkers to some of the finest wilderness walking in the British Isles. This guidebook provides detailed descriptions of 15 challenging coastal and hill walks on the often rugged, but sublimely beautiful islands of the Southern Hebrides including an epic five-day route around the west coast of Jura.
The 14 day routes range from 3 to 17 miles long, with options to extend and shortcut some routes, while the five-day coastal walk covers 48 miles. A round of all three Paps of Jura is included, and makes for a big day's walk, involving 1500m of ascent and descent.
These are mostly demanding routes suitable only for fit, competent and well-equipped walkers. The terrain is extremely varied and often challenging, and almost entirely without waymarks or established footpaths. However, the rewards for the adventurous walker are manifold. The routes included in this guidebook traverse some breathtakingly beautiful scenery full of historical interest and are alive with a profusion of plants and wildlife. Even walking on the coastal routes is far from straightforward as there are many impassable sections where the shoreline has to be abandoned for higher ground or other natural features need to be negotiated.
Getting to the Southern Hebrides
Getting between the islands
Maps and route finding
Safety and emergencies
What to take
Walk 1 The West Coast Walk
Day 1 Kinuachdrachd to Glengarrisdale
Alternative: Road End to Glengarrisdale
Day 2 Glengarrisdale to Shian Bay
Day 3 Shian Bay to Cruib Lodge
Day 4 Cruib Lodge to Glenbatrick Bay
Alternative: Glenbatrick Bay to the A846 via Glen Batrick
Walk 2 Tarbet to Cruib Lodge bothy
Walk 3 Glengarrisdale to Cruib across Jura’s northern hills
Walk 4 Walking the Paps of Jura
Walk 5 Evans’ Walk to Glenbatrick Bay and return
Walk 6 Cruach Scarba
Walk 7 Rhuvaal and the north-west coast
Walk 8 An Cladach–Beinn Bheigier circuit
Walk 9 The Oa peninsula
Walk 10 Sanaigmore to Kilchiaran
Walk 11 Ardnave to Sanaigmore
Walk 12 South Colonsay coast and Oronsay
Walk 13 Lower Kilchattan to Kiloran Bay
Walk 14 Kiloran Bay to Scalasaig around the coast
Walk 15 Scalasaig to Kiloran Bay along the Old Road
Appendix A Route summary table
Appendix B Walks on other islands
Appendix C Accommodation
Appendix D Other useful contacts
Appendix E Glossary
Appendix F Further reading
Maps and route finding
It is essential that you are equipped with the appropriate maps for undertaking the walks described in this guide. There are almost no waymarks, signposts or even paths of any kind on the routes covered here, making accurate route finding all the more important. Even walking on the coastal routes is far from straightforward as there are many impassable sections where the shoreline has to be abandoned for higher ground or other natural features need to be negotiated. This guide incorporates Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 mapping with highlighted routes. These should be used in conjunction with OS Explorer 1:25,000 maps because of the greater topographic detail they afford. Do not rely solely on the maps in this guidebook. You will need to work out where you are in the wider context, if you need to abandon your walk and make for the nearest road or habitation.
Wild goat and deer tracks can be useful for negotiating the often challenging terrain – especially on Jura and Islay (there are no deer on Colonsay), but these should be followed with a degree of caution.
The walks described in this guide are covered by the following Ordnance Survey maps:
- OS Explorer 1:25,000 sheet 355 Jura and Scarba
- OS Explorer 1:25,000 sheet 353 Islay North
- OS Explorer 1:25,000 sheet 352 Islay South
- OS Explorer 1:25,000 sheet 354 Colonsay and Oronsay
- OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 60 Islay
OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 61 Jura and Colonsay
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The Southern Hebrides could have been designed for walkers.
The Southern Hebrides could have been designed for walkers. This guide has that all-enticing attribute - variety.
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Since moving to Scotland from the south of England in 2006, Peter has developed a passion for the Hebrides. He lives at Rhenigidale on the Isle of Harris with his wife, Fiona and their Labradors, Dougal and Mara.View Articles and Books by Peter Edwards