Whenever I’m asked for a recommendation on where to go in Scotland, the Isle of Skye is without fault the first thing that comes to mind. While there’s plenty to see and do on the island, its the beauty and diversity of its landscape that is undoubtedly Skye’s biggest draw. From the lush green hills near the Storr to the jaw-droppingly sheer cliffs of Neist Point, with the dark, foreboding presence of the Cuillins a continuous backdrop, Skye really does have it all. And whisky fans won’t be disappointed either. While Skye stalwart Talisker has been producing quality whiskies since 1830, with Torabhaig distillery there’s a new kid on the block too. In short, plenty of reason for another visit! Of course I’m not the only one with this bright idea, and in fact Skye has been paying a price for its popularity. In order get away from the crowds and to experience the island as it was meant to be enjoyed, I set out into the wild with two friends. Armed with a tent, waterproof clothes and plenty of whisky, we would be spending some quality time on this handsome Hebridean isle.
On a previous trip to Islay, I explored practically all corners of the island. And while the scenery is beautiful enough, when you’re on the west coast, you can’t help but shift your gaze across the Sound of Islay, where the Paps of Jura beckon on the horizon, tantalisingly close. But here’s the rub: while Islay boasts as many as eight distilleries, the Isle of Jura has just the one. So inevitably, most visitors are drawn towards Jura’s more famous neighbour for finding out how the Water of Life is made. While this might make sense from a whisky perspective, there are plenty of reasons to give Jura a visit, particularly if you love the great outdoors. Although Jura is the 5th largest island in the Hebrides, it has a population of only 200 people. Bleak, bare and boggy, Jura is the perfect wilderness, a truly remote piece of Scotland located just 10 miles from the mainland. Not that Jura is lifeless; quite the contrary. At any time you may expect to bump into one of the island’s 5000 deer or see a golden eagle soaring overhead. Suffice it to say, I liked Jura’s whiskies, and decided it was time I explored the island on which they are made. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that I undertook this trip as much as three years ago, before I started this blog. But it’s nice to reminisce over a whisky, so I poured myself a dram of Jura Turas-Mara and started writing.
What’s better than being out in nature, drinking whisky under a clear night sky? Being out in nature, drinking whisky and hiking towards a distillery to drink more whisky! So that’s exactly what I did this summer, along with two friends. Having already done a similar (solo) trip on the Isle of Jura, this time it was Arran’s turn to awe us with its natural beauty. We set out with a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear and of course a bottle of Arran whisky.
The easiest way to get to Arran is by taking the CalMac ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick, the main entry point to the island. The boat ride provided great views of Arran, often called ‘Scotland in miniature’: gently rolling hills in the south, and more barren and mountainous towards the north. And the north was where we would be going, so our gaze was inevitably turned towards the jagged peaks rising from the sea, rainclouds ominously swirling around their summits.