Craighouse is Jura’s main village, with Jura distillery, an hotel, village shop, craft and gift shops, café, photographic studio and another spirit maker – Deer Island Rum. It’s worth a wander around the harbour, and down to the pier- if you’re lucky you’ll find a fisherman bringing in the day’s catch and you might be able to buy some fresh shellfish for supper.
The village lies on the sheltered east coast of the island at the southern end of Small Isles Bay. Craighouse existed before the distillery but having the distillery there helped keep Craighouse populated when other hamlets and villages shrank after the middle of the 1800s.
Photo: Courtesy of John Mason
Back in the 1800s Craighouse would have been a hive of activity. Droves of Islay cattle were herded from the Sound of Islay – crossing at Feolin where the ferry comes now, to Lagg, where the cattle were then ferried on to the mainland to markets in Central Scotland.
And in the era of the teamers, which petered out after World War Two, Craighouse could be reached by sea directly from a number of mainland Scotland ports and brought thousands of visitors to this beautiful place.
Photo: Craighouse village houses
There’s only one road out of Craighouse and it takes you along a pretty shore. Not long after the houses peter out you’ll come across Corran Sands, at the northern end of Small Isles Bay. Corran Sands is possibly the finest beach on Jura. This beautiful sweep of shell sand extends for a couple of miles east from the main road north from Craighouse, split in two by the fast-flowing Corran River.
As you walk along this white beach of fine sand and probably have the whole place to yourself, it’s hard to believe that at one time this place would be buzzing with people.
Photo: Corran sands
This part of the bay served as the island’s deep water anchorage. When the population of Jura dwindled and many hundreds left these shores forever back in the 1700s and 1800s they would be ferried out to waiting ships from this very beach.
Today though, you can wander along the shore and admire the view and watch the birds, or walk near the dunes – the local community has built a bridge over the river Corran and there are sculptures along the path which you can make music with, and a few benches.
On a warm day it’s almost impossible to think you’re on Jura as you look out to sea. But looking towards the land and those towering mountains and you know you are!
Photo: The Paps of Jura courtesy of Ben Shakespeare Photography