Hills: The Paps of Jura - Beinn Shiantaidh, Beinn an Oir, Beinn a’Chaolais
Company: Myself and Dave (for Beinn Shiantaidh & Beinn an Oir)
Date: Saturday 18th July 2009
Time: 8hrs 30mins

A Club weekend meet, arranged reasonably last-minute, resulted in five attendees including myself and Dave heading for Jura.

Various modes of transport were used to get there. Jim opted to arrive several days early via train to Ardrossan, ferry from Ardrossan to Broddick, a cycle round Arran ending at Lochranza, ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig, cycle to Kennacraig, ferry to Port Askaig on Islay, ferry to Feolin on Jura and then a cycle to Craighouse on Jura. Ian and Judy opted to drive to Kennacraig, leaving a car there and taking bikes across on the ferry to Port Askaig on Islay, ferry to Feolin and then a cycle to Craighouse. Dave opted to drive to Tayvallich and take the new Jura Passenger Ferry service across direct to Craighouse, Jura. This crossing took only 39 minutes.

I opted to drive to Kennacraig, take the car across to Port Ellen on Islay, spend a few hours touring Islay, take the car across from Port Askaig to Feolin and then drive to Craighouse. I drove down on Thursday evening and slept in the back of my car at Kennacraig before getting on the ferry at 06:30 on Friday.

Calmac ferry at Kennacraig:

On Board ferry at Kennacraig:

The trip on the ferry was very enjoyable. I spent most of the time on deck with my binoculars where I tried keeping a lookout for whales. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any but did spot a group of six porpoises which swam under the ferry. I also saw loads of gannets, guillemots, gulls, heron, cormorants, etc. On the ferry, I got my first glimpse of the Paps of Jura.

Distant Paps of Jura (zoomed):

After circa 2.5 hours on the ferry, we passed alongside the Ardbeg and Laphroaig distilleries before arriving at Port Ellen.

Arriving at Port Ellen, Islay:

I then spent a few hours touring Islay, visiting Bowmore, Port Charlotte, Gruinairt Nature Reserve and then onto Port Askaig.

Round Church, Bowmore, Islay:

Bowmore Distillery, Islay:

Port Charlotte, Islay:

The ferry from Port Askaig to Feolin is seriously expensive for the distance involved. Nearly £14 return to take a car across 0.5km.

Port Askaig to Feolin Ferry:

On arrival in Jura, I drove the eight miles from Feolin round to the Jura Hotel, where we were all staying for one or two nights.

Jura Hotel, Jura:

Jura Hotel Garden and the Jura Passenger Ferry (Photo by Dave):

Isle of Jura Distillery, Jura:

Paps of Jura from Craighouse:

After dumping my gear in my hotel room, I set off North to checkout the starting point and get a closer view of the Paps of Jura. The weather was terrific and the paps looked fantastic.

Paps of Jura:

Beinn an Oir and Beinn Shiantaidh (zoomed):

Beinn a’Chaolais (zoomed):

On Friday evening, we all met up at 19:00 for a meal in the Jura Hotel. I was seriously impressed with the food in the hotel - good quality, good portions, very reasonably priced and friendly service. Next morning, breakfast was equally good and filling. On the Saturday, Ian, Judy and Jim intended undertaking an ascent Beinn an Oir. I intended undertaking a round of the three Paps and Dave intended undertaking two of the Paps (or three if time permitted). In order to save a wee bit of time, and provide Dave with the option of heading back after the second pap, we drove up to the starting point with Dave’s bike in the back of the car. We parked next to the bridge over the Corran river, where there a small car park with room for 5 or 6 cars. Unfortunately, the cloud level was around 500m and it stayed pretty-much at this level throughout the day. Navigating and route-finding was going to be interesting.

Start of walk at bridge over Corran river:

We followed the faint path to the South of the Corran river until reaching the outflow from Loch an t-Slob.

Beinn Shiantaidh over Corran river:

We crossed the river and ascended easy grass slopes for around 200m onto the shoulder of Beinn Shiantaidh.

Lower slopes of Beinn Shiantaidh:

Looking back towards starting point:

Loch an t-Slob:

On reaching the shoulder we found and followed a path which at first skirted West round the hill and then headed more directly towards the summit. We tried to avoid as much of the scree as possible by ascending patches of grass. On entering the cloud, views become non-existent.

Ascent of Beinn Shiantaidh (Photo by Dave):

On reaching the summit shelter and large cairn I spotted a small moth sitting on the stones and Dave spotted a strange box. Not sure of the purpose of the box. Inside it just contained some rubbish!

Magpie Moth:

Strange box at summit of Beinn Shiantaidh:

Shelter at summit of Beinn Shiantaidh:

After taking a few photos, and chatting briefly with some walkers from the Ceres Hillwalking Club, we were on our way.

Dave at summit of Beinn Shiantaidh:

Myself at summit of Beinn Shiantaidh (Photo by Dave):

Again we managed to find and follow a path for a good part of the way to the col between Beinn Shiantaidh and Beinn an Oir. During the descent we saw several clumps of a flower that neither of us recognised.

Flower - Goldenrod:

It didn’t take long to reach the col. Lots of cloud was blowing through the 454m col. Views were still very limited.

Misty col between Beinn Shiantaidh and Beinn an Oir:

Looking back at descent from Beinn Shiantaidh:

Loch an t-Slob from col between Beinn Shiantaidh and Beinn an Oir:

From the col we were able to spot the path ascending Beinn an Oir. The ascent was quite straight-forward and we managed to reach the summit ridge avoiding almost all scree. We gained the ridge next to a large stone shelter and passed another smaller stone shelter en-route to the summit.

Large shelter near summit of Beinn an Oir:

At the summit we took some celebratory pictures. We had hoped to meet Jim, Ian and Judy at the summit but later found out that they reached the summit circa one hour subsequent to us.

Dave at summit of Beinn an Oir:

Dave and Myself at summit of Beinn an Oir:

The descent from Beinn an Oir was quite tricky as much of the rock was greasy. We descended via a ridge of boulders and scree.

Descent from Beinn an Oir:

About 100m above the col, Dave opted to head back in order to catch his ferry. (This turned out to be a very wise move as I went on to do the three paps, was moving at a good pace and didn’t get back to Craighouse until after Dave’s ferry had departed.) We parted company having had a really enjoyable day despite the low cloud.

Beinn a’Chaolais capped in cloud:

I continued on, to reach the col between Beinn a’Chaolais and Beinn an Oir.

View towards North tip of Islay:

Looking back at descent from Beinn an Oir:

Na Garbh-lochanan:

The ascent of Beinn a’Chaolais was the toughest of the three paps. The upper part of the ascent is up steep scree although some of it can be avoided via a path to the left.

Beinn an Oir and Beinn Shiantaidh:

Small shelter near summit of Beinn a’Chaolais:

On reaching the small summit shelter and cairn I met up again with the Ceres hillwalking club group. We had a good chat and we all opted for a descent via the route of ascent (as the descent towards Beinn Mhearsamail looked almost vertical in the mist). The descent was interesting. Very similar to the screes on Skye. I wouldn’t have liked to descend this without my poles.

Scree descent on Beinn a’Chaolais:

Descent ridge of Beinn an Oir:

On reaching the col we followed the Abhainn Gleann an t-Slob towards the end of Loch an t-Slob.

Looking back to col between Beinn a’Chaolais and Beinn an Oir:

Bothy/Hut at Loch an t-Slob:

After having a look in the bothy/hut we skirted round the North side of Loch an t-Slob, crossed the Corran river via the stepping stones and followed the path back out to the car at the starting point. This is a seriously good round of hills that aren’t to be underestimated in poor conditions.

The views were disappointing but it was still a great walk and there were no midges.