Jura House is at the heart of the Ardfin Estate. In the 1840s the laird’s wife felt the nearby crofting township of Brosdale spoilt her view. So it was demolished, and relocated.
Our walking guide, published 2010, suggests coastal walks either side of Jura House and Gardens with ‘a welcome sign to Jura House.’ Not exactly. ‘ No access, construction site’- are the signs that greet us.
JCBs command the way to Jura House, raising the dust. Jura House is undergoing a major refurbishment. And beyond, where Brosdale crofting settlement once stood the landscape is being redesigned too. Red deer pop up from a coastal headland. Layers of history collide and it’s surreal. Designed into this wild and rugged terrain of peat bog, burn and dramatic cliff-scape is a brand new golf course, designed to show off the spectacular vistas of the coast. A prestigious and world class golf course, scheduled to open later this year. Preserving historic features is part of the plan, with some stone walls carefully reconstructed.
We’re here for coast and wilderness walking. The yomping I’ve fallen for. Deep in high summer bracken in the ruins of Brosdale I found myself up on the top-stones of a ruined wall hidden in saturated bracken. What poise and balance! Not a challenge the golfers will be presented with. Fragments of history: a chunk of wood so heavily waxed it looks like stone. Brosdale is being reclaimed into the earth, leaving few traces. No wonder the crofters were reluctant to leave this beautiful and sheltered location.
We seek what is wild and remote. Deep history. We seek the chambered cairn and the misty pool. We find a floral rock with stonecrop and lichen, bog asphodel at our feet and have lunch looking toward Somerled’s castle at Heather Island. Further into the past, into wilderness. Somewhere here is the oldest historic site on Jura, a Neolithic chambered cairn. Through tall rushes and sedges with impressions where red deer have lain – their slender legs leaving no trace of their way through the rushes. Bog pimpernel about wet rocks. And a scarlet beetle smaller than the exquisite flowers. A spider makes its nest, drawing together strands of sedge in a net of fine filaments. ‘ Come and see what I’ve found,’ he calls from above me, somewhere deep in bracken below a crag. I’m lost to bog pimpernel, but he insists. ‘ Come, you’ll love this.’
Hidden in green fronds of bracken, the lichened portal stones of a chambered cairn that looks out to Poll a Cheo, the bay below. The tranquillity of the place. The only sound is a waterfall, cascading into the misty pool deep in summer foliage of birch.
So, to the Isle of Islay and Finlaggan – in the footsteps of Somerled. Finlaggan, The Ancient Seat of the Lords of the Isles.