Being George Orwell
Based on the film Being John Malkovich
In the aftermath of the Second World War, author George Orwell secluded himself on the bleak, outpost of Jura in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It was here in the splendid isolation of the western isles that he wrote his opus, 1984. This is a journey to retrace his steps.
I departed from Nottingham in the East Midlands, traveling north through the Yorkshire Dales. If you’ve seen my previous trip reports, you know that the Yorkshire Dales are a bucolic setting worthy of being a destination in itself. It was on the narrow roads of West Yorkshire where TT champion David Jefferies honed his craft. Yorkshire is also home to the Lampkin motorcycle trials dynasty and it is not unusual to spot a number of trials bikes using public roads to link their trials areas. By chance, I come upon the The Yorke Arms hotel in a tiny village in the Nidderdale Valley that featured a Michelin starred restaurant. Sometimes I just get lucky.
The second day would be a short jaunt to the English Lake District, where I procured a room overlooking Lake Windermere
I spent the following day touring the Lake District passes in splendid October sunshine
After an overnight stay near Glasgow, I head north along the scenic Loch Lomond with the splendid weather still holding firm
A left turn at Tarbert takes me on the A85 along the Loch Fyne
I reach the ferry port of Kennacraig at midday, and by some miracle, the ferry to Islay is loading. It’s as if it were meant to be. After about a 3 hour sail, we reach Port Askaig on Islay. I ride across the island to Bowmore where I secure a room right next to the Bowmore Distillery. The next morning, I catch the small ferry across the Sound of Islay to the Isle of Jura
Tourism is light at this time of year. I’m the only vehicle making the crossing. I guess the adventure riders went elsewhere
My only link to civilization disappears over the horizon (possible embellishment)
Looking across the Sound of Islay towards Islay
The only road on the island heads up the east coast from the ferry port
A farm house with a million dollar view across the Sound of Islay
The splendid isolation and wild beauty of Jura, virtually unchanged in the sixty some years since Orwell travelled this same road
Orwell spent approximately three years writing 1984 in between jaunts with his son, hiking and exploring the island
Clusters of farm houses dot the coast
As you continue northwards, the road begins to deteriorate
An unexpected patch of forest and pasture
Before the scenery opens up once more
I spotted numerous stags in the grasslands who exhibited no fear of human contact
Four miles short of Orwell’s farmhouse in Barnhill, the ride comes to an abrupt end
Nothing left to do but turn around and head south on the same single track
An old barn overlooks the coast, the Scottish mainland in the distance
Although Orwell’s writing thrived on the island, his health took a turn for the worse. In 1947 he was diagnosed with TB. At the time, there was no cure for the disease. He managed to finish 1984 in November 1948, and died early in 1950.
The only hotel on the island is the Jura Hotel in the village of Craighouse, where I stop for a lunch of tomato pepper soup and fresh crab
After a late lunch, I catch the four o’clock ferry back to Islay. Back on Islay, I ride along the narrow sound between Islay and Jura.
Looking across the sound to the Paps of Jura
A quick stop for refreshment at the Bunnahabhain Distillery
Another view across the Sound of Islay towards Jura. The natural light at these northern latitudes can sometimes provide some spectacular displays, especially when rain showers simultaneously compete alongside bright sunshine to produce some mesmerizing lighting effects which in turn compete with the beauty of the natural surroundings. Something of a reward for being out in inclement weather
Islay lacks a bit of the rugged isolation of Jura, but has its own special charm
Two friends along Loch Indall in southwestern Islay
The village of Portnahaven with the Orsay Lighthouse in the distance
Hairy Scottish cattle give me the once over
The 7 o’clock ferry was the only available crossing back to the mainland. UGH!
Watching the sunrise over Jura from aboard the ferry
This description of an Islay malt made laugh. I had never seen spirits described in military terms
After reaching the mainland, I take a short jaunt across the Kintyre Peninsula and catch another ferry to the Isle of Arran. The weather began to take a turn for the worse and I was holed up for two days waiting out the rain. Fortunately, I stayed in a comfortable country home with an excellent restaurant. Eventually, the rain tapered off, and I caught yet another ferry across the Firth of Clyde to the town of Ardrossan on the mainland.
Looking back at Arran from the ferry
After 5 days in Scotland, I head south back into England, where I make my way to visit an old friend in Shropshire. The next day would be a short hop across the Peak District back to Nottingham.
I stopped at the famous Cat & Fiddle Pub. As it is a sunny Sunday afternoon, the place is hopping with bikes
Not just bikes, but even some Lotuses (Loti?)
Even the Smart cars were out in force, cheekily making three parking spaces out of two
About an hour before reaching Nottingham, I pass thru the town of Matlock Bath, the East Midland’s answer to L.A.’s Rock Store. The town is bursting at the seams with hundreds of bikers enjoying the sunny Sunday afternoon. Almost looks like the main drag of Sturgis
Distance- +/- 1300 miles
Travel days- 9
Rest days- 3
Police sightings- 0
Deer sightings- 3
Bee stings- 0