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Orwell Pilgrimage to Barnhill Jura

Barnhill JuraJura is not only visited by people for the obvious reasons such as its overwhelming nature, the wildlife, or the fact that the island has three famous mountains called the Paps of Jura which are almost a destination in its own right. Jura is also known as the island where George Orwell lived from 1946-48 while writing his novel 1984. In his book Orwell tried to “depict a totalitarian state, where the truth didn’t exist as such, but was merely what the “Big Brother” said it was. Freedom was only total obedience to the Party, and love an alien concept, unless it was love for the Party. The story is told from the point of view of Winston Smith, a functionary of the Ministry of Truth whose work involved the “correction” of all records each time the “Big Brother” decided that the truth had changed.” I have read the book and found it fascinating but scary at the same time and I think anyone should read it. This book gives the reader a completely different and controversial view of how a society can work, or should I say can’t!

The fact that Orwell wrote his book in Barnhill, situated in the north of Jura, is a reason for some to undertake a pilgrimage to the Isle of Jura and follow into the footsteps of this famous writer. Barnhill still is a very remote place, cars are not allowed and to get there you have to leave your vehicle four miles before Barnhill on the side of the road, or better track. From there it’s a beautiful walk into solitude and remoteness, following the same track George Orwell had followed in 1945 for the first time.

On the website orwell today you can find a travel report of a couple who made a pilgrimage to Barnhill in August 2004. It’s interesting to read that almost nothing has changed in the last six miles or so and only little has changed in the journey from Kintyre to Jura. I’d like to quote a paragraph from the travel report:

Jura End of the RoadWe walked to the car – put our boots in the ‘boot’ – and then began the drive up the island to where the road ends and the walk to Barnhill begins. Two miles after driving past the manor house at Ardlussa – and opening and closing two gates to keep the cows contained – we came to the end of the road for cars and parked in the space available there. Just beyond the point where the trail to Barnhill begins a solitary white horse was watching us. I went up to try and pat him but he walked away before I reached him. He didn’t seem to want his picture taken.

My feelings as we began the walk to Barnhill are hard to explain. I kept thinking of the words written on a biscuit tin I’d used for years, “The road to a friend’s house is never long”. I felt that I was truly going to visit a friend, a friend who I very much wanted to see. We weren’t in any hurry and stopped a few times to take photos. The weather was absolutely perfect with glorious sunshine but not too hot. My husband walked ahead of me most of the way but sometimes we’d walk side by side and talk about Orwell. After walking for an hour and a half or so we made a bet to see who would be the first to spot Barnhill. Not long after that we came to the crest of a hill and there it was! It appeared all of a sudden and all at once!

Barnhill image by Alan Gerrard licensed for reuse Creative Commons Licence

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