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Music & Malts on Jura

We had had a long held ambition to visit the Jura Music Festival, and this September our wish was granted when we set sail with a boat full of guests ready to enjoy some marvellous music, a few mouth-watering malts and of course, the majestic Isle of Jura.

The festival began 21 years ago with the aim of giving young folk on the island the chance to learn new, or improve existing, musical skills and to help them develop these in the future. Instruction and inspiration is provided by a variety of top class musicians who perform and run workshops each year.

Setting off from Ardfern in a stiff south westerly Force 6, we enjoyed an exhilarating sail down to Jura, stopping briefly at Lowlandsman's Bay for a late lunch. Having spotted several other yachts heading in the same direction, we made haste for Craighouse to ensure a good parking spot!  As we entered the bay the lilting sound of a fiddle drifted across the water and whetted our appetite for the musical feast that lay ahead.

Stepping ashore on the Friday evening we were greeted at the top of the slip by the Homecoming String Band and a spot of impromptu jigging was soon underway. Then we danced our way up to the hall where the Locals concert was about to begin and we could not have received a warmer welcome. Soon we were ensconced at a table, enjoying performances from an amazing wealth of talent that had our toes tapping, tears welling and hands clapping.

The next morning dawned bright and fair and we were drawn by the skirl of the pipes as the Islay pipe band struck up outside the hotel. While some of our party joined a tour of the distillery, the rest opted for a leisurely stroll to the church to see an exhibition of fascinating local photos. On our way back we popped into the step dancing workshop in the hall then finding that all that exercise had left us with a bit of a drouth, we joined the throngs in the hotel where we felt it was only polite to sample one or two of the local malts!  It was standing room only as informal music sessions struck up all around us.

On the Saturday evening, we had tickets for the Grand Concert, which, amongst others, featured the remarkable talents of Blazing Fiddles, the Robyn Stapleton Trio and Rura. Then we took to the floor, stripping the willows, and dashing the white sergeant to the music of Fergie Macdonald, until our bunks summoned us and we picked our way carefully through the moorings for another peaceful night at anchor.

On Sunday there was time for a longer shore walk, then coffee and scones while we watched the pipe band returning from the morning church service. The afternoon entertainment was an open mike session in the Big Marquee (we never did find the Small Marquee!) where we shared a table with Spot, the deaf Dalmatian. We felt very proud when Paul, one of Moonshadow’s guests took to the stage to perform a Johnny Cash classic. 

By early evening we were ready for the Big Concert in the Cooperage. What a fantastic venue it was, lined with whisky barrels for the audience to perch on while the more enthusiastic danced the night away to the sounds of  headline act Skerryvore. All too soon it was all over and, as we watched the firework display on the pier from Moonshadow’s decks, we raised a glass to a very special festival that we will definitely visit again.

By Pauline Taylor

Moonshadow Yacht Charter Ltd

www.symoonshadow.co.uk