Monday, September 21, 2009


Image Copyright Andrew Curtis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Pictured above, Barnhill is a farmhouse at the north east end of the island of Jura. It’s main claim to fame is that it is where George Orwell (1903-50) wrote the iconic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (which gave the English language such concepts as “Big Brother”, “Room 101” and “Doublespeak”) between 1947 and 1948. The connection was that Orwell was a journalist on the Observer whose editor at the time, David Astor, had a family estate on Jura (although Barnhill is on the neighbouring estate of Ardlussa).

Barnhill is incredibly remote, being five miles from the nearest tarmacked road and twenty miles from the nearest village (Craighouse). Only accessible by 4WD, It still belongs to the Fletcher family who owned it when Orwell stayed and can be rented for holidays (sleeps seven) at £550/week (price includes coal, gas and generator fuel, there being no mains electricity). See the Jura website for details.

The incongruously English name “Barnhill” in such a quintessentially Gaelic setting, incidentally, is simply a direct translation of the feature marked on the map, Cnoc an t-Sabhail (pronounced “Crochcan Towel”) which is Gaelic for “Barn Hill”. The village in the Eastern Highlands, Tomintoul, is also Gaelic for “Barn Hill”, being a corruption of Tom an t-Sabhail. So is Cairn Toul the mountain in the Cairgorms which is a corruption of Carn an t-Sabhail. You know how the Inuit (Eskimo) language has 200 words for snow? Well Gaelic has – er – quite a lot for hill, mountain etc., Cnoc, Tom and Carn being just three of them. (Beinn – as in Nevis – is another.)

Image Copyright Alan Gerrard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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