That morning I decided to travel to Barnhill, to Orwell’s old home on the northeast edge of the island. One of the hotel staff told me it was a 23-mile trek, five of which would need to be completed on foot. I was also warned that the 18 miles of road would be “tough, deer strewn, and slow,” and that it was best to drive with caution.
The warning proved correct. The road was a winding mess of crumbling asphalt. It was also extremely narrow, and unlike many of the other single-track roads on in the island’s west coast, there was very little room for oncoming traffic. I traveled around hidden bays, through dripping forests, past sludgy fields and inland lakes. When I finally reached the abandoned quarry that signaled the end of the road, mine was the only car there. I donned my waterproofs, pulled on my boots, and set off up the rutted path into fog.
The view was dominated by rolling, whisky-colored hills spotted with black granite rocks. Blanket bogs saturated the ground and wind whipped through sodden grass. I moved slowly. The mud sucked and gurgled underneath my boots, the rain beat down on my jacket, and the path wound and coiled up ahead. Deer chewed on clumps of grass and goggled at me dully as I walked by.
To make a call the writer had to travel 18 miles, normally on his rickety and unreliable World War II moped
The deer’s presence didn’t make me feel any less alone, and nor could I imagine they alleviated Orwell’s solitude. While living on Jura, he only received posts twice a week. There was also no phone on the Ardlussa estate, on which Orwell’s farmhouse stood, and so to make a call the writer had to travel 18 miles, normally on his rickety and unreliable World War II moped, to the village of Craighouse. Not that this bothered him: the whole point of escaping to Jura was so that he could not be reached by telephone. The farmhouse was spare and barely warmed by kerosene heaters and for comfort Orwell had only his typewriter and the few friends who visited. According to Tim Turner, a builder and member of the team involved in maintaining the cottage, the writer is thought to have slept with a gun under his bed.