An island of the Inner Hebrides, Jura is separated from the Knapdale district of Argyll and Bute to the east by the Sound of Jura and from the island of Islay to the southwest by the narrow Sound of Islay. To the north, the Strait of Corryvreckan, with its notorious whirlpool, separates Jura from the island of Scarba.

Jura takes its name from Old Norse, the dýr-ey or 'deer island' of the Vikings, and red deer have been hunted here since prehistoric times. Much of the land is still given over to deer stalking, with up to 1000 animals culled annually to maintain a stable deer population of around 6000. Unique to Jura are Cromie stags, which have distinctive swept-back antlers.

Extending 27 miles (43 km) northeast-southwest and 8 miles (13 km) at its widest, the island rises to a height of 785m (2571 feet) at Beinn an Oir, one of the three distinctive conical peaks known as the Paps of Jura. The southern part of the island, including these peaks, is designated as the Jura National Scenic Area. The entire island forms the major part of a Special Protection Area for golden eagles.

Jura is nearly bisected by Loch Tarbert, and is noted for its large caves and some of the most spectacular raised beaches in Western Europe. The island's geology comprises a mixture of granite, blue slate, micaceous sandstone and the largest area of metamorphic quartzite in the Highlands and Islands. Covered in extensive areas of blanket bog, the total area of Jura is 36,692 ha (90,666 acres).

Natives of Jura as known as Diurachs. Most of the island's population live in Craighouse which sits on a bay on the east coast protected by a string of islets known as the Small Isles. The MacDonald Lords of the Isles were ousted from their possession of Jura by King James IV in 1506, with the Campbells of Craignish finally buying any residual MacDonald rights to the island in 1607. The north of the island was also associated with the Clan Maclean. Jura was a centre for the breeding of Highland cattle in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1767 the depopulation of the island began when 50 of the island's 1100 crofters sailed from Jura to settle in Canada. After the introduction of sheep in the 1840s, population decline accelerated. It dropped to 249 in 1961, 210 (1971), 228 (1981), 196 (1991) and 188 (2001), with a modest recovery to 196 (2011). Burdened by debts which were the result of a bank collapse in 1857, the Campbells sold the island in sections between 1920 and 1938, with most of its land now formed into seven estates; namely Ardfin, Ardlussa, Barnhill, Jura Forest, Inver, Ruantallain and Tarbert. British-American socialites and politicians Waldorf and Nancy Astor bought more than half the island in 1920, but sold their property in the north to concentrate on Tarbert which their family still owns. Ardlussa is run by the island's only resident owners, who bought the estate from the Astors in 1926. As well as running a farming and sporting estate, they began producing Lussa Gin in 2015. The same family also own Barnhill, where the novelist George Orwell spent much of his final years and where he wrote 1984. The Ardfin Estate includes the substantial Jura House, once the home of the Campbell Lairds, and was bought by a wealthy Australian hedge fund manager in 2010. Inver has long been owned the the Lithgow ship-building family, while Jura Forest is the property of the titled Vestey family.

The Isle of Jura Distillery began in the 19th century and reopened in 1963. The island is linked by ferry to Port Askaig on the north coast of Islay and a single-track road follows the east coast to a remote point 3 mile / 5 km north of Ardlussa. A rough track continues northwards past Barnhill to Kinuachdrachd.

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