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The house where George Orwell penned his masterpiece, published 70 years ago today, has hardly changed, nor has the brooding and remote Scottish island he loved

The black typewriter gives a satisfying clack when I hit its keys. The antiquated contraption sits on an upstairs windowsill in a house where there is a view on to a bay of graphite-coloured water that laps the shore. Above are tumbling slopes of bog cotton, bracken and foxgloves.

In the late 1940s, Barnhill, a stout, white-washed house, on the Scottish island of Jura in the Inner Hebrides, was exactly what George Orwell was looking for: a remote retreat unreachable by vehicle. He described it as in an extremely un-get-atable place; somewhere he could write what would be his final work 1984.

Its as difficult to reach today as it was when Orwell made Barnhill his temporary home with his sister Avril, his housekeeper Susan and his young son Richard. The journey from the mainland involves two ferries (one from Kennacraig to Islay, then another to Jura), a 20-mile drive and then a four-mile walk along a dirt track.

The island has one single-track road which winds and tapers down the eastern side. On my visit, the sun cast shafts of light over the Paps, a trio of scree-covered peaks in the middle of the southern half of the island. Red deer seemed utterly untroubled by my presence (they outnumber people 25 to one), and one russet-coloured stag ambled across the road ahead of me before slipping through thick hedgerows.

George Orwell at his typewriter in the mid 1940s. Photograph: Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

Even on the sunniest days, there is a brooding, melancholic air to Jura. Swathes of the island are barely touched by man; the mossy corries, lumpy fields of peat, the occasional shadow of a golden eagle flying overhead, the crags, gullies and lochs all contribute to an atmosphere of gloriousyeteerie emptiness.

Life moves slowly here, even by Hebrides standards, says Rachael Jones, visitor centre manager at Jura Distillery, as we stand outside the entrance to the low, white-brick building whose chimneys dominate Craighouse, the main settlement. Tasting tours of the peaty Jura whiskies are one of the main draws for visitors, alongside trout fishing, deer-stalking and, of course, the landscape. But, as Rachael explains, true understanding of the island requires more than a daytrip from Islay to sip the malts.

I came from Newcastle six years ago to live here with my then boyfriend, who is a local, and it has a charm that really gets under your skin, she says.

Everybody does know everyone elses business on Jura but its a protective thing, she says. We all teach newcomers about the island and to be especially careful of Corryvreckan.

Corryvreckan is a name that plays a small but vital part in the story of Orwells time here. A whirlpool amid the coastal waters three miles north-west of Barnhill, it almost took the writers life when his boat got sucked into it while on the water with his son. They lost the boat and had to swim to a remote cove. It was two hours before father and son were rescued by a passing lobster fisherman.

The whirlpool was impossible to make out as the small motorboat I travelled on sailed north from Craighouse to visit Barnhill on waters as still as a boating lake.

Orwell came to Barnhill and Jura for the isolation. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

The Fletcher family, who have owned the house since before Orwell stayed there, only allow self-catering bookings for a minimum of a week. But since 2011 the Orwell Society has been running trips to Barnhill every two years, led by Orwells son, Richard Blair, now 75 (the next is in 2020).

A spacious, four-bedroom home, Barnhill, with its Aga, now-faded wall maps of post-war Europe, well-thumbed copies of 1984 and comfortably sagging armchairs, seems to have barely changed in the 70-plus years since Orwell began writing 1984. A generator supplies the electricity for light and there is a small gas-powered fridge.

You have to bring your own supplies if you want to stay here, says Damaris Fletcher, on hand to provide us with tea and cake, as our small group of Orwell Society members are allowed free reign to explore the home.

Its deliberate that we havent changed much. If you stay here, youre really treading in Orwells footsteps. He would recognise the place instantly if he were to step through the door today.

Orwell was battling tuberculosis during his stay on Jura and died seven months after 1984 was published, but Richard remembers his time on the island fondly.

Jura was a wonderful place to be a child, he recalls. But this wasnt a holiday for us. Everything my Dad wrote and said indicates that he wanted to be here full time. For him, Jura was home.

Climbing the creaking stairs that lead to his bedroom, its easy to imagine hearing the clatter of the typewriter sounding out from this secluded spot, punching out the dialogue between Winston and Julia, and the concepts behind Big Brother and doublethink words and ideas that, seven decades after it was published, , are still being read and discussed the world over.

Jura highlights by those who know and love the island

Claire Fletcher, co-founder, Lussa Distillery

Claire Fletcher (left) collecting sea lettuce, a botanical used in Lussa gin. Photograph: Rachel Keenan

One of the best things about the island is the views you get from the top of the Jura Paps: a 360-degree view of the area. You get to see the raised features and caves if you know where youre looking. Quite a bit of the island is uninhabited and theres a great sense of nature and freedom. I am one of the three women running the gin distillery here. We handpick the berries to make the gin from more than 15 botanical varieties. Were very small, producing only 11,000 bottles in two years, but people make an effort to come and see us and taste what we make.
Tours by arrangement

Giles Perring, music producer and composer, Sound of Jura

The Sound of Islay with Jura in the distance. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

One of my favourite things is the sense of community we have here. As I work in the music industry, I put on live arts events and house one of the regular social events here every Tuesday night. We all gather in Knockrome, where the old school is, and sing and dance through the evenings. We swap stories and tell jokes. Jura is one of the last wildernesses in the UK, unlike a trip to the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales, you wont find a lot of managed walks. Visitors come to hike across the island; some for the thrill of it, some for the sea views. From the top of the Paps, you can see Ben Nevis, or parts of Northern Ireland.

Sheena Ferrand, receptionist, Jura Hotel

Jura Hotel and distillery in Craighouse. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Jura is so peaceful. People come to get away from it all. In fact, they regret only coming for a day. The whole place is isolated and serene, there arent 10 people behind you when you go on walks round the bay or the island. At certain times of the year, you can see the northern lights. The Jura Hotel is the only one on the island and has amazing views, overlooking the beach and the sea. During the Jura Music Festival (21-23 September) people like to camp outside. I love the craft shops and know that people come from far and wide to buy our Jura tartan, pillows and kilts.
Doubles from 100 B&B, jurahotel.co.uk

Amy Dunnachie, 25, community development officer, Isle of Jura Development Trust

Amy Dunnachie, who also makes jewellery in her spare time Photograph: Konrad Borkowski

As a community, we recently built a beach path, benches and bridges that take you over rivers near Corran beach. And there are now outdoor sculptures that are hidden off the track, which you see when you walk along it. We also have percussion instruments that are made of bits of old pipe, timber and oil containers where you can just go and make some noise! I like the year-round photography exhibition at the parish church with its archive photographs of the island and its people, too. A mile into the village is the Service Point building, where islanders register births and deaths and you can find out more about genealogy of the people here. It also has an oral history database: a community project carried out a few years ago, where we collected stories of people with a connection to Jura.

Kirsteen McSwein, regular visitor

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/jun/08/tour-george-orwell-jura-scottish-island-wrote-1984