O World invisible we view thee
O World intangible we touch thee
O World unknowable we know thee
Inapprehensible we clutch thee
We woke up bright and early on this day. Each morning we would limp around the room while our limbs loosened up, sore from what seemed to be more and more walking each day. Chris would always tell me to put my Fitbit on and I’d say ‘Nah, there’s no way we will walk as many steps as we did yesterday’.
I always loved the first moment we stepped outside in the mornings. I’m not sure if it was because there was no air conditioning inside, or because the air was crystal clear but it felt so incredible to take a deep breath of fresh air and feel the air on my face in the mornings. We headed out walking along the sidewalk by the water’s edge stretching our legs and pointing out little boats to each other until we found a spot that looked good for breakfast. We had plenty of time before our ferry left for Isle of Mull so we decided to take our time.
We passed a place called Dolce Vita that was just about to open and had a good view so we stopped there. I had scrambled eggs and brown bread and Chris had a fried egg and bacon. The waitress asked if we wanted black or white coffee and since we like cream we said white. It was the best coffee we had ever had! It was so delicious it tasted almost like chocolate coffee and had amazing foaming cream on the top. The first day we were back home we starting practicing making it ourselves and Chris now has perfected the recipe.
We ate and watched the people passing by outside. We noticed lots of kids in uniforms heading to school and we talked about how much later school started there and wondered where they were going. Lots of other people looked to be heading off to work and there were several other diners in the restaurant eating and doing crossword puzzles and reading the newspaper.
After we finished our breakfast we walked outside and saw a car parked up along the sidewalk. The window was rolled down and we could hear bagpipe music coming from the car. As we walked by we could see a man sitting in the car totally head banging to that bagpipe music. I wish I had taken a photo of him but we were nervous the whole trip about photographing strangers. Next time I will definitely ask people if I can take their photo.
We walked all along the horseshoe of Oban looking into shops and eventually finding our way to the Staffa Tours office to pick up our reserved ferry passes. We were the only people there so I spent some time Iooking around the little shop. They had all kinds of amazing maps in there and I thought about asking for a job.
The ferry building was just a couple of blocks from the office and was a giant waiting room. We walked into the building and found a seat watching the people coming in to wait for the ferry. They were mostly people in their 60’s and all were wearing the same outfit of hiking pants and rain coats. Some of them had backpacks and some were writing in journals. I felt very comfortable sitting with them. After a bit it was time to load up onto the ferry. This ferry was huge. It was a real ship. It had a restaurant, a snack bar, outdoor seating on several levels and indoor seating with huge windows. And of course a large area underneath for cars to pull in.
We decided to sit outside to see the view go by. We got seats right at the side of the boat and it was one of the best times of my life. The water was an amazing color. It was slate gray, emerald green as rich as a jewel, white foam, and turquoise all churning together under the boat. And every few feet in any direction were tiny white jellyfish. Chris remarked that it looked exactly like something a Kraken from the deep would live in and we both agreed that the Loch Ness monster stories are completely warranted. We passed so many tiny sailboats and wondered who those people were. Do they live here? Are they on vacation? How do we meet someone with a boat??!! We talked about all these things and we wished that our families were there with us. We talked about our friends and family a lot on this trip and I wanted so badly to share everything with them. We especially thought that Chris’ dad would have loved that ferry ride.
Can you see the jellyfish?
This camera backpack by Case Logic was fantastic. I chose this one because it is waterproof and opens at the top so you can just pull the camera out when you need it. It felt very protective on the boat with the water splashing and it was so nice to not have to open the whole thing up to grab our camera.
This boat and I have some unfinished business. I think the next photo on my coin jar will be a little cut out of me pasted on this boat. 🙂
It took us about an hour to get across to Craignure. We stepped off the ferry and only walked up a bit to get onto our tour bus. There were several of them but they were all very clearly labeled and plenty of people to ask for help.
Getting to Iona is a process. We were originally going to have a car and drive ourselves onto the ferry boat (not a problem) and across the island (laughable). We are very happy we took the bus. If you are lucky enough to know someone in Scotland that would drive you that of course would be best. I myself am in search of a nice Scottish woman to befriend. There were many photographs that didn’t get taken because we were on a bus; but it was still the best option for us this time. I don’t know why I thought this but I was imagining islands like on the Gulf. Flat, small, sometimes you can see across the whole island from the bay to the ocean. This was not that kind of island. There were mountains on this island! The road was a wee thing; a tiny stroke of a gray paintbrush on green. It was wet and foggy and misty. And exactly on the roads edge the land either went straight up or straight down. Sometimes there were flat areas that you could see across the vastness; sometimes a tiny little cottage setting there among the grass and water. But most of the time it was rugged wildnerness. Incredibly beautiful and just out of reach.
I loved hearing our bus driver talk and he told about the history of the island. It took us about an hour to get across; passing through little villages here and there. He told us that the children there go to school until they are 12 on the island and then they board at a school in Oban. (These were the kids in uniforms we had seen that morning!). There used to be thousands of people living on the island but when James 1st- the first king of both England and Scotland- came onto the throne he could not control the clans people. So in order to unite the two countries fully he drove them off of their islands and towards the mainland. Many went into Ireland; many to America. Then again during WW2 76 men left to fight and only a handful came home. He told us about how the majority of people make their money; tourism, then their trades. I love English history so it was very cool to hear someone speaking of names and events that I knew about and hearing it from a Scottish person whose family had lived for generations in the area. I was shocked by how huge Mull was and the realization that we could spend a week just on this one island exploring and meeting these fascinating people.
As the bus drove on we came upon multiple cars that we had to pass. I would stare out the window down at the space between us. Just centimeters between us and the other cars but we never hit one. Those bus drivers were amazing. It started to rain while we were driving across Mull. So far on the trip the rain would come and go within a short time so we were hoping it would pass over but it didn’t. By the time we were parking at the little shop next to the next ferry it was pouring rain. The little place had toliets (I stopped calling them restrooms after a woman sent me to the hotel restaurant three times in London when I asked where the restroom was), snacks, some booths to sit in to get out of the rain and a couple of parking spaces. Right next to the little shop was the water with a much smaller ferry boat waiting. We walked on and found a little seat and in another ten minutes or so we were pulling into the dock on Iona.
On the map you can see we started out in Oban (A) and took the Caledonian Ferry across to Craignure (B). From there we got onto a bus and drove across Mull to Fionnphort (C).
As soon as we got off the ferry we went to get something to eat in the little restaurant. These things seem to be timed so that by the time you arrive at the location it is lunch time. The thing to do is take your own food. Don’t spend your time in the restaurant eating if you are on a tour. If it hadn’t been raining I’m not sure that we would have eaten lunch; or we would have eaten something we could walk and eat. But it was raining and we were hungry so we ate some serious comfort food – all from the white food group- before heading out into the island.
We knew that our number one thing on Iona was Iona Abbey. So we made our way there first. Some interesting bits about Iona:
Iona is about one mile wide and 4 miles long. 125 lucky people live there. There is pink granite on the eastern shore that I must go back to visit. Iona’s highest point is 331 ft. which is an Iron Age hill fort dating from 100BC. There is an area on the west side called Bay at the Back of the Ocean and the next westward stop is North America. There is a main living area called Baile Mor where you can find a primary school, post office and two hotels. Only cars with permits are allowed on the island.
Iona was part of the Gaelic kingdom of Dal Riata and the site of a monastery during the early middle ages. According to tradition the monestary was founded in 563. There is some pretty serious and awesome history associated with this island and yes, you can feel it when you stand there.
We spent some time exploring the abbey. I picked up one of the prayer books and opened to a random page and read it. I cried. I lit a candle for my Uncle. I had a dream about him about a week before we left. It was one of those really realistic dreams. We were sitting on a couch together and he was leaning against the back of the couch with one arm draped over the back and a knee propped up on the cushion. He said ‘This trip is going to be great’. So I lit a candle for him in this place and cried some more. It was a beautiful place and very moving. I’ll never forget it.
That’s me down there!
This was so incredibly beautiful. The light from the window hit their faces.
After we explored the Abbey we made our way back past the nunnery and stopped in a few shops. We would have liked to have walked more but it really was pouring rain so we got back on the ferry. One leaves every 15 minutes for Fionnphort so it was no problem to go back when we were ready.
And something not for sale that I really wanted:
You can only sort of see it in the photos but by this point it was pouring. Chris was walking quickly onto the ferry to catch it and I lagged behind a bit to get a couple of last shots on Iona.
When we got back over to Mull we waited in the little visitors area and dried off a bit and took the bus ride back across the island to Craignure. It was still raining when we got there but luckily there was a covered area to wait under.
I’m not gonna lie; it was cold. It doesn’t really rain out there – it seemed to me it was just little tiny pieces of ice coming down. We were wet and I stayed as close to Chris as I could for his body heat and fantasized about the leggings I should have worn under my hiking pants. And Mary’s Irish Coffee. I would tell my family that I finally understood whiskey.
A few views from the ferry back to Oban from Mull.
We landed back at Oban and walked all the way back around the horse shoe to our B&B and straight into the pub; hanging our wet jackets up on the wall hooks to begin drying. We ordered our food and stayed entertained by the group of young fellows that were drinking. They were actually singing. Have you ever seen a movie set in the UK where people sing little jigs at pubs? Well, they really do that! They sang and broke a few glasses and laughed and we really enjoyed listening to them. I had the scampi and Chris got fish and chips. It was very tasty and while we ate I tried to really take in that we were in this amazing place.
If you’ve ever heard that food in Scotland is less than desirable those people must not like seafood. If you like seafood you will find the best food you’ve ever had in Scotland.
I took a nice long hot shower that night. We would be leaving for a whole new place the next day and I wasn’t sure when we’d have another shower as nice as this one. We also took some time to repack a bit and organize our luggage before heading off to bed-even with our system things were getting untidy. I kept peeking out the window at the view of Oban Bay.
Chris took a photo later that night of the full darkness. I was very doubtful that it ever got dark but here is photographic evidence.
Someday soon we will go back to Oban. No less than two nights in the town to eat at all the seafood places and walk all the way down the horseshoe to the Dunollie Museum and Castle. I would love to rent a sail boat and go out to sea for a night. I’d love to do some hill walking on different islands. We are also looking into hiring a driver to take us to Iona; that way we can stop along Mull for photographs and spend as much time as we want on Iona.
Another fantastic trip would be to get a ferry pass and island hop along the western Scottish islands. We would book nights at B&Bs along the way and either take a bus or walk the length of the islands.