Sunday, July 23, 2006

Mull & Iona


Over the years I have managed to 'Island Bag' most of the major Hebrides e.g. Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Barra, Vatersay (before the causeway!) Skye, Islay, Bute, Arran, but had omitted the Isle of Mull under the false impression that it was just a tourist haunt typified by the pastel painted village of Tobermory and more recently the CBeebies Balamory kids TV series.

What a serious mistake, but not one that I fully realised till the trip back on the ferry from Craignure to Oban.

We caught the ferry to Craignure and viewed the panoply of the high mountains of the west coast from Ben Nevis, the Mamores and Glencoe down to Ben Cruachan in sunlit splendour to the far east, the hills of Ardnamurchan to the nearer east and Mull's hills and only Munro (Ben More) to the west. The attached photo shows Ben More, Castle Duart and some lucky so and so's on a pair of yachts as we approached Craignure.

Once on Mull, most folk seemed to head off north to Tobermory. Silly people. As they say...'Go West young man'. We did and headed off through the spectacular glacial valleys towards the Ross of Mull, Fionnphort and the isle of Iona. If you've done this journey then you will know what I mean when I say the scenery is unsurpassed.... deserted glens, towering sea cliffs and a geomorphologist's heaven. The single-track road was quiet and a real driver's delight, given that the 40 odd miles to Fionnphort passed in as many minutes. Yeehah! I wish we had had more time to try the road back via Salen (see map), but that's for another time and there WILL be another time!

We got the passenger ferry across to Iona (you don't need a car to discover this Island) and traipsed about the Abbey, Nunnery and village in glorious sunshine. What a place... total chill. St Columba knew a good place when he decided to build his abbey there and not just because he couldn't see his homeland Ireland. The abbey is particularly stunning and along with most of the folk there I was genuinely taken aback by what you see within. I won't spoil it for you, if you've not been, by telling you what's within, but it does surprise you.

The yoofs were less impressed and wanted us to get the first available ferry back, which crosses frequently (as the timetable literally suggested probably to save ink), but we adults let a few crossings pass before heading back to the cars at Fionnphort.

We hurtled slightly more slowly back to Craignure, had a pleasant pint in the pub and caught the ferry back in the evening sunset, when the views were, if anything, more spectacular than those arriving.

So if you are 'mulling' over a place to visit.....

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