The day was Tuesday 30th September and the day of my birthday, it was Julie’s birthday just a few days earlier and Id suggested that we could go to Scotland for a week, Julie’s face began to turn to that”fook off its October” look, I added quickly that we could splash out on a hotel and leave the tent at home this time. Her face turned back to “interested, keep talking” I love Scotland, the land its mountains….glens…animals…birds… but not those midgey bstard things so have devised a strategy to visit the Highlands in Spring and early Autumn when they have either died off or not yet hatched…sorted!
I spent an evening looking on the ‘putor at hotels B+B’s and guest houses. Personally I prefer hotels because of the anonymity, one can come and go as one pleases and not be fussed over or bothered whilst at the same time be well looked after. I booked one initially that was somewhere out in the wilds and on reflection just a bit far away from the pub…any pub! So looking again we agreed to book a hotel in the main town called Tobermorry and was situated right on the coast. We had also booked an overnight hotel at the side of Loch Lomond because once past Glasgow or Edinburgh I prefer to take the little roads and soak up the beautiful country that makes the Scottish Highlands popular.
So it was on Tuesday morning with two bags and a couple of big coats and boots slung in the back of the truck we set off, it was 09.30. We reached Scotch Corner within two hours, leaving the A1 now to take the A66 crossing the country from east to west to Penrith and picking up the M6, on past Carlisle onto the M74 where the road always seems quieter. I don’t usually go faster the 70mph in the truck its a leisurely thing to drive on tarmac and fits the mood of exploration. It will go 85mph as we proved on a run down to South of France en-route to Corsica last year…The link below is all about that adventure if you missed it the first time around.
The motorway cut round the city of Glasgow it can get busy but if you follow the airport signs it will bring you out on the right road heading over the Erskine Bridge in the right direction. Swinging left over the bridge for a while to get on the west side of Loch Lomond, passing Dumbarton and Alexandria on the A82, the last is the last town before the greeny brown features of the Highlands takes over. We drove another twenty minutes to reach our hotel for the night, “The Inn on Loch Lomond” is its name and its on the roadside near the Inverbeg turn of you can’t miss it!
Birthday drinks at Loch Lomond
We got there about 4.30, our room was ready even though we were a little early, we put our stuff in the room then went back downstairs to the bar / resteraunt. We settled at the bar and had a few drinks with chasers, we don’t usually do chasers but we were now in Scotland and you know the saying don’t you?….. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” The clock ticked its way and before long It weas approaching seven bells and we were ready for dinner we picked a table as the place filled up. Dinner was really tasty and worth every penny, a few more drinks followed before we took a walk outside to see that it was now raining, we stayed under cover and watched the puddles form.Iit had promised a dry week so the rain should be gone by the morning. Morning came and yes the rain had run off to the east of the country, there was some low cloud to begin with through the trees we could see the tops of the mountains begin to show themselves very soon the low cloud had drifted away altogether.
I might like Wales? But the Highlands are better. I’ve been a couple of times but wasnt as impressed, I don’t think the Welsh Tourist Board have woken up yet and dont seem to promoto it as much as it probably could. I have several Welsh friends who are so very proud of their heritage and have discovered Caerphilly and Cardiff thanks to them, unfortunately I really don’t think the folk at the tourist board shout loud enough. I’ve also been to Ireland twice. Dublin city is where I stayed with a lovely flame haired Irish girl. We’d met originally during the summer on the Isle of Man and she invited me to visit her some months later. This was back in the late 1970’s. The evenings in the pubs were so different and so very vibrant., noisy with lots of singing and live music I got told off twice for swirling my quarter full glass of Guinness and later for trying to draw a shamrock in the froth of another. I saw the urchins on the bridge over the Liffey with no shoes on their feet and shaking “Quality Street” tins at everyone begging for money, I was visiting over the Christmas when they blew up a train running from Dublin to Belfast, they killed many innocent people. My then youthful and full on opinion was that Ireland was a shitty backwards country, I cared little for at the time AND it cost as much on the ferry as it does to cross to France.
My second trip to Ireland over thirty years later wasnt much better. We stayed on the West coast in County Clare where we stayed in a rented bungalow. with some other biking couples. It had been organised by friend Fatha as a treat for his wife but we got wind of it and the treat turned into a 6 couple holiday renting two cottages.The holiday lets came across to me as properties long forgotten from the 1960’s. Ours was a bit damp and so very old-fashioned. I don’t think the Irish Tourist Board quite tell the truth when they promote them….or we were just unlucky and It rained every single day so I wasnt impressed at all! I loved its coast line the rocks the sea but not the constant rain or the strip of grass that grew down the middle of practically every back road we explored!
2008. On the West coast of Oirland..in the rain
Anyway, to the present and Scotland! After a great cooked breakfast we paid up and left, taking the next left turn up the hill up and over we drove on the single track strip of tarmac through Glen Douglas, it was a wonderful and peaceful drive across to the west side, no people or vehicles for miles until we hit the small B road and drove our way around the water’s edge to Arrochar.
A road over Glen Douglas in the Argyll Forest Park….
Near the “Rest and Be Thankful” at Glen Cloe. Overlooking the Argyll Forest Park
It true to say that I could quite happily drive on these barren roads all day and every day, seeing not a soul for hours. It’s on trips like this that I realise that I don’t generally pander to my fellow human being for company.
We drove up through and down from the many Glen’s and Lochs on our route up to Oban and the reason why I wanted an overnight stay, yes we could have reached the hotel on Mull within twelve hours but would have whizzed through the hills (well, as “whizzed” as was possible in a two and half ton Land Rover!) Have you for instance ever ridden or driven past someplace on several occasions wondering “I wonder whats actually down that road?” I know I have and done it often too, well now Im taking such roads on my journeys and yes they might take a little longer but hey Im joining the dots and rubbing out the question marks on the map now!
The sun came out and the clouds cleared as we entered the little but busy town of Oban. As well as being a succesful commercial concern in itself and caters well for the tourist trade and the folk coming through on their way to and from the many off shore communities Oban is the home of the busy ferry terminal and is the gateway to many of the islands on the west coast. We arrived early and changed our ticket time with the guys on the Cal-Mac desk then parked in line to board the next ferry due.
The sailing is about an hour and was very pleasant, we sat outside at the stern taking in with lovely views of the west coast as we ploughed our way across to Mull, which is a longish island with mountains and castles to ogle as one gets closer. One in particular is Duart Castle and is the first building of Mull to be noticed to be honest, it dates back to the 13th century and is the seat of the Clan McLean, over time it fell into dis-repair the estate. In 1911 the castle came back into the hands of a McLean and the rebuild began, unfortunately the money ran out until 2012 when a restoration fund was set up the restoration work is now in progress again. It’s a typically Scottish sight to see as one closes with the island and certainly tops the list of places to see.
Duart Castle home of the Clan MacLean on the sea approach
No sooner had we finished looking at it when we were called down to the car deck for disembarkation which itself took only ten minutes to complete, the ferries to the islands are not huge in size but there are quite a lot of them.
We turned right out of the small terminal at Craignure onto the main road which after a hundred yards became a single track road typical of the Scottish Highlands, we tacked on behind a big delivery lorry which was going upto Tobermory too. There are passing places every hundred yards or so but this chap was getting his foot down so to nip around him was impossible. It doesn’t take long before one gets into the driving style up here, that being a steady pace and often pulling over to let someone come on, in turn I have to say plenty pulled over too. The only square pegs in the round holes were us tourist! I ve been to the Islands lots of times so I soon dropped into the way of things again. it was about a fifteen mile journey north along the coast, the blues sea was just away to our right.
Tobermory! I took photo this with my Canadian girlfriend in mind. Nancy’s favorite holiday destination in Canada is also called Tobermory and is also by the water.
Once there we switched on the Garmin just the one time to get us directly to the hotel. Im thankful to it because it was a bit of a squiggle along the back roads driving around the town, then turning left sharply up whats best described as a “snicket” The black stoned hotel was on top of the hill overlooking the town. Now we knew where it was we would have no problems finding it again, Julie unplugged the Garmin and packed it away, we wouldn’t be needing it again on this trip. The Western Isles Hotel was built-in 1882 the rooms therefore are large with lofty ceilings, it is very period looking but modern enough were it mattered to be comfortable.
The Western Isles Hotel. When the sun was behind, the shadows give it a black, almost Gothic appearance!
The foyer..yes the stairs did creak and no, there were no lifts in this hotel
The reception desk was guarded by a sleeping collie dog who belonged to today receptionist, both proved to be very friendly. I thought it was a nice touch I think every hotel in the Scottish Highlands should have a sleeping sheepdog in reception!
We took a stroll down the hill to the sea front it was just a ten minute walk. The front of some of the houses were painted a bit leary if you ask me, yellows, pinks, reds and sky blues. A young FaceBook friend ask me if I was going to stay in Balamory? I smiled at her mistaken spelling of the place but she described it exactly? Another pal commented about it “saying whats the story in Balamory!” Hmmm, perhaps I was missing something about Tobermory or was it Balermory? I still didn’t have a clue. Eventually another friend and mum posted on FB she finally put me in the picture…Aahhh so thats it, thank you Debbie! “Balamory” was in a children’s TV series on the BBC and based in Tobermory! Aha so that s what it’s all about. I still don’t know why they are painted in such rich colours but when the sun is out it does look great from across the bay
Tobermory. There is our hotel on the hill-top
We walked along the harbour and noted the facilities, Spar supermarket, couple of small hotels, bank, tourist tat shop, paper shop, stationary and bookshop, shop with stuff for boats and boat people pubs x 3 a cafe a garage and two or three resteraunts including the old Chinese! on the harbour wall stood a mobile fish and chip van which Im told served excellent portions but we never actually bothered as we laid our hats in the bar at the end of the road by the bus terminus called Macgochans, the food was brilliant so we visited every night bar one and the beer was excellent too. The staff were a mixture of local and European they were typically well-travelled and friendly. There is a good website, its below for you.
On the way to the pub we saw a famous person…or should I say famous cat, He lives here in Tobermory and he is his own man..or cat and owned by nobody, some local artist decided to make is life a celebrity, its really took off, so much so that a scribe and her publishers in Edinburgh have created a storm by writing a book about a ginger cat who just happens to live in Tobermory too. They are at loggerheads as we speak. Now we know it’s not about the cat it’s about the money that can be make off the back of the Ginger Tom!
Not my photo!
We didn’t know the story of the Ginger puss until the end of the holiday, I came home a did some research and think its bad when some writer and publisher in Edinburgh wants to cash in on the puss already made famous by a local…perhaps he should have secured a contract with said puss? We did see him on most evenings hanging about the fish and chip van. If your still wondering WTF? Well here is the link to its very own FaceBook page, so have a look and make your own mind up! http://www.tobermorycat.co.uk/ Power to the paw is what I say!
The following morning after a great cooked breakfast of all things Scottish we drove back down the narrow single track road, heading back to Duart Castle, the sun was out and though there was a light wind it was pleasant. On the way we spotted a couple of beached and long forgotten fishing vessels, I thought they would be good to photograph. Later one evening as I read through a booklet it said these boats where probably the most photographed location on Mull. So here for you are my photos of a common old subject!
The Tobermory wrecks
Two of the wrecks from closer in
The Tobermory wrecks. Sometime turning into B+W can change the whole mood of the photo
Julie waits by the truck
We turned off the road a mile or two after the ferry terminal onto another single track road that twisted and turned becoming a rutted track as we neared the castle. It looked majestic strutting out on the edge of the rocks, well done that man for putting it right here! It’s an old castle full of old Scottish history…(well it would be wouldn’t it?) It’s still being restored, there is a fair amount of scaffold in place which isn’t good for the photographer, and so for the moment the best place to get the shot is from the ferry, something Id done yesterday on the way in. There aren’t many rooms to see at the moment and you can’t get onto the roof either, this time next year Im sure it’ll all be open. A Cromwellian task force tried to assault the island in 1653 but half the fleet of six ships sunk, its been recently discovered that one of them sank just 50 metres in front of the castle. HMS Swan is now a controlled diving site of great importance, I imagine too its worth its weight in gold….not hinting at anything honest, at least not in this bit of sea.
Legend has it that the wreck of a Spanish galleon, laden with gold, lies somewhere in the mud at the bottom of Tobermory Bay — although the ship’s true identity, and cargo, are in dispute. By some accounts, the Florencia (orFlorida, or San Francisco), a member of the defeated Spanish Amada fleeing the English fleet in 1588, anchored in Tobermory to take on provisions. Following a dispute over payment, the ship caught fire and the gunpowder magazine exploded, sinking the vessel. In her hold, reputedly was £300,000 in gold bullion. Where’s me flippers Julie!
The clans fought each other for many years in Scotland this spilled over onto the islands too. One story is told that hundreds of years ago the chief here married another chief’s daughter but after a short while it was found she couldn’t have children he decided to dispose of her. His plan was to put her on a spit of rocks in the bay and let the tide sweep over her taking here out to sea to be found later as the victim of a tragic accident. A tidy little murder if ever there was one and no comeback or fighting between the two clans….however….a passing boat hear her cries for help and saved her, they took her to her father’s home further up the coast and there after much raging and frothing at the mooth a very clever plan was hatched that would ensure the Chief and his clan would have the upper hand on the island until the end of their days! The wily Chief let the lying b’stard come and offer his deepest regrets at the loss of his dearest daughter. He probably thought he’d got away with the dark deed until a year later when he was invited to a house party by the long bereaved Chief. Said b’stard was having a great time drinking and eating with all the other guests when he was introduced to the Chiefs “other” daughter. B’stard found himself looking at the woman he thought he’d disposed of. He must have sobered up ever so quickly! He realised he couldn’t say anything because he knew he knew. The clever Chief now had him over a barrel because he knew the b’stard knew that he knew. Indeed the Chief and his Clan did really well out of the situation for the rest of their days. Now isn’t that a brilliant story?
Duart Point sitting at the site of the sunken HMS SWAN
Duart Castle Julie’s photo of the castle taken from the water’s edge
I found the grounds and view outside as interesting as inside the castle, quite often this is the case with me when we go visit places of interest, as with Chatsworth House for example. We decided to drive south on the coast road and maybe find where an old workmate now lives, we used the map Julie is more than fine with map reading.
However just a few miles down the road I took a left turn over an ancient little humpty backed bridge and after a few miles we were staring at the sea..from a point we hadn’t intended! There are those out there that would consider this as being lost or as going the wrong way but to us it’s viewed as going a different way! Besides going a different way means you see things you wouldn’t normally see like these Rock stars!…Highland cattle
A “Muckle Coo”….
Tarmac road to Grass Point
I didn’t realise they came in so many different colours, there was a time when I thought they were all ginger coloured only. I took a few photos of them, I think Highland cattle are the rock stars of cows and all remind me of rocksuperstars such as John Bon Jovi!
Back over the little bridge we drove to the main road and took a left turn to the south. Grass Point was nice but no what we were looking for! In another couple of miles we saw the road sign to Lochbuie and turned, a Lancashire bloke was coming the other way and said the road was closed as a lorry had gone off the road and wouldn’t be cleared anytime soon. Back onto the main road we turned, I say main road, it’s still the one track tarmac road that turned into two lanes occasionally. it was the road that went north to south I guess you might call it the A1 of Mull. the land ahead was lush green off to the right it began to sweep gently up to meet the stone and rock eventually becoming mountain. I told the couple behind us the road was closed, they overtook us and went down the road quickly. You could tell they were tourists by the speed they were doing. In fact a mile or so ahead we saw them taking photos of nearby sheep, the woman was posing with them! They passed us again, Id slowed down and waved them through, a car was approaching and they swerved into the passing place on the opposite side of the road before he realised what he’d done and reversed back to let the oncoming car go into the passing place. It was funny to watch the town folk bugger about! Off they zoomed again and soon disappeared from view. Miles down the road we found a turn off with a name we were looking for…..Carsaig.
The road was really narrow as it cut through the rock, it was like driving up the hill in a deep ditch when we saw a familiar car coming the other way, “Bloody hell its them too again” I said we all stopped they looked up smiling, I looked at the rocks on both sides, I couldnt really climb enough up out of the way, there was a low wall covered by shrub and a ditch at the side of it, to the right was just brown rock! They reversed a bit and with a lot of shuffling enough was done so they could get past, Julie leaned down out of the window saying to the other woman “we must stop meeting like this”! We had seen them a few time this morning on the same road, She looked up laughing “Oh my god we turned round it’s really scary down there”Aha they sounded like Americans! Waving goodbye I engaged low box as we started to climb again and crested the hill tipping down again towards the sea the little road twisted and turned it was quite dark too as shrub and bracken blotted out the light, the hedge on either side came up to the roof of the truck, we are big in height but fairly narrow in width. I would up the window Id learned ages ago to do this otherwise ones elbow or face would get whipped or ripped by thorns which was very off-putting when trying to concentrate! Finally we go to the end and saw the “Lancasheer” bloke again with his wife and dog, we locked up and got out taking the short walk down to the sea it was an old crumbling stone jetty long since retired from work. A group of walkers were having a barbi by the old stone shed, there was nothing here anymore it was just a nice view and a challenging drive down the hill. Two nice men walked along the path carrying a titchy poodles apiece. Ooh I say Everard!!
The view from the old jetty at Carsaig
A seal popped up a couple of yards off shore, I think seal are quite funny looking especialy when they pop up and look at you like they do, this fella kept popping up to check what we were doing as he hunted amongst the rocks. I went back for the camera but he’d gone when I returned..Sods Law! We drove slowly back up through the narrow gorge up and over we went and arrived back at the A1 junction. We decided to go up the west side of the Island now we stopped often to look and absorb, and of course have a brew from the kitchen stuff Id left bolted to the back door, We began to turn inland again the road took us past a small car park by the forest, a Ranger information board said this was the place to meet the Ranger for the Fish Eagle tour, somewhere in the forest here they had a hide which had been set up to watch the mighty Fish Eagle. Id read about this back home and was going to find it on the map but we had just stumbled across it! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now so took the telephone number to book my spot. I couldn’t get a signal though which didn’t surprise me really with my past experiences. Scotland is poor for mobile phone reception or should I say all the places I go to are! In fact a buddy was recently working in Glasgow and couldn’t get any internet connection at his digs! O2 and the rest of the mobile companies don’t cater for the whole of the UK In spite of their promises. I had this problem twice last year on another Scottish Island and the mainland it doesn’t pay them to cater for a couple of hundred people, just the ones living in or around the few larger villages, or in today case..Tobermory. Yet in August whilst driving in the Sahara desert in Morocco I could phone my pal driving a mile or two ahead of me. Fook me which is the more under developed Great Britain or fooking Morocco?
The drive around the west side of Mull took is through some fantastic scenery and demanded some careful driving. Looking out for Eagles up through the narrow windscreen of the Land Rover wasnt easy nor was it recommended on these roads. I think the best I did today was three pairs playing in the sky. I stopped in a farm gateway and got out with the camera. They were very noisy as the swirled over the nearby headland. Dare I say Eagles? Ha Id better not ‘cos they were probably Buzzard’s!
Two of the six playmates in the sky above us.
Julie spotted quite a lot of the wildlife as we drove along, she spotted a female deer a hundred away which gave me time to pick a spot to pull over, the road really is that narrow. In fact the guide-book advises tourists not to stop their vehicle on the road to look, right now I was parked on some tussock grass off the tarmac. I got the deers attention my raising my left arm and whistling believe it or not! A few seconds later Mr Deer broke cover and ran off, perhaps he was playing away from home and didn’t want to be seen?
Every view from the coast East or West proved to be spectacular
Parked on the flat rocks near Kilninian.
Sometimes the road we drove along cut across the smaller narrow headlands instead of following the coastline as there were no dwelling or farms so went inland for a couple of miles before heading to the coast again.
I couldnt have asked this girl to stand in a better place!
I caught this sheep in mid “Baaaaaaa” at Calgary Bay
From Calgary Bay on the west coast we turned east towards Tobermory and our hotel. The day had been very enjoyable and we had exploredboth the east and west coast but now we were hungry so having parked up, washed and changed we walked down the hill onto the sea front and walked along, we chose a sport bar for our dinner, it had its own “Wi-Fi” and a bloody big Tv in every corner. The food was edible but bland and boring, something to fill a hole is about all I could say about it really, we walked on after dinner and ended up at Macgochans at the very end by the garage and bus terminus, there were four or five more places to eat true enough but we returned here every night during our stay, the food was great the price was right and the staff nice and friendly the Yorkshire blonde and her pal, a happy Dutch girl greeted us with big smiles. Since coming home I checked the place out on TripAdvisor and found it has plenty of great comments, it’s the liveliest place to be in Tobermory and has live music frequently.
The following morning after breakfast I rang the number of the Ranger guy to book my spot on the birdwatch thing to see the White Tailed Fish Eagle and its young ‘un only to be told it had just fledged during the week and so the tour had come to an end for this year. That was dissapointed but I guess Id left it too late, no matter there is always next year. we took ourselves for a walk through the town after breakfast heading to the start of the smashing walk through the woods which went along the cliff tops.
The walk actually started from MacGochans pub disapearing up the hill and into the trees, it was dark wet and muddy for most of the way. We saw just a few people and a Collie with his big stick! We came across several water features, a couple of waterfalls that flowed probably every day of the year, I guess it rains that often on Mull that the water bleeds from the Island any which way it can!
The Robin. This chap followed us quite closely for part of the way on occasions he was just a couple of feet away, we were in his territory and was just escorting us through!
In some places along the walk it was so dark and closed in that even the sound of the waves disapeared and they were just fifty feet or so away.
We hardly heard the waterfall until we walked around the boulders onto the green slippery wooden plank bridge, I slowed my camera down and hung over the water with one arm around a tree trunk, the other supported the camera as I pressed it against the trunk to stop any camera shake.
Slowing the camera shutter speed makes for some great blurry shots of running water but you have to hold the camera really steady or support it on something.
This isn’t blurry..just scary!
Julie took this at the end of the walk, it brought us out on a disused jetty
we made our way back along the walk coming out at the pub, not wanting to have a beer, if we’d have gone in that would have been me settled for the day and evening! So instead We had a stroll into the small local museum to pass the time, the curator today was an old teacher who originated from East London, her personal history was nearly as interesting, she’d been all over the world in her time and had lots of stories, she even sang me an old east end ballad!
I read that the whole island became a Restricted Area during World War II. The bay at Tobermory became a naval base for HMS Western Isles, This arm of the Royal Navy was responsible for the protection of merchant ships bringing supplies to Great Britain during the war. The base and the Restricted Area were under Commodore (later Vice Admiral) Sir Gilbert Stephenson whose strict discipline and ferocious temper earned him the nickname “The Terror of Tobermory”. The base was used to train Royal Navy crews and put their ships into escort groups and teach them the warcraft that was anti-submarine warfare. I read also that Mull has a population of 2800 people with 700 of them living here in Tobermory, the weather here is moderate as is on all the islands off the west coast of Scotland thanks to the Gulf Stream.
We met up with an old work pal of mine, he lives here now and is learning how to be a Salmon farmer, he still looks every inch the sheep farmer from Durham! He got booked into our hotel late Saturday afternoon and after getting sorted in his room we walked to the usual pub and had a good night catching up on things and talking a little about the old place and the brighter future ahead. I have to say we didn’t dwell on the lod zoo for too long, it holds more negatives than positives for the pair of us to be honest, and that was firmly behind us now.
Justin, Julie and myself enjoying Saturday night in the pub
The funkiest Barmaid in Mull. She was our fave bar person, she comes from Holland
It was a very nice evening, we wouldn’t indulge in shenanigans of the old days, instead the three of us strolled back to the hotel somewhere around the witching hour Feeling very good about life.
The following morning after another thumping good breakfast we got into our vehicles and drove south again, we were on the way to visit Justin’s new workplace and home by the water. That closed road was no longer closed and so we took to the tiny strip of twisting tarmac all the way to the fish farm first to take a look at it new job, a job he is still learning as we speak.
Justin at work That his boss on the left.
Justin’s work place The steel walkways go right out into the loch and the huge pens are to the left and right
We pulled onto the car park and donned waterproof kit before venturing onto the water, the huge fish-pens out there in the Loch were stuffed full of Salmon, the electric feeder put food pellets into the pens every ten seconds or so and the water was really bubbling with activity. Every few seconds a Salmon would leap out of the water, this was happening in every pen all the time. Justin says they get parasites in their scales and leap out of the water trying to dislodge them, it’ s quite normal he say.
He showed us one close up that had unfortunately died it wasnt yet fully grown but was still practically the length of my arm and no I didn’t liberate it as it would have stank my truck and us to high heaven by the time we got home, besides, Im not a huge fan of salmon anyhow!
We drove on leaving Justin’s boss to oversea the auto feeders on this damp Sunday, Justin had a rented cottage just a mile or two further on, it wasnt long before we were there.
His cottage is right on the shore of the Loch and the view is brilliant. If you love tranquility, nature and open spaces then this is the place for you! if you’re a “townie” and can’t do without your “mod cons” then stay away! He actually has internet too…..its just not 24/7 at the moment.
Wet and windy and NO BLOODY TOURISTS!!
The bay….On the right you can just see Justin’s white cottage
It was nice to see him in his new surrounding, as a youth Justin was a sheep farmer so he is no stranger to living with nature amongst the sheep and deer and not much else, his sheep skills have come in handy already and he’s slotting into life nicely with the locals and the excellent pace of life. After lots of cups of coffee it was time to make tracks back to our hotel and start packing for our return journey with a 05.00hrs start in the morning. It would take us a good hour so said our goodbye’s and wished him well in his new life. Until the next time Bonny Lad!
We roused ourselves at silly O’clock and had a couple of cups of coffee, we’d packed the previous evening, all we had to do was get dressed and go, picking up our packed breakfast from the dark foyer on the way out. It was pitch black and proper lashing dooon outside, the rain practically dashing against us horizontally, we hurried into the dry truck, I clicked both levers down and cold air blew over our feet! It would be a mile or so before it turned warm. I flicked the switches and the heated windscreen came on and cleared the glass of condensation, if we were hardly awake a minute ago we certainly was now! The wipers flicked to and fro in double-quick time, my modern headlights lit the road up with bolts of bright white light all the same I was hunched forward. We soon exited the town and began the long drive down the narrow road to the ferry terminal, the rain now coming directly at us at it raced up the sound the wind was quite fierce as it channelled up between Mull and the mainland, the truck with its slab sides rocked a bit more than usual on the bends. Id seen a sign over the previous days warning of floods on a particular part of this road so when we splashed through some deep puddles I said to Julie “Yup that must have been the spot that’s prone to flooding” We were rocking along at about 40 mph it was still pitch black my eyes fixed forward on the two white light sabres that drilled through the rain, “Wow this fooking rain is heavy” I shouted above the din, suddenly the truck lurched and the speed dropped off as though a giant had grabbed out tail anda huge wall of water suddenly rose in front of us blotting out the world we both sat bolt upright I took my foot off the pedal as the wave washed over the top of us racing along the white roof. “Fook me fook me” I repeated as we left the frothing giant behind I never actually looked at Julie, I was still straining to look forward! It was one hell of an unexpectant shock I can tell you. “I guess that was the fooking flooded bit then Julie”?! A bit further down the road we came across a half a tree blocking part of the road, I slowed and we managed to crawl around it without sinking in the bog on the right of the road. All along this dark passage we didn’t see a single other sign of life no streetlights no house lights no sigh of life at all actually. What a place to have a mishap! We did see some lights as we neared the terminal and the few buildings at Craignure
We pulled into the wide concrete parking lanes and waited. The ferry was already there but we couldn’t see anyone so we sat tight and waited. Presently a huge puffed up yellow jacket came out of the office towards us, I wound down the window, the jacket came up to the window. “Helooo, the ferry’s been cancelled until further notice, it’s too windy” came a gutteral Scottish voice from the black hole of the flapping hood. “Oh you fookin jock bstard ” I thought, but said “OK” instead! I told him of the fallen tree up the road and off he went back to the office to pass it on. He came back out a few minute later to say a smaller ferry was on its way from the mainland to a small terminal which was back up the road a few miles and we could take that if we wanted. I turned around and waved at the jacket, we’d seen the sign a few times so knew where he meant. Another more modern 4×4 followed us to the other ferry, the terminal was literally a concrete jetty that sloped down to the waters edge and stood there was one building with a toilet. Welcome to Finnish Pier!
The “other” ferry docked at 07.15…on the dot!
I think we were about a dozen vehicles in total as the ferry came out of the dark. I could see white horses on the water, the crossing was about 20 minutes and figured a few minutes of discomfort would be OK, bearing in mind these kind of boats are flat-bottomed and not good sea runners! We were waved forward and within two minutes we were on our way. We couldn’t see the sea from the truck it was only when I went to the toilet under the bridge that I saw it, even inside It was freezing , it was very bare with wodden slatted seats and plastic tables, everything had a thick coat of white paint even the rust! There was not a jot of comfort anywhere except for the bog seat maybe. I said to the old sailor reading the paper. “It’s too rough for the big ferry then”? He explained it would be too dangerous crossing in it, hmm I thought, but its ok to do it in this flat-bottomed shoe box with the water rushing past us just a two metres down there then!!
To our surprise it was only rough for about two minutes, I guess this was somewhere out in the middle of the sound? We are both seasoned ferry travellers but I expected it to be more of a rough crossing than it was. Perhaps it was because we didn’t actually traverse the wide open waters of The Firth of Lorn to Oban? Instead we went straight across the sound to a tiny jetty on the mainland. The dawn had arrived as we were halfway across and the blackness turned to grey lumps and bumps of the mountains and frothy waters beneath us.
We now had an extra hours drive up and round, through the mountains on a tiny road, it ran through a lonely place called Gleann Geal. There was enough light coming through now to show what a beautiful place it was inspite of the utterly filthy wet day All the vehicles fromthe ferry drove along the one road, we were heading for another 5 minute ferry that would carry us over Loch Linnhe dropping us onto the A82 just south of Fort William. Once again “coming a different way” produced another gem of a place to visit again!
Taken from the open pub doorway….its was o8.30!
The rain was still poring but at least we were sheltered from the winds now. The short trip over the calmer water and the short drive from the pier to the A82 took about ten minutes. Everyone overtook us except the nervous lady driver who braked on every corner, I actually tookn her on one particular wide open bend. Driving me mad she was! She was left far behind now as our mini convoy fragmented, some going North to Fort William the rest of us turned South. We were behind a slow Range Rover until we were out of the Highlands, he was going just fast enough to make an overtake impossible. Which turned out for the best because the main road was flooded badly here and there all the way to Loch Lomond, rivers of water spewed over the walls and seeped through the rocks, there was just so much of it. A few times I was thankful to be driving the high off the ground Land Rover Defender! At Crainlarich they are finally building a bypass because it’s a bottleneck in summer, we came to a halt by the railway bridge and T junction because the long dip in the road under the bridge was bathed in two foot of water, we slowly overtook the standing traffic and pressed on through the water, to the right the guys were busy…even today, Sunday, working to get the road constructed I think itll be done before Spring of 2015.
An hour or two later we were driving past Glasgow in brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies!Ah well that’s the Scottish Highlands for you I guess. The rest of the journey went smooth and we reached home just before midnight to a talkative cat and a nice cuppa!