2 On The Road Blog

After 12 years of full-time rving, we've sold our truck and trailer but we're still traveling. Email us at wowpegasus@hotmail.com if you would like to contact us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Scotland - Mull-Iona-Staffa Trip

This day we were off to explore some of the islands in the Inner Hebrides (HEB-rid-eez) islands.  First we boarded a Caledonian-MacBrayne ferry.  No car, just us.  From the deck we looked out the mouth of the bay.  Our B&B is along the coast on the right.

There's a cruise ship in the bay.

Looking off toward town you can see the mini-Colosseum on the top of the hill.  This is McCaig's Tower.  McCaig was a powerful figure in Oban in 1900 who wanted a memorial to himself. The construction put a few locals to work for a some years but McCaig died before it was completed.

Better view of the shore where our B&B is located.  The boat is the tender that is transporting passengers from the cruise ship into town. 

Oban Lifeboat Station and lifeboat - orange top and blue hull.

Saw this helicopter taking off.  All I could make out on the side was PDG Helicopters.  The website for them was totally unhelpful but they contract out their services.  Don't think they do tours.

Large home further down the bay.

Finally getting out beyond the bay.  I think that is the island of Mull in the distance.

Memorial on a peninsula.

Small island in the bay with a smaller Caledonian-MacBrayne ferry.

Headed to the island of Mull, second largest of the Inner Hebrides.  Mull has nearly 300 miles of coastline and was once a 10,000' mountain.  The tallest point now is Ben More at 3,169 foot.
We passed Duart Castle on our way to the Mull port town of Craignure.  Once home of the Chief of Clan Maclean, it is now open for tours.

Made it back to land.

Then we got on a bus for the 1 1/2 hr ride across the isle of Mull.  This is a double decker bus.

The bus driver narrated the drive.  He pointed out the oyster farms in one of the tidal lochs.

The herds of cattle in Scotland always seem to be made up of several different colors.

The some of the island is planted with commercial crops of Sitka Spruce.

Most of the mountainside is bare but you can see the grove of Sitka spruce

Look close to see the waterfall.

Large groves of Sitka spruce

The drive talked about the one track road we were on but I didn't really get a good look at it until he had to turn to line up for this bridge.  I guess the bridge is over 200 years old and is barely wide enough for the bus.
There are passing spots but the road is barely wider than the bus. 

Loch Beg

Hairy Coos!  These are the highland cattle with a heavy fur coat that keeps them insulated from the cold and rain.  They are best known for the hair falling into their eyes.  Highland cattle meat is not commonly eaten so the few hairy coos you see are probably kept around mostly as a national symbol.

Of course there are sheep everywhere.

The yellow gorse is a spiny shrub that grows all over Scotland.

Pulling into Fionnphort.

On another ferry headed to the Isle of Iona.  Iona is small, only 1.5 miles by 3 miles, but it's huge in the part it played in introducing Christianity to Scotland.  St. Columba arrived in the year 563 and established an abbey.  Here we see the port town of Maile Mòr, the islands only village and where we will dock.

The Iona Abbey as seen from the ferry.  Although not the original abbey that St. Columba erected, it is on the same spot.  More on it later.

At Iona we immediately got on a smaller boat for the trip to the island of Staffa.
On one side we had the Isle of Mull and we could see lots of smaller islands around us.

There were seals resting on the land.  I know it's hard to distinguish them from the rocks but there are three in the left middle of the photo.

Looks like glaciers scrapped the rocks here.

Getting our first glimpses of Staffa

This uninhabited (except by wild life) island's middle layer is hexagonal basalt columns.  The columns were formed when flows of lava cooled slowly as they came into contact with a colder bedrock and were exposed to the even more chilling effects of the weather on the outer surfaces. The Vikings named the island Staffa because the columns reminded them of staves, or staffa in Old Norse.

The weather was rainy and stormy the day before our trip and the seas were still rough on the day of our trip.  Here we are approaching Fingal's Cave, a unique formation created by volcanic eruptions more than 60 million years ago that were eroded by the wind and waves.
These basalt columns continue under the water and can also be seen at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.  Of course the old story is that these formations resulted from a heated rivalry between a Scottish giant named Fingal, who lived on Staffa, and an Ulster warrior named Finn MacCool, who lived across the sea on Ireland's Antrim Coast. 

Knowing that the giant was coming to spy on him, Finn dressed like an infant.  The giant, shocked at the infant's size, fled back to Scotland in terror of whomever had sired this giant baby. 

If the water wasn't so rough, a person can walk around to the cave and step inside.  That obviously wasn't going to happen today.

So we headed around the island to see if the landing zone was going to be accessible.

We couldn't even land to go see the puffins, so we had to make due with trying to see them from the sea.  It's really hard to take a photo from a boat that is bobbing from side-to-side.

Another tour boat from the company was also in the area but didn't stick around as long as ours.

Best puffin photo we got.
We went clear around the island and back for another peak at Fingal's Cave

Then we headed back to Iona.

Another view of Baile Mòr

We had to wait for the other boat to dock and unload before we could pull up.

Another view of Iona Abbey, where we would head next.

During the walk we saw this plant.  If I've identified it correctly, its Gunnera Tinctoria, more commonly known as Chilean prickly rhubarb.  The leaves can get up to 6' across.... yes, 6 feet!

Finally at the abbey.  Click to enlarge for reading.

The courtyard of the abbey

Look at the details on the pillars.  They are each unique.

We took the small ferry back to the Isle of Mull and got on our tour bus.  We were lucky enough to get the top front seats.

We sure had a lot of animals in the road on the trip back across Mull... surprise, surprise, some of them were sheep.

The road is in horrid shape and we bobbed from side-to-side as we hit potholes.

Oh this aught to be interesting.
I was amazed when I looked down and could actually see the tire.  Thought we were even closer than that.

Hard to believe that tour buses take this route all the time.

Another hairy coo.  This one is older and has more hair on its forehead.

Lining up for a narrow bridge.

I could see just a little part of the top of the bridge side when I looked down.

Here comes another skinny bridge.

We went across a few cattle grates.

You can tell we are getting closer to town because there are now lines on the road.

Back side of Duart Castle

Coming into Oban, we can see our rental car at the B&B.  It's the red spot.

Dinner at Cuan Mòr.  I had beef pie again while my sister had pepper crusted sirloin steak. 

Sunset on the bay.

No comments: