These sheep on Iona Island were hilarious, bumping into each other as they wandered around, yet they looked at us as if WE were the weird ones.
Sunday, July 26, Day 4
Glenbervie Guest House, Oban
After a hearty Scottish breakfast, prepared and served by the Guest house owners, of Porridge (Parridge), eggs, brown (wheat) toast, sausage, blood pudding, stewed tomato, coffee and juice (way too much food for me) but I tried it all. We’re heading into town (on foot fortunately) to meet our Three Island Tour with West Coast Tours in downtown Oban. We’d bought the tickets online and scooped out the location last night so we went straight to their offices for the 9am departure. A nice gentleman gave us our tickets, explained everything to us (he went through the same convoluted spiel individually to every person in line!) and we headed for the ferry that would take us to the island of Mull. These islands are off the west coast of Scotland and are referred to as the Inner Hebrides.
The ferry is a large thing carrying cars and passengers, it’s quite full, the trip is a little under an hour.
A very full bus with only two seats left is waiting for us on arrival in Craignure and we head out for a 45 minute ride across the island to Fionnphort. The land is beautiful, mountains, glens, lochs, everything is very green and lush (it rains ALOT) on these islands. We see many sheep, goats, and the hearty long haired red Highland cows, but few people. There are a few villages, certainly signs of habitation (like a cell tower), but not many humans. The narration on the bus is sparse and unenthusiastic but the scenery is wonderful.
Getting off the bus there are two of the red hair highland cows (coos) wandering around. I’m not sure if they’re escapees or normally have the run of the place. First thing I do is step in manure and end up smelling of manure all day – whoops!
It’s raining quite steadily now, gray and cold, wind whipping us around. We’re divided in two lines, one going to Iona, the other the Three Island group going to tiny uninhabited (by humans) Staffa.
A relatively tiny boat pulls up with half its seats under cover and half covered. Hmmmmm, not enough covered seats for everyone in line and the rain doesn’t look like its going to stop anytime soon. As many as possible sit inside and the rest are outside. Fortunately everyone seems to have gotten the memo to wear warm clothing, rain gear, and good shoes! Ultimately I choose to be outside because the inside is feeling quite crowded and its hard to see. The waves are high and we have to sit or hold on. Its quite windy, we’re being tossed around as the boat maneuvers through the waves, but there’s a lot of laughing. Its a hearty crowd knowing they’re going to an uninhabited island, in the rain and wind, to hopefully see a bunch of puffins and a cave. Everybody on this tour has to be nuts anyway, so no surprise they’re actually getting a kick out of all this.
The trip is about 45 minutes and we arrive at a very small island with a tiny inlet for the boat to enter. I have no idea how the boat pilot will get us to the landing without cracking the boat open on the rocks. It’s choppy and blowing, the inlet is narrow with rocks on each side and the boat is all over the place. Strangely no one seems that worried about it, we’re fascinated, curious to see how the pilot will pull it off. Somehow we make it to the peer and tie up, applause would have been appropriate! We disembark and climb very steep (wet) steps to the top of a cliff. The guide points us in the direction of the puffins, which he says are about a 20 minute walk from where we landed. Now we’re up on a cliff and we can hardly stand without being blown over. Gail has a poncho covering her face and I’m having a hard time keeping from laughing as she tries to walk blindly, grabbing at the poncho so she can see. I’m not much better holding on to my charming rain hat lest it take off. The wind is so strong we have to fight against it to walk forward. With only an hour on the island we decide we’ll see the puffins another time and choose to walk in the opposite direction (the wind behind us, at a lower level to Fingal’s Cave. Frankly I was afraid of getting to the puffin place to find no puffins and not time for the cave. Choices!
Looking quite dapper in our rain gear!
Finigal’s Cave Is located on the far side of the small island and you must walk along the wet rocks for a fair distance. Fortunately there’s a hand rail to hold on to, otherwise we’d be tossed into the water (not an inviting prospect!). The cave is fascinating. There are these crazy rock formations. (Hexigonally jointed basalt, so WIKI says) They are like someone took logs and lined them up perpenditular inside the cave. People are talking to hear the acoustics, voices vibrating through the cave. Cool!
Back on the wee boat, rain has subsided and the ride back seems shorter.
From Staffa the boat takes us to our third island, Iona, wet and in need of food and hot tea (whisky would have been better!) we stopped at the restaurant by the ferry for fresh (very fresh and yummy) mussels and a glass of wine. You can’t get any fresher than these mussels, the islands are known for them. The guide was telling us the French come over and collect them by the boatload to bring back to France.
After lunch we walked toward St. Columba’s Abbey. A short walk from the ferry landing and restaurant.
Nunnery, Island of Iona, Inner Hebrides – established in 1200AD
St Columba Abbey, Iona Island, Inner Hebrides, Scotland – established 6th century. Lots of interesting history about Viking massacres, Book of Kells, atonement, Norwegian invasion etc.
Still in use.
Heading toward the Abbey the first thing you see is the ruins of the Iona nunnery established in 1200. The sky is gray, the foliage brilliant green, and cows and sheep running around free. Iona has a magical feeling that transcends time and makes you smile. Its old, and despite the ferry dock and little restaurant/gift shop, you feel as if you could encounter one to the 13 century nuns at any minute. The Abbey is still in use and sits amidst an ancient grave yard, but it adds to the feeling of going back in time. There aren’t many who live on this tiny island, and you might go mad living here full time, but I think there’s a part of all of us who would enjoy a little time without computers, telephones, and media.