Dougie Baird takes a weekend jaunt to Mull and Iona to find the best photography stops
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell you all about my trip to two special Scottish Islands.
My wife and I decided to return to the Isle of Mull and take a day trip from there to the magical island of Iona.
We booked the Mishnish hotel right on the front in Tobermory, which I will tell you about later in this blog – but first our breaks starts, as always, with the journey…
We always take our time because travel in Scotland is all about the scenery – mountains, Lochs and cool places to stop for lunch.
We left early Friday morning. The weather was not perfect but hey it’s only April, and Loch Lomond was still as stunning as ever.
I always say if you can see the Ben [Ben Lomond] from the road then the weather’s going to be fine!
Our first stop was Tyndrum at the famous Green Welly Stop. Here the road splits with one going to Fort William and ours to Oban. There is another scenic route to the port via Inverary but we took the fastest.
Oban is the “Gateway to the Isles”, because of its extensive connections to the Inner Hebrides and beyong, and it is here that we were sailing from. Please note that you must be at the Oban ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before departure, and if you’re taking a car make sure you book a ticket in advance.
The Oban to Mull crossing is one of my favourite journeys.
It takes just under a hour so the first place I head to is the promenade decks. Here you can capture your best images.
First you should look to the shore at the back to see the whole of Oban laid out – wonderful views.
Look out for McCaig’s Folly – but then again, you can’t really miss it! It was commissioned in 1897 by John Stuart McCaig to provide work for the local stonemasons during the winter months.
After taken your shots of Oban and the Folly, face forward for views of the Isle of Kerra.
On a good day you can see Ben More on Mull. On Kerra there is a monument to David Hutcheson – famous for founding the company now called Caledonian MacBrayne, or CalMac.
Next up is the Isle of Lismore and the Eilean Musdile Lighthouse. The next landmark is Duart Castle. If you get the angle right you can get some great pics of the castle with Mull`s mountains in the back ground.
Soon you see your port at Craignure. Once docked you leave the ferry and on to Isle of Mull. When on Mull we travelled straight to our hotel in Tobermory.
Mishnish Hotel on the harbour is a great base for a weekend exploring the island, and with fab food and drink, too.
Now, about the roads…
Our plans were to have the afternoon in Iona, and spend the morning getting there via the scenic route along the north coast of the Island.
Please be careful when driving on these single track roads, though – we had a wee fright and fell down in to a ditch! There were no injuries, thankfully, and no bother getting back on the road. Quick check of the car and on we go. Never a dull moment.
The next challenge we encountered was a herd of friendly cattle – who would not move. It was really funny trying to shoo them off the road. I think they thought we were as strange as them.
One good thing about driving slowly to avoid ditches and cattle is the passenger gets a good chance to spot wildlife out the window. The last time we were here we spotted the White Tailed Sea Eagle, and this time it was deer and the buzzard you see in the picture.
Common buzzards are formidable predators. These hunters feast on rabbits and small mammals. They have powerful talons, and nearly always make their kill on the ground.
While driving this road do stop at the Sandy beach at Calgary bay. It’s a lovely place with fab sea air and beautiful views – ideal for a coffee stop on the north side of Mull.
The Silver Sands of Iona
Round a bend and the first views of the Iona open up in front of us as we drive down to Fionnphort (pronounced fin-a-fort) for our short sail over to the magical island. We see white sandy beaches in front of us – and the world famous Abbey.
First stop on the wee isle was to the Argyll Hotel for lunch, which was exactly what was needed before the highlight of our weekend: Iona Abbey.
Little remains of the building first founded by St Columba in 563; it has changed hands many times with extensions added on over the years. We enjoyed a walk through the magnificent building, learning about its history. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity and there is evidence the Book of Kells was written here before being moved to the Abbey of Kells.
Don’t leave Iona Abbey without taking a look in the burial ground. It is said that 48 ancient Scottish kings are buried in the graveyard, and the late great Labour leader John Smith was buried here in 1994.
After the Abbey we had a pleasant walk through the village, with Martyrs Bay Bar as our next watering hole. You can sit outside here and watch the ferry going back and forward across the stunning views.
We keep our eye out for the ferry docking and had another smooth crossing back to Mull.
Once back on Mull we drive through the mountains. This road dissect the island from west to east, and makes for a lovely journey through the changing scenery then back along the coast to our base in Tobermory.
The Local Nightlife
After a quick clean up we popped downstairs for dinner. The Mishnish Hotel’s restaurant is called the Mishdish, which always gets a wry chuckle from visitors. The food is fab, too, with a menu full of fresh seafood and local produce – delicious.
That night there was a disco on, and although we felt a bit old we had fun anyway!
It was a pleasure meeting up with a couple from Sydney, who were here to celebrate the husband’s 60th birthday. The keen golfer was heading to St Andrews next, which was a dream come true for him.
Mrs Baird had the great pleasure in telling our new friends about her hole-in-one at the famous Old Course. They were quite amazed until I told them it was the putting green. We had fun at the Mishnish – full of friendly locals and tourists keen to impart their knowledge of the hidden treasures on the island.
After a great Scottish breakfast at the fantastic Mishnish Hotel we say our goodbyes and we head off down to Caignure for our ferry back to Oban and home. Mull it’s been a blast.
Read more from Scotlanders Corner on Wednesday, May 18.