The Little Bay of Caves
10.09.2008 - 13.09.2008 12 °C
Oban, the perfect end for our highland trek - just like a good book, it leaves you still yearning for more. Now that we are here, in the picturesque, friendly port town known as the "gateway to the islands," I realize how much more of rugged Scotland I want to see. The trip from Fort William set the mood - the setting sun started to break through the clouds and reflect off the hills and lochs, and I think I've gotten some of the most amazing pictures I've ever taken here- from a bus! We also passed Stalker castle, the venue for Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail. We arrive after a short seaside walk to our hostel, a large, ancient looking brown-brick house. I walk in, and the woman at reception says "Miss Wills is it?" with a big smile on her face. As far as hostels go, this place is organized, and very clean. After picking up a couple day's worth of groceries, we call it a night and retreat to our gender-separated dorms. In the morning, we will take a tour to the isle of Mull, Iona, and most importantly the tiny island of Staffa, home of Fingal's Cave.
I woke up this morning to dark skies, wind and rain. Crap. I remember the tours saying that they are all weather-dependant. I throw on some clothes and go down for breakfast, and Ruaridh is sitting by the large bay window in the dining room, talking to an older man who I later find out is cycling around Scotland. The clouds seem to clear more by the minute, so I rush to finish my coffee and we make our way to the nearby terminal to board our ferry. The weather stayed uniformly crappy throughout the day, but I'm still glad we went. We got some wild views of the Isle of Mull as we crossed over to the other port near Staffa; it really is one of those places that pictures can't do justice. The little ferry is waiting to take us to Staffa, and the skipper tells us we won't be able to land because the weather was too rough. The ride was so much fun - no one could stand up and everyone was getting splashed since the waves we so rough.
Iona sucked a little- the wind and rain really picked up, and we hid in a little restaurant most of the time. We walked around to see the nunnery and the Abbey and the museum, which had the headstones of the 61 kings buried on the island. There we meet Tony, another incredibly well-traveled person in her late 20s. We ended up going to the bar and talking for most of the time, exchanging our travel plans. We still had an hour of waiting left when Gordon Grant came in (the owner of the Staffa tours) and told us that the last ferry was cancelled, and we *might* be able to catch the other ferry into Oban as it was running late. The smaller ferry leaving Iona was about to come in, and the 4 of us made a dash to find others from our group. We only found 2, and had to get on the ferry. The 5 of us landed back on Mull, and our bus driver, Ian, did some seriously talented driving to try and beat the ferry to the port (it was only the 6 of us on the coach.) He was a pretty cool guy - almost as cool as our crazy bus driver Yannis, who powered through windy little streets with similar ease in Athens from a couple years ago. Anyways, even though this guy, Ian, happened to be a tour guide who hated tourists, he was very nice to us and halved our travel time for the return trip. The ferry wasn't there anyway. No big deal - the company paid for a food in a little bar, and they re-routed a different ferry to stop on Mull and pick us up. We talked more, had a couple drinks, and moved on the the ferry, where we had another. (Count: 1 irish coffee, 1 half pt. Tennents, 2 glasses red wine.) We were met at the Oban port with more rain and wind, but felt pretty good and said our good-byes.
Now I am in the hostel lounge, and glad that I'm all caught up with my blog. I get so carried away with details :-P Shame I have no internet access. I wonder when this will be loaded. Tomorrow - the distillery!!
Another day in Oban, and a lot more catching up to do. A pound per 20 minutes of internet access really shied us away from the computer, except for the necessary stuff. The day was clear and sunny, so we decided to climb up to McCraig's tower, which sits on a hill overlooking the little port town. The way up was nice- we took steep, narrow stairways up a street lined with pretty white houses, most of them bursting with colorful gardens at every angle. I didn't realize this environment could sustain such exotic looking plants. The views from the tower were really great, and we started our descent, heading for the Oban Distillery. The guy directing our tour looked barely old enough to drink himself, but he was very informative. Interesting tour, great experience, but unfortunately the smell of whiskey still makes my stomach churn a bit. Afterwards we headed to the Oban Chocolate shop and wandered a bit, deciding to go to the Ceilidh house later in the evening. Ruaridh wasn't exactly looking forward to it, but he ended up having a really good time. There was a woman singing Gaelic songs and Wild Mountain Time- one I recognized from parties at the Gallagher's back in New Jersey. The house was pretty empty, so when people had to go up and do the group dances, we were more or less forced, but it ended up being really fun since no one really knew what they were doing. The bartender was another really young-looking kid, and we ended up talking for a bit after the show. We walked back to the hostel, and packed to leave for East Kilbride.
Oban to East Kilbride isn't exactly a frequented route- we had two bus times, and opted for the afternoon. After checking out of our hostel, we hopped on one of those silly bus tours (because it was free with our departing bus ticket) and it ended up being pretty cool. It stopped in this impossibly tiny town called Seil Island, and I'm pretty sure there were a few houses and then a tourist store- that was it. We got out, and were greeted at the door of the shop with free tea or coffee, and then a girl handing out shortbread, and later on a woman passing around samples of Scottish butter tablet (which is basically a block of slightly caramelized sugar and butter.) The both of us were pretty taken aback by the friendliness of the people working there. We tried some whiskey-flavored cheese, which is awesome by the way, and got back on the bus into Oban. I think, during the circuit, we saw like 30 churches. When we got back we just wandered in and out of the little shops, and walked up and down the town center for a while. Next- East Kilbride to meet more of Ruaridh's family!