Ardnamurchan, Mull and Iona
The trip started off promisingly, with a pleasant lunch at the teashop at Comrie Croft with views out over the Perthshire hills. The fantastic drive west was broken by a stop in Glencoe and a break for coffee and scones (with lashings of homemade jam) at Crafts and Things in Ballachulish before we headed around to catch the Corran ferry across to Ardgour. The waters of Loch Linnhe were a dark blue-grey whilst the mountains marched away into a distant hazy line. The light was fabulous and photos were taken as we waited for the ferry to cross back to our side.
Earlier in the year I’d crossed to Ardgour and driven a short way north to start my Cona Glen backpacking trip.This time we turned south and followed the winding coast road as the evening sunlight sparkled off the loch. The weather darkened as we crossed the high ground and then dropped down to Strontian at the end of Loch Sunart. Then it was along the twisty-turny road through ancient oakwoods along to Resipol and our accommodation for the weekend, Rockpool House.
We spent the evening watching the dramatic weather sweep down the loch as well as looking out for Rita, the local otter. Then it was downstairs for an amazing meal of scallop chowder, venison stew and sticky toffee pudding accompanied by wine.
The Saturday started promisingly with low cloud clearing off the hills beyond Loch Sunart. After a delicious breakfast we made our way across the hills to Lochaline and took the ferry across to Fishnish on the Island of Mull. The light was spectacular as crepuscular rays broke through the clouds to light up the Sound and the hills of Mull. We glided across the water and then made our way across Mull the road snaking its way across the interior between big, cloud-wreathed clouds and with views down lonely glens and across lochs.
Eventually we wound our way down the Ross of Mull, the sun breaking out from behind the clouds, and it was under blue skies that we arrived at Fhionnport to catch the Iona ferry.
There was a pleasant bustle around the place but it wasn't too busy. First the ferry to Staffa departed and then the Iona ferry returned from the island to take us the short journey across the strait to the island itself.
We followed the narrow coast road through the village and then crossed west to the Machair and then down to the pale sands of the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. From here the next significant landfall westward is Canada. We spent time exploring the beach and rockpools and gazing out across the crystal clear waters.
We returned to the east of the island by a different route, dropping back down into the village near the ruins of the nunnery before making our way along to the Abbey, first of all taking time to visit the grave of John Smith, the former Labour party leader.
The rebuilt abbey is managed by Historic Scotland stands on the same site as the original monastery founded by St Columba in 563. We wandered around the abbey itself and the impressive little museum which houses great carved crosses and samples of illustrated manuscripts. It is believed that the Book of Kells was largely produced on Iona before being taken across to Ireland for safekeeping from Viking raids.
The weather had closed in and rain fell as we made our way back to the ferry (after tea in a very grumpy little tea room near the abbey) for the crossing back to Mull. The drive back across Mull was accompanied by breaks in the cloud, Highland Cows and cascading light which stayed with us as we crossed back to Lochaline.
Back at Rockpool House the weather truly closed in and as wind and rain swept down from the west we enjoyed another excellent dinner.
The next day was the long drive back to Aberdeen. Rather than returning via Corran we drove around the peninusla, crossing through Moidart and then to Glenuig and Lochaline.
This eventually brought us to Glenfinnan where the rain cleared away and we enjoyed views of Loch Shiel and a wander around the museum before heading out to climb up the Glenfinnan memorial itself.
The drive back was pleasant in increasing sunshine. Lunch in Fort William was hot and sunny and then we drove back across via Loch Laggan and Aviemore to arrive back in Aberdeen after a great time on the west coast.