Dates travelled: May and August 2017
Dedicated to: my Dad, the forever traveler.
Isle of Iona: May 2017
Clearly this little get-away to the Isle of Iona is about the journey and the destination. Departing from Edinburgh, it takes two trains, two ferries, one bus (all very closely synchronized), a little car ride and about seven hours of travel time.
It’s totally worth it and I was only there for one day!
Traveling tip: when taking the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow, try to sit on the right side of the train to enjoy a few rolling green hills and some sheep of course.
It was raining on route to Oban from Glasgow and the fog was low. During much of the three-hour passage, the luscious foliage was so close to the train that it was slapping against the train windows, giving the impression of being in a super green ‘car wash’. Fortunately, there were a few moments that revealed some lovely lochs, mountains and waterfalls. So much beauty!
Although the train was late reaching Oban, I caught the ‘must-catch’ hour-long ferry ride to the Isle of Mull followed by an hour-long bus ride across the Isle where I experienced, for the very first time, single lane traffic in the UK countryside.
Just imagine, an unflinching double-decker bus driver sitting confidently, opposing three smaller sized cars with doe-eyed looks coming from the other three drivers. Within a few moments, it was somehow decided (telepathically as there were no arm gestures made) that the three cars would have to drive backwards and squeeze into a speck of road to the side of the lane so that the monster bus could drive through. What an orchestration and clever driving! This fandango dance continued for what seemed an eternity and after while my inner child was saying, “are we there yet?” After all, it had already been a long travel day.
Because of delays (e.g. vehicle dances), I was fortunate to make the very last ferry to the Isle of Iona before getting picked up and dropped off at my lovely B&B. My room was of course cute and charming with a view of some rolling hills, a plethora of sheep and a crow convention of sorts.
I threw myself on the bed for a moment to re-group before it was time to venture out for my only decent meal of the day. The Isle of Iona only has a few places to eat so I ventured to the closest bar/restaurant and enjoyed some fresh Mussels from the Isle of Mull and a glass of wine before enjoying an evening stroll.
As the famous Abbey wasn’t far away, I dashed inside. Dark with damp humidity of history oozing the slates and stones of this old monument, it was also vacant. I wasn’t confident that it was even open to the public at that moment but relished in this special opportunity.
Within about 10 minutes, the call to worship bells rang and people started trickling in. Candles on gothic medieval wrought iron chandeliers were being lit (very Harry Potter-esque) and the pianist started enchanting visitors with music that sounded a lot like Ludovico Einaudi (click the link for one of his popular songs), which set a tranquil tone before the service began. Deciding to stay for the service, the choir expanded with the local and visiting parishioners, including a hymn featuring a medium-sized penny whistle and celtic looking hand drum.
After the service, I befriended an empty bench near the ocean to reflect for about 20 minutes before retiring for the evening. However, upon my return to the B&B, the chatty caretaker started sharing many personal stories with me, with props! He brought out and showed me this impressive chunk of a German bomb that had landed in his Grandmother’s bathtub after an air raid during the war. It was surreal to hold and feel this rough and extremely heavy piece of shrapnel. He keeps it in the same brown paper bag his grandmother used all those years ago.
Next, he pointed me in the direction of a water-colour painting on the wall. It was painted by Frank Sinatra’s godson, Rosemary’s Clooney’s nephew…. George Clooney’s cousin who stayed at this very B&B to paint the landscape and sky. These are just two stories, and there were many more. Clearly he needs to write a book.
The next day, and my one and only full day there, the sun and heat appeared! It was only later that I was told that it had been raining for weeks before. Divine intervention? I think so!
Time to play!
So off I went, wandering around without a map, because you know, getting lost (excuse me, I mean, exploring) is half the fun. I met some interesting people along the way including two ladies visiting from Ireland who informed me that the infinite horizon we were facing at the time leads to Nova Scotia, Canada. It does, eh? That’s rad.
Fun fact: In Scotland, there is a ‘no trespass law’ that allows you to go anywhere you want even if property gates are closed. Well, just as long as you close it behind you to keep the sheep from escaping.
It wasn’t long before I found countless white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, endless roaming sheep and little hills to climb.
There was something very energizing about walking around aimlessly and funny enough, even though this island has numerous visitors especially during peak season, I enjoyed many different beaches to myself almost all day.
Needless to say, I tired myself out walking in the sun all day long. And just like that, I had to pack up and return to Edinburgh (with a tan!).
The Isle of Iona is an island under its own dominion. It is a treasure trove of historical significance and there is a reverence of peace throughout the entire island that is undescribable. I highly recommend it!
Isle of Skye – August 2017
A long and beautiful drive up to the Isle of Skye is also about the journey and the destination. Your eyes will never tire of the endless beautiful and ever-changing tapography of the Highlands.
During our drive and stay, the weather was … um, Scottish. It flipped around all day teasing our wardrobe needs and occasionally providing an excellent rain facial. You know kind of rain, where you might be wearing a baseball cap, a rain resistant hood and you are looking down at the ground and yet, your face is still as wet as can be? Delightful right? But to be fair, we were drenched by a 1 minute down pour more than once? But who’s counting?…pfsss.
Because of the weather, we had to modify the dream visit list and free-style our plans. We did manage to visit some stunning cliffs and waterfalls, and of course the famous town of Portree for our one day visit.
We only had one horned sheep scare when this unassuming fluff of fur appeared to be walking towards us with some gumption, perhaps wanting to charge the car. We both ‘vocalised’ our concern loudly and hoped that he would go away without scratching the car. Fortunately, he just kept walking. But this made me wonder, does Scottish car insurance cover sheep-caused incidences? Because he would have been responsible because we were at a full stop, it would not have been our fault.
Nearing the end of the day and after a lot of driving, it was time to take the boat to the…
Isle of Raasay – August 2017
While taking the ferry towards to the Isle of Raasay (and consequently sun!), one of the ferry passengers tried to photobomb one of my photos! Although he was unsuccessful, it did break the ice for a little multilingual exchange before parting ways. Little did we know that the entire boat would end up staying at the same hotel/hostel property as us, including our new Spanish friends. This warranted a little chuckle while we waited to check in.
Bags stored in the dorm room, we ventured off for a much-needed long walk and little climb up to Temptation Hill! The view was gorgeous! Not wanting to leave this perfect spot, we got back down and walked for as long as we could around part of the coastline, only hearing some sheep from time to time. Eventually it was time to turn around for our dinner reservation but not before we had a lovely glass of wine outside where I experienced, for the first time ever the super famous Scottish ‘midges’ – whoa! They feel like mini random acupuncture pinches in little clusters. Apparently Avon’s So Soft (regular spray moisturizer) is one of the few products that actually works against these midge-suckers. However, I had no such armour with me in that moment. My repellent was nowhere near me so I suffered a little and now live to tell the tale, but fortunate for me, it was soon time for dinner.
We enjoyed a great meal at the Bistro instead of the main Restaurant and some more wine. And then a little more wine in the lounge, a chill atmosphere before bed, when two of the Spanish travellers joined us.
And so began a lively game and multiple rounds of:
‘Google-Translate help me: Spanish/English-French/Italian-hybrid-dialogue’
What did you say?
We chatted so long that the lounge closed for the night, so one of the staff welcomed us to continue our libations in the lovely library. This room was adorned with all the typical decor of an old smoke lounge. It was gorgeous!
Our Spanish acquaintances were very nice but as my Spanish is practically non-existent, (ok, ok, completely non-existent with the exception of two words I kept from the Camino), my brain was a bit on fire after hours of ‘conversing’.
02:00 am and a lot of wine and Prosecco later, I was ready for a good-night sleep.
So it seemed like cruel punishment when the other travelers in the dorm got up around 6:00 am to check out and I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Oh boy… but it’s all good right? The cafe must be open? Nope! Slightly cranky, we had to settle for some instant Nescafe to psychologically propel us forward prior to hitting the road for our long journey home.
I’m so grateful to my friend for doing all the driving, it was a gift!
I may have left my life (and part of my heart) in Scotland, my Scottish bucket list is ordained with gold trimmed, embossed calligraphy on handmade Italian paper from Amalfi, figuratively speaking. Once my ‘thrice’ life in France is underway and my other planned voyages are sorted… Scotland, I will see you again and again.
Until next time, sending much love, gratitude, and high vibes to wherever you are.
Want to be inspired by more photos? I recently uploaded many photos of my recent travels to my Facebook page: Allison Lund – Blogger and you can find my favourite photos on my IG account: @allisonlwriter