Yesterday our expedition leader shared with us that today was going to be the busiest on the trip. That certainly proved to be true; however, it was also one of the finest we have enjoyed so far in the beautiful country of Scotland.
Before heading for Craignure, we enjoyed an early morning in Tobermory under the lovely early morning light, for once again the weather was with us. By eight o’clock we were sailing for Craignure and a little while after breakfast, we boarded our bus and headed for a short visit to Duart Castle. There we were met by Sir Lachlan McLean, the castle’s owner, who showed us around his home, regaling us with stories about his family and its rich history associated with this part of Scotland.
After this splendid visit we headed for the Isle of Iona. To reach our destination we had to board our bus and cross the Isle of Mull to the meet the ferry at Fionnphort. The journey there, and indeed later in the day for the return, was made a lot easier with the commentary from our coach driver, Tall John. His ability to intersperse amusing anecdotes from everyday life in these parts with lots of facts from history, geology, and archaeology was astonishing.
As we crossed the island we came across lochs, pockets of old forest, pine plantations, sea lochs, high jagged peaks, and many flowers in the meadows. Upon arrival we boarded the ferry for the short crossing to Iona and upon arrival there headed for our lunch at a local restaurant just off from the pier.
After lunch we headed for the Iona Abbey and there met our guide, who is part of the Iona Community, and she guided us through this deeply spiritual place. We learnt more about St. Columba and the many monks and nuns who devoted so much time to this place as well as many other places across Scotland. The influence of this monastery on Christianity cannot be overstated.
After this visit there was time to visit the graveyard where many Scottish kings are buried, the ruins of the nunnery, as well as the great bookshop and craft shops to be found on this wee island.
By late afternoon we had boarded our ferry for the return journey. The evening light played beautifully off the rich green hillsides. In the middle of the island the landscape was dotted with thousands of rocks of various sizes, a reminder that this whole area was once covered by an enormous icesheet and the rocks left after the glaciers had receded are known by the wonderful word, erratics!
Some of the hillsides were also scarred by deep gullies formed by rivers and streams tumbling down the steep hillsides before joining the river at the bottom valley with its meanders, denoting a much softer gradient.
Once on board the ship again, we steamed for Oban during dinner, and right on time towards the end of our evening meal were tied alongside. After dinner we were treated to a fascinating presentation on whisky given by Frances MacMillan who worked for many years at the whisky distillery. The whiskies for the tasting tonight were a 14-year-old Oban and a 10-year-old Laphraoig, from the Isle of Islay, world renowned for their peaty whiskies. Many questions were asked and all of us enthusiastically took part in lively conversations after the tasting.
Yes, it had been a busy day, but what a great day it turned out to be.