Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to visit as many Scottish islands as you can, in one weekend.
No one actually said that, but if we were starring in a blockbuster film, they totally would have. Instead, the recent campaign that myself and the Scotlanders launched in partnership with CalMac ferries was primarily organised through a string of exciting emails.
From the 4th September five of us took to the isles, in a bid to showcase them to the digital world using #Isleathon. My adventure started on Mull, where I would spend 24 hours exploring on foot and public transport. I also visited Iona and Staffa, but more on that in a later post…
Despite being one of the largest Scottish islands, Mull is accessible for a wee island taster in just one day.
Here’s what mine looked like.
Morning: Walk in the Woods.
I set foot on island soil just before 11.00. After dropping off my bag at the Isle of Mull Hotel in Craignure, I had just shy of two hours before the next bus to Tobermory. The receptionist pointed me in the direction of a nearby trail, Scallastle.
Perhaps a symptom of only-child syndrome, I enjoy an immense feeling of satisfaction when I have a place all to myself, be it a swimming pool, a cinema screen or the beach.
WELL, imagine my delight in being swallowed up by lush, island forest, all too aware that there wasn’t another soul in sight to pollute my peace.
Like a scene from a cartoon fantasy film, the trail was popular with metallic blue dragonflies, delicate butterflies and cute wee birds. And then there was me – sweating due to my overzealous layering of clothes and choice of Doc Marten boots on a gorgeous day.
As if someone had pressed ‘play’ on ‘Nature’s Chill-out Anthems’, the birds sang to a melody of fresh running water and rustling foliage. Wedged between views of hills ahead and sea below, it was a lovely place to be.
Since time wouldn’t allow me to tackle much of the trail’s ascent, I figured I may as well perch under a bridge and initiate a staring contest with the river. The river won, but only because I had to get back to the ferry terminal for the bus to Tobermory.
Early afternoon: Hop-on the Tobermory Topper.
A necessity for car-free day-trippers to Mull, this bright red double-decker bus is timed to meet the arrival of each ferry (timetables here) from the mainland. Fifty five minutes and £10 (return) later, the scenic coastal drive concludes in a place known to some as Balamory, of the CBeebies fame.
So, “what’s the story?”
Surely the most colourful town in Scotland, Tobermory is like stepping into a 3D postcard. As if not vibrant enough, the sun was perfectly trapped in the bay, highlighting the famous facades and water which hugged the harbour.
Home to Tobermory whisky, Isle of Mull Cheddar and Tobermory Handmade Chocolate, guilty pleasures are seriously well catered for on this part of the island. Much to my dismay, the Isle of Mull cheese farm has been closed on Saturdays since the schools went back. Really?!
Being the only attraction as such I had intended to visit, I instead reverted to pottering-around mode, with no intention of moving any quicker than a snail’s gallop during my half day there. I just dilly dallied; no more, no less.
Taking pictures, resting by the water and browsing quaint little shops sure works up an appetite, and when you’re in a working harbour like Tobermory, it’s gotta be a fishy on your little dishy!
Afternoon: Sea-food and eat it.
If anyone has experienced bad seafood on the Scottish Isles, please give me a holler, as I’ve yet to find anything short of excellent! My late lunch in Tobermory was at Cafe Fish; I had a hunch I might find some seafood there.
Everything sounded amazing, but I resisted the temptation to overindulge, given that I’d be dining at my hotel later that evening. I went for an ‘open sandwich’ with langoustines and a couple of oysters for good measure.
SAY WHAT?! Oysters?!!!
Yep – I ordered two single oysters, despite the fact they gave* me (*past tense, wink wink) the heebie jeebies. True to my ‘I’ll try anything once’ philosophy’ I had gulped gruesome looking oysters before and found them to be nothing more than sea-flavoured snot.
In Cafe Fish though, I had a serious breakthrough. The oysters didn’t tortute my tastebuds at all. They were super cold, fresh and salty, but the ‘underwater’ flavour was perfectly balanced with a delicious homemade chilli and ginger dressing. I liked it; I really liked it. Holy shit.
I excitedly told my waitor about this life-changing moment, and he told me that the key to the eatery’s sucess is the freshness of the food. It involves three cousins, a fishing boat and Pacific oysters which are cultivated in the Atlantic; that doesn’t mean all that much to me either, but it’s a winning combo apparently and one that I can most certainly vouch for.
I’d like to raise my oyster and make a toast to my new favourite seafood restaurant, ever.
Early evening/following morning: Chase rainbows and waterfalls.
If you’re going to call somewhere ‘magical’, it really needs to involve rainbows and waterfalls, otherwise it would totally breach Mother Nature’s trading standards.
Continuing my series of ‘toasts’, I stopped for a compulsary wee dram in Macgochans. This could get messy. Realising that I still had 45 minutes until the bus came, I decided go for a walk, rather than stay and get inevitably tipsy on more whisky. Luckily, Aros Park was just a short stroll away.
Accessed just a short stroll from Macgochans and the bus stop, this coastal parkland is a hidden gem, with forest trails, waterfalls and views back to the picturesque town. For fear of missing the last bus back to Craignure, I didn’t venture too far. I stopped to appreciate a delightful wee waterfall, before contently meandering back.
I slept well that night, and woke up to a stunning sunrise, a robin redbreast hopping around the hotel reception, and a cooked breakfast. I was definitely ready to complete my Three Isles Tour – Iona and Staffa were calling!
The first leg of the journey was a bus ride from Craignure to Fionnphort. The roads resemble an island-sized Curly Wurly; the single-track winds conveniently slowed down the bus, allowing for maximum appreciation of the dramatic passing scenery.
Gaps in the clouds sent floodlights of sunshine onto the landscape, as we passed through cute towns and cooed (deliberate pun) over Highlands coos. But, to top it all off…
A delicate rainbow mist painted our view of the imposing Ben Mor (Mull’s only munro), plus a semi-arch rainbow which rose from the surface of Loch Scridain.
A pot of gold would be far too difficult to find in a sea loch, but I was okay with that. I had already found the real treasure; The Isle of Mull.
- My trip was from Friday – Monday, including a night in Oban either side.
- I took the Megabus from Edinburgh to Glasgow.
- I travelled from Glasgow to Oban by train with Scotrail.
- I took the return ferry from Oban to Craignure on Mull.
- I stayed at the Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa in Craignure.
- I joined the Three Isles Tour to visit Iona and Staffa (post coming soon)
- In Oban I stayed at the Oban Youth Hostel (SYHA).