When I left Rowardennan Lodge on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, I didn’t drive very far to my next destination, Crianlarich, which is just past the north end of Loch Lomond.
It was a dreiky day, as the Scottish would say when describing blustery, cold weather, so I just cozied up in the hostel lodge (which had great internet connectivity), made a fresh pot of coffee in my French press that travels with me, and spent the day uploading photos to WordPress and writing another blog post.
While I did so, a couple of brothers, Peter and Bill, from New Zealand started chatting with me and it turned out to be a delightful day despite the weather. Those two guys were quite the characters and kept me in stitches as the photos went round and round loading.
The following morning I headed west another relatively short distance to the lovely seaside harbor town of Oban for a 3-day stay. Not much of particular note along the route except for this bridge and the interesting falls, which appear under it when the tide is out, just before arriving in Oban.
Once I arrived in Oban, and before descending down to the harbor, I headed to the iconic crown at the top of the hill to get a birdseye view of this lovely town I would be spending a bit of time in.
And oh what a view the crown offered!
Soon after I was making my way down the hill to the right side of the bay to the next hostel I would call home. As luck would have it, it which was situated right on the waters edge! Check out the view I had from my dorm bed on the second floor bay window below. Quite simply – Glorious!
I explored around the winding, one-way streets in town, found the local Tesco grocery store, did a bit of shopping, and settled in just dandy.
Another very interesting guest at the hostel, Jonathan Bishop, struck up a conversation with me over a discussion about a can opener in the self-catering kitchen that neither of us could figure how to operate. He was from Lancaster, England, but had spent many a summer’s holiday with his parents as a lad and was a wealth of information about places to visit and intriguing sights to see.
I told him about my plans to take a ferry the following day to Iona. He had, of course, been there once before and was providing a treasure trove of great tips. As he explained it’s various virtues he expressed a desire to return himself one day. I asked him if he would like to come along with me the following day. After considering my offer for a minute or two (and mentally sizing me up, determining if I was reputable or something) much to my delight, he replied, ‘What the heck, why not? Thanks for the invite!’ We eagerly caught the 9:20 ferry the following morning and the adventure began!
He was very nice company and quite the conversationalist as it turned out. I loved listening to his stories and the wealth of interesting facts he consistently offered with ease and confidence.
As we headed out of the harbor the views of the town from that ferry heading west out into the bay were great too. We passed DunOllie castle and Dogstack rock on the right, not far from the hostel (and which I also explored the following day). As we ventured further west we also sailed past the Isle of Kerrerra on the left.
Our ferry ride took us to the Isle of Mull where we would then have to drive a few miles to the other end of the Isle to take yet another ferry at Fiahnnport a short distance further to Iona.
Just before we landed on the Isle of Mull yet another castle came into view out on a point. Absolutely stunning, don’t you think?
Before we headed across the Isle I just had to get a bit closer to that castle and check it out, although I didn’t have time to tour inside.
I discovered it was a Maclean castle! Then we drove about 45 minutes or so through this gorgeous glen complete with little tiny wild orchids and other miniature alpine type wildflowers dotted across the landscape.
Soon we arrived at the next ferry landing where we had to park the car and hoof it the rest of the way.
We also had to wait for the ferry just long enough to sample (and devour) a small cup of freshly caught crabmeat from a small roadside seafood shack while we enjoyed the colorful rock formations and the contented free range sheep. Oh doo!
Before we knew it we were aboard the small ferry and rapidly approaching the small & quaint harbor landing just a hop, skip and jump away on Iona.
We were blessed with blue skies and the promise of a wonderful day of exploring its treasures of abbeys and sacred graveyards where the ancient kings of Scotland are buried in their final resting places.
After strolling past a few houses and local businesses the first Old ruins we encountered was the Nunnery.
A bit further and the ancient and beautifully restored and lovingly maintained Abbey came into view front and center stage!
The cloister adjacent to the church had beautiful carvings on every pillar. Many were painstakingly carved anew with all the fine masonry details replicated for many that had deteriorated over the centuries. The workmanship was absolutely amazing, intricate and perfect in their execution.
Also, along the walls of the walkways surrounding the cloister stood upright gravestones of Crusader Knights, clergymen and saints. Very impressive headstones, each telling a story of their own. In addition small, but no less signify the finds in every nook and cranny.
I can can only imagine how many buried headstones there must be hidden here and which could be revealed in this iconic and ancient graveyard! So many must be hiding under the grassy mounds of wildflowers!
To allow all of the beauty and reverence we had just witnessed at the Abbey, Jonathan and I decided to take a stroll to the northern tip of the Isle to see if we could find a hostel we heard was situated out on the point.
There it was, nestled in a wildflower pasture, overlooking the ocean and some incredible white sand beaches with turquoise water lapping at its edges.
We sat and enjoyed the view for quite awhile before deciding it was probably time we started walking back to catch the ferry to the mainland.
I think I found another hostel I definitely need to return to once or twice more in the future sometime in order to really experience its tranquility and ponder spiritual matters while I do so. Seems such an appropriate place to do so.
We returned to the landing, stopping at the Low Door for a latte and a bit of chocolate for refreshment, enjoying once again the isle’s crystal clear waters while we waited for the ferry to take us back to the reality of the mainland.
We arrived back in Oban just in time for a nice dinner on the pier at a simply divine restaurant called E.E. Usk and enjoyed some deliciously divine freshly caught hake with mussel sauce and a Caol Isla whisky, finished off with a melt in your mouth piece of lemon cheesecake. (Sorry, but I forgot to take pictures of the food; as I was totally emersed in the moment.)
As we finished our meal we were entertained by the ever changing masterpiece of a sunset. The perfect ending to a perfect day visiting a perfectly wonderful sacred site….
Then we casually strolled back to the hostel, enjoying the lights of town, reveling in the experiences, sights and sensations we had both enjoyed that fine day on the Isle of Iona.