Monday, August 27, 2007

Logbook: Mull Iona Staffa

Mullionastaffa1Friday morning we tracked down the "Trouser Bridge Inn" legend (See Dram below) then filled up with petrol, picked up some food and got on line for the ferry to Mull. The crossing takes only about 45 minutes, but when you pull off the ferry onto the island you feel like you've entered another world. The terrain ranges from stark, rugged moors to lush fertile fields and from rocky cliffs to sandy beaches. There are few buildings to be seen, and even fewer people. The sheep and cattle can be spotted up in the hills, scattered across the fields and often in the road, a single lane track that's in generally poor shape and has only occasional "passing places" barely wide enough for two small cars to get by. As different as Mull is, it seems somehow ordinary when one reaches the end of the island at Fionnphort and views the tiny island of Iona across the narrow channel. I had been to Iona once before -- about twenty years ago -- and I was still awestruck when it came into view.

Mullionastaffa2_2We caught a tiny ferry for the very short ride across the channel and enjoyed a few hours of wandering around, touring through the old nunnery (where a wedding was taking place!) and visiting the famous abbey before taking a short walk through the fields and up to the hills. There is something truly remarkable about Iona, a kind of "feeling" that is hard to describe. Perhaps because at 2.9 billion years old it is one of the oldest pieces of rock on Earth. Perhaps because there are so few people, buildings and vehicles set in the wide open pastoral setting. Perhaps because of the remains of ancient religious structures. I'm not sure. What I do know is that Iona has a tranquility about it that makes one want to just hang out there. By sunset we were on the little ferry back to Mull, then checked into our little B&B before having dinner at the only little pub/restaurant in town and calling it a day.

Mullionastaffa3Saturday morning we drove to the south coast of Mull to take a look at a beach/cliff walk, but the weather was sufficiently cold, rainy and windy that we decided it wouldn't be very fun. So, we headed back to Fionnphort and had a bowl of soup then boarded a small boat for an hour long trip to Staffa, a small rock island with spectacular basaltic geology, huge natural caves and great views. We were very fortunate to have the weather clear up dramatically when we arrived and were thrilled to explore the tiny island for an hour or so until it was time to make the boat trip back. I'll put a few pictures in the current Photo Log and let them do a better job of describing Staffa. For now, I'll just say that once again I wish I had studied more geology!

Mullionastaffa4Yesterday we drove from the south side of Mull to the north via a very narrow single track road that passed through and over just about every kind of terrain you can imagine. We stopped at various places to enjoy the views and spent some time on an improbable white sand beach before taking a pleasant little hike through woods and out to the rocky coast. As evening approached we arrived in Tobermory, a truly lovely, colorful little seaside town. We didn't have much time there, but I would definitely put it on my list of places to visit again. This morning we caught a little ferry from Tobermory across a modest channel to return to the mainland and drive north through even more spectacular scenery on an even more challenging single track roads. We arrived here in Mallaig in time to grab some lunch then spent some time making arrangements going forward for our exploration of the "outer" islands. We've been going pretty fast for the past week, so it's been a good afternoon to relax a little bit, catch up with ourselves and get ready for another high energy week ahead.

No comments: