Travelling North over recent weeks we’ve really recognised the seasonal changes. It seems a long while since bluebells and lambing in Somerset yet up here there are still young’ns scampering to their mothers when two highlighter pens cycle anywhere near. It may sound dumb to say it, but recognising our surroundings and ‘being present’ is a key reason for doing this. Recently I’ve kept returning to Nicks comment 3 years ago in Norway “just look at those clouds”. I was looking in the same direction but not ‘seeing’, so caught up was I in a very stressful job. So we made it happen and here we are, ‘seeing’ 🙂
From Arran we followed the winding roads along along Loch Lomand where we parked up for a night. Lucky to be on the move on a wet day, but stunning nonetheless across the Loch and an unusual sunset lighting of the hills. Following Loch Fyne we stopped at Inveraray for a walk. It’s known as a ‘planned town’ with a unique C18th architectural style based on community style housing around green spaces, nothing grand but very stylish actually. There’s also the incredible imposing Inveraray Castle and grounds. The grey green stone is cold, contrasting with its Scottish Baronial ornateness. The grounds are beautiful especially in the drizzle, bringing the colours to life, a diverse palette of green popped with bright Rhododendron blooms. An overnight stop by the canal near Crinan and a cycle ride to Ardrishaig where we found mini Kelpies and a Tesco meal deal (wasn’t much to offer there) by the lake for lunch. Back at the van we met up with a very entertaining Scouse family, 4 adults and 3 children across two sprinter conversions. Very jealous, they had seen a golden eagle on Arran! We continue to look, with our new hints and tips. Well, Nick couldn’t understand the accent but I think I translated it ok! From Walton, neighbouring my mums Tuebrook (pronounced chew bruke) I had the upper hand! Anyhow, here’s some photo’s!
Crossing over to Mull we headed to the first of three planned stops at Salen Bay a small hamlet, half way up the East side but punching above its weight, it had two fabulous coffee shops within a stones throw! Priorities, I hear you say! Great place to park up looking across the Sound of Mull. Jigsaw enjoyed the little beach walk and the jetty with the scallop farming. While on Mull we covered 213km on the bikes, took a bus ride, and two boat trips. I’ll try to be brief and give you some highlights or you’ll be asleep before the end.
Everywhere on a bike involves hills (Victoria has her mind back in the game!) A very long ride took us out through a charming village called Dervaig, where there’s an unusual church with a rounded, minaret shaped tower, over into the inner heart of the northern part of the island. Stunning vistas over forests, farmland and general nothingness, it was easy to just gaze. Our only company were cuckoo’s, that we eventually saw. We stumbled upon The Fank, an unusually placed sculpture in the middle of nowhere, from where we also saw a buzzard being divebombed over Loch Frisa. We ended up at Croig (NNW of the island) for our lunch baps waterside, watching lapwings attack a jackdaw, before heading back on a route that can be described as tortuous for the legs but mesmeric for the eyes. It was basically a direct cross of the island. We deserved our chippy tea when we arrived home!
Tobermoray was our second planned stop, up in the Northern parts. Its the main town on the island and clearly a tourist draw with its colourful, painted harbourside buildings akin to Bristol. It sports numerous restaurants of all delicacies and one, which we think Frank Bruno must own, as everything was battered…. We took another ride out in the direction of Calgary Bay, a cream tea rewarded us there. Two stops for long rests, firstly at the stunning beautiful Langamull Bay with its turquoise waters and white beaches. Its c 3km from the road so very quiet and tranquil. The second was Calgary Bay itself, much larger and busier, as we had glorious sunshine that day. Very Caribbean-esque. From Tobermoray we treated ourselves to a boat trip out towards Coll. We had the company of a 7 year old wildlife enthusiast, Arthur, to chat to, filling us with all kinds of facts. We decided we need to watch the childrens program “Deadly 60” so we can keep up with the kids. (yes Marianne, he was a match for Ania’s prolific knowledge!) Anyhow, we saw lots of common dolphins, porpoises, puffins in flight but no Eagles sadly, just the nest.
From there we headed south to Craignure for our final stopover and by this time we were on a manic Golden and White Tailed Eagle hunt, not that we were desperate or anything! We’d succumbed and downloaded the RSPB guide to the phone, so we were well prepared for any sightings, of frankly, anything! Our most technical ride to date, we headed up to an abandoned settlement at Gualacholish, last inhabited in the 1930’s, built early 1800’s. Eventually making it to the ruins we sat with binoculars directed at anything that moved. We were rewarded though with both Golden and White Tailed Eagles, plus red deer, a kestrel and a cuckoo. Nature doesn’t turn up to order, as we’ve discovered on whale watching trips in the past, so patience is rewarded (or perhaps, the delaying of the dreaded return ride) I don’t know how to describe the terrain but how we didn’t come off the bikes I don’t know, it had everything (boulders, long grass, narrow channels, water, mud, steep climbs…) Even as a hike it’d be tough. Anyhow, we made it back more or less in one piece and elated for our sightings! Small things and all that!
Another highlight was a bus trip, well not any old bus trip, an M&S bus trip…. along the Ross of Mull to the tiny island of Iona (the last bit involved foot passenger ferry obvs!) It was bus trip that Cliff Richard would have been proud of, following the northern edges of the peninsula along Loch Scridain, all the way to the tip. Our top deck front row seats gave us the splendours and changes of scenery as we went, the bluebells among the bracken, seals on the shore line and foreboding mountains above it all. Iona itself was a tiny gem, famous for its Abbey. Iona isn’t dramatic, quite desolate in fact and its only a half hour walk to the stunning northern beach but it feels magical in an ethereal way, the stuff of Celtic tales.
What about Jigsaw, you ask?! She’s been quite active, she’s taken us for a few walks onto beaches and grasslands, found herself some great spots for bird watching and mousing and thankfully hasn’t caught anything. She’s ever so popular, so many people interact with her but she doesn’t always behave herself, that’s cat teenagers for you! As you see below, she even wanted to leave home! I heard one chap at a site saying “hello gorgeous” but it wasn’t me he was talking to, it was Jigsaw…. deflated, I realised that female cats haven’t taken to social media to say they are offended by male compliments yet! Anyway, get this, Motorhome Monthly Magazine have asked us to write an article about full timing with a cat…. there’s time yet folks, fame beckons (well for the furry one at least!)
Sadly after 10 fantastic days on Mull we had to leave, we had a dinner date with Pauline and Tony at The Crossroads Motel in Oban… now that’s a story!