*Check out part 1 if you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading it!
Thankfully, the day that followed our munro run brought wind and rain, which meant a forced rest day. By this point, we were both needing it. A side story: when seeing Pat’s mom after we got home, she commented that she would find it hard to sleep in a tent, on the ground, outside. I told her when you camp with Pat, and you’re doing all these active things, you’re so tired, it doesn’t matter! It so doesn’t.
We decided to spend our rest day by going to Iona again fo a wander, and then to be picked up by boat for an unexpected tour of the Isle of Staffa, an inhabited island west of Mull, on the way to Coll and Tiree. It’s special for many reasons:
1. Basalt rock formations created by lava flow millions of years ago (a very generalised explanation), like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Staffa is Old Norse for ‘stave or pillar island.’The pillars are either six or eight sided, and are arranged depending on when the lava flowed and cooled. The island also has many caves in it. And a very scary face.
2. After its ‘discovery’ in the late 1700’s many people thought it vogue to visit the island, like Queen Victoria and composer Felix Mendelssohn, who later wrote ‘Hebrides Overture’ inspired by Staffa.
3. Staffa is famous for its resident puffins, which is the reason we went. Pat loves puffins, and neither of us had ever seen them before in real life.
While the island itself sounds quite mythical and interesting, the journey there was another story! The rough seas and wind made for a literally gripping boat ride in the rain, which didn’t let up the entire time we were there.
They were everywhere! And they were totally fine with a boat full of humans trying to get up close and personal. In the rain. Emphasis on the rain.
It was then time to check out Fingal’s cave, on the other side of the island, which cuts about 70 metres into the island. We walked there, in the rain. At this point, my jeans were soaked through having not taken my waterproof trousers with me….
I spent a lot of time in this cave, mainly because it was shelter, but also because I found it quite mesmerizing to watch the water crash in and drain out.
Our time on Staffa was up, but quick, one last photo!
Next came one of the scariest moments of my life. While the trip to the island was pretty scary, nothing could compare to the battle our little boat had on the way back. Besides Pat and I, there was group of British pensioners, some Americans, and a group of Swedish teenagers + chaperones, who, from what it sounded, had traveled to Iona for religious purposes and were staying at the Abbey. On the way out, the teenagers were chatty, everyone was talking and enjoying themself. The journey back painted a completely different picture.
Our boat – the size of a small fishing boat – had to zig zag through the 6 foot+ waves to not capsize (I guess?), but nonetheless there were times when it felt like the boat was verging on being vertical and tipping us all into the ocean. When we started off, a group of girls were on the side of the boat, holding on to the edge looking out, unsheltered from the rain. Within minutes, after hitting a large wave which splashed onto the boat, the girls were drenched. Then the boys thought it would be a good idea to get splashed and drenched, so they decided to go for it. I’m not going to lie, there were moments when we’d hit a wave that I seriously thought one of the boys could’ve fallen overboard. I sat in my sheltered spot, gripping the back rest of a bench, looking to the rear of the boat, trying my best to keep my eyes on the horizon and prevent seasickness. The mood quickly shifted from happy and talkative to eerily silent and miserable. One by one, people were succumbing to the rocking waves, and sick bags were handed out. The chatty teenagers were no longer chatty because they were puking into bags. I looked behind me at one point and it was like a scene from a film: zombie-like humans, leaning on benches, groaning, with bags at their mouths. One woman started to cry it was so bad, and later, she got sick too. I fought the urges to vomit, and kept my eyes off of these people. I also kept reassuring myself that the guys driving the boat were experienced with the ocean, and if they thought the conditions were so bad, they would’ve canceled the trip. Trust the experts.
We made it back to Fionnphort in one piece, and with it still raining and windy, headed to the pub in town rather than a tiny tent. We peeled off wet layers, I changed, and we warmed up with alcohol and coffee. Exhausted from a day fighting the elements, we decided to have a delicious meal at the restaurant instead, and by that time, the sun had come out.
I snapped this photo of our last night at Fidden Farmat while lying in the tent, reading before bed.
This takes us to Thursday, which meant moving day. We packed up the car in the morning to make the two-hour journey along single-lane-with-passing-places roads up to Tobermory, which can kind of be considered the ‘capital’ of the island, as it’s the largest town. After setting up the tent at our campsite just outside town, we made the 12 mile, winding, hair-pinned turns, journey to Calgary Bay, where our friend Simone, who also did our wedding photographs, was camping. And I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll write it again: Calgary, Alberta, Canada takes it’s name from Calgary Bay, just like presumably Tobermory, Ontario, takes it’s name from Tobermory, Isle of Mull – there are so many more Canadian (and American) place names taken from Scotland, it’s unbelieveable. The story goes that in 1876 (when Canada was a mere 9 years old), a Commissioner for the North-West Mounted Police in Canada was a summer guest at Calgary Castle, in the forest behind the bay. Shortly after his return home, he suggested that a new fort (presumably for fur-trading, as they mostly were) be called Fort Calgary, which later became Calgary, and is now a bustling city with one million + inhabitants.
Simone has raved to us in the past that she LOVES the Isle of Mull and has an attachment to Calgary Bay, and after meeting her at her wild camping site on just off the beach, I totally get it. It’s a beautiful place with a feeling of calm, peace and comfort to it. There’s just something special about it, I guess.
We had dinner with Simone and company, and the dreary weather cleared up so we took a walk on the beach. Pat took my SUP out for a paddle.
Friday started very early as Mother Nature woke us up around 4 am with a rain that didn’t stop until 2 pm. I was sore from Ben More, we were cold, we were wet. The last thing we wanted to do was be outside, so we put on our waterproofs and headed into to Tobermory to tour the Tobermory Whisky Distillery. We’ve been to many, but at least we were warm and dry, right?
We finished the day off with a meal at Cafe Fish, one of the best on the island. My next post is about eating on the Isle of Mull and primal eating while camping, so I’ll go into more detail about our meal then.
Our last day on Mull was quiet: I managed a very hilly and steep shakeout run (probably too late, but at least I did it), into Tobermory and back, and Pat went for an off-road mountain bike adventure. We sailed back to Oban later in the day, and thus concluded our play time on Mull, sadly.
While I was looking forward to the comforts of home – my own bathroom, our bed, a kitchen – I was sad to be leaving. I loved our time on the Isle of Mull, and there’s been talk of going back next year, as believe it or not, we haven’t seen the whole island yet!
What’s been your favourite summer holiday?
Where is your favourite beach in the WORLD?