Mull and Iona: Day One

[Blog update: At the end of the month Even the Dug will be going offline, but we still had a few more stories we wanted to tell. While it might be discouraging to think about travel when it is out of the question right now, we thought you might enjoy the escape.]

At the start of the year we held a family vote on where we wanted to travel with the school holidays and budget that we had available. Some places had a clear majority (Paris) and some, well, didn’t (Norway). Despite always wanting to see the Western Isles, I was unable to convince everyone that we should leave the beach we lived at on the eastern side of Scotland to go to visit the coast on the western side of Scotland.

However, many people I met during the year said that two of the best islands to visit are the Isle of Mull and the neighboring, tiny Isle of Iona. Nathan’s parents ended up coming just before the school holidays, leaving a few days free at the start of the break. I crunched some numbers and decided I could do it cheaply if I just took two kids. So, Nathan stayed home to work and take care of the dog, and Addy stayed home to study for her upcoming National 5 exams (similar to AP exams). Don’t feel too bad for Addy, because she had two other Addy-only trips coming up later in the year. And Nathan, as we saw, had just been gallivanting around London.

I considered renting a car in St Andrews and driving three hours to Oban, where the ferry leaves for Mull (and many other islands as well). It’s possible to take a car onto Mull, but not onto Iona, unless you apply for an exception. Mull is almost entirely single-track roads, which I didn’t think I would enjoy tackling. Rather than leave the car in Oban, I decided to take the train. With our railcard discount the fares were very reasonable, and trains are just much more fun. This did mean that our first day of travel consisted of a bus, a train, a train, a train, a ferry, and a bus. But, we had packed light and were up for the challenge.

We took the bus to Leuchars, then the train from Leuchars to Edinburgh, and then the second train from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The train from Glasgow to Oban was an older, almost vintage train, on the West Highland Railway Line. This is where I became really glad that we had not driven. The route to Oban goes through the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, right along the edge of Loch Lomond. We could see the still snow-covered peaks of Ben Lomond. There was a woman seated near us who was just taking the train to Oban for the day to take in the views along the way. She said that we had chosen a good time to go, because a little later in the year when the trees put out their leaves you can’t see as much. A camera through the window of a moving train doesn’t do it justice but here are a few pictures.


Loch Lomond in the distance


Ben Lomond, 3196 feet


Mary Ella and Jesse were not as gripped by the view as I was.


Grandma Kathy has gotten Jesse into Sudoku.


We did get an early start that day.


The train was a little bit late, so we had to dash to catch the ferry. However, the terminal is immediately beside the train platform and whenever possible they will hold the ferry for the train’s arrival, which they did for us. The main ferry company in Scotland is Caledonian MacBrayne, or CalMac, and this was a medium-sized ferry. The trip over was beautiful, with views of Oban harbor and a lighthouse on the way. The ferry arrived at the town of Craignure, and we caught the bus to Tobermory on the northeast corner of the island. The bus lets you off right at the start of Tobermory’s main street.


Boarding the ferry


Leaving Oban Harbour


Tobermory is the largest town on Mull, with about 2,000 people. It’s known for the brightly colored buildings on the street facing the harbor. We were staying at the hostel, which was a pink building right on the harbor.


Tobermory Harbour


We arrived a little before check-in time so we left our bags at the hostel and went out to explore. We checked out several cool shops, took in views of the harbor, and visited Isle of Mull Ice Cream. The ice cream is made with milk from cows on the island and it was seriously good.


Mull Island ice cream


Carved handles on shepherd staffs, seen in a shop


There was a grocery store right near the hostel so we got some items and made dinner. The hostel kitchen and dining area was big and sunny with a window right out to the harbor. After dinner Mary Ella and I took a little walk to an overlook above the harbor and then we went to bed.

If you want to follow:


  1. Nana | | Reply

    I’m so glad you are filling in some of your Scottish adventures. Maybe others can put in their stories before time runs out.

  2. Mary Pat Dixon | | Reply

    You have the talent for describing something mundane and making it fascinating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *