The next morning we had a little more time to spend in Tobermory before we had to catch our two buses to the town of Fionnphort on the other end of the island. From there we would be catching the ferry over to Iona, a very short ten-minute hop. We looked in several cool shops along the harbour. Jesse got a new pocket knife at Brown’s Ironmongers, which in addition to ironmongery sells binoculars, malt whisky, electric guitars, housewares, and pretty much everything else. After finding a few more souvenirs Jesse went back to the hostel to rest for a bit and Mary Ella and I took a walk along a trail out to a lighthouse.
You can rent the lighthouse keeper’s house and this is definitely on my bucket list for our next visit to Scotland. You just have to be okay with walking in all of your belongings along the one-mile trail. After the lighthouse walk we got an early lunch at the Scullery and went to catch our bus.
We took the bus from Tobermory to Craignure about halfway down the coast of the island, where the ferry comes in. From there we changed to another bus from Craignure to Fionnphort. This all took close to three hours but the scenery, especially on the second bus ride, was beautiful. I also definitely got a good bit of the local gossip from listening to people on the bus. We arrived in Fionnphort about fifteen minutes before the next Iona ferry was set to leave, but discovered the following sign:
The ferry office was shut up so I sent the kids down to the beach and did some investigating at the snack bar. Apparently there was a mechanical fault and someone had gone for a part but it was unclear when they would be back with it. The last bus returning to the north side of Mull would be leaving in fifteen minutes. The snack bar lady did not think we could get lodging in tiny Fionnphort on such short notice, especially if other people were stuck waiting on the ferry too. At this point I was contemplating either reversing our three hour bus ride back to Tobermory or spending the night on the beach in Fionnphort. Also at this point an enterprising teen on April school holidays struck up on her bagpipes right in front of the ferry office, not, in fact, helping me think straight.
At the edge of the water I noticed a workman with a very large box calmly looking out to sea. I sidled up to him and asked if he thought the ferry would run today. Still looking out to sea he said, “The Staffa boat is running”. I gradually made out that the Staffa boat is a small tour boat that runs scenic trips to the island of Staffa and also stops at Iona. In the absence of the actual ferry he was running people back and forth to Iona (nobody had thought to inform the snack bar lady of this apparently). The Staffa boat arrived and we piled on with a few other people and some deliveries going over to Iona. The captain, who clearly knew the workman, was giving him a hard time about his cargo. “Just a wee box you said, Jim!” It did take up about a third of the boat. The captain wouldn’t take any money from us.
Once we landed on Iona we had a short walk to our lodging. We got momentarily confused about whether the tiny road we were on was actually the main road but once we confirmed that it was hard to get lost. There is pretty much one road.
We were staying at the Iona Pods, on a croft on the northern end of the island. Our pod had three beds and a small kitchenette, and it was perfectly cozy. There was a central bathroom and laundry area, and right next to that was a sheep pen with a newborn lamb and a trusty dog keeping an eye on him.
Because of the ferry delay we had arrived on the island after the one tiny grocery store had closed. Although we had brought some leftover food from the hostel which would make a breakfast, we would need to go out for dinner. The only option was to go to one of the two hotels on the island, so I inquired about which was less fancy. I think the staff person I asked accidentally steered us wrong, because this turned out to be the more pricey one, the St Columba Hotel. But, we were pretty hungry by this point so we just went with it. The kids were slightly appalled that I ordered the lamb, especially considering the little guy waiting back at the pod, but I did (sorry any vegetarians reading). We also managed to have Isle of Mull ice cream at the restaurant (yes, a third time in three days).
After dinner we went back to the pod and went to bed.