Sunday, July 22, 2012

Island Hopping--Scotland Style, Part I

You know, I tried writing about this trip an organized manner in which I would take day by day or at least leg by leg in order, in the way I experienced it. But wow is that hard, not to mention boring. It’s hard not to start every paragraph with, “Then we went…” So I decided to be my usual organized: controlled chaos. That means I’m going to have posts about different aspects of my trip, rather than the day by day. Besides, I’ve already given you the run down, now for the fun stuff! Onto the islands

The Hebrides in Scotland consist of hundreds of islands, with only about a dozen being inhabited. We went to the isles of Mull, Skye, Lewis and Harris. I’m lucky that I’ve also been to Orkney, but that’s a tale for another day. I’m not going to go into a lot of history of the Hebrides because you can read this wonderful article by Lynne Warren with photographs by Jim Richardson on the National Geographic website. 

The Isle of Mull

After spending a few hours in Oban, we caught the 45-minute ferry to Mull. I stayed outside pretty much the whole time, not wanting to miss any of the lush scenery and Duart Castle. 

Are ye of the Clan Maclean? This is the seat of the clan, bought by Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean in 1911.

Mull is the second largest island in the Hebrides, with Tobermory as its capital. Tobermory, also, is home to the aptly named Tobermory Distillery. I’m going to do a scotch post coming up, so I won’t go into the tour very much. Mull boasts amazing beaches, archeological sites, and you can take a ferry over to Iona to see the Iona Abbey, all of which I will do on my next trip. Unfortunately, the only scenery we saw was the quick drive to Tobermory and our hotel.

But what a hotel! The Western Isles sits atop a hill, elegant in stature and overlooking the bay. 

I could have sat and looked at the view all day. Well, I could have sat there, looking at the view and knitting all day. We got there in time for a delicious dinner. Sounds simple enough, but when was the last time you went to a restaurant where one of your choices for the price fixe starter was duck pate with redcurrant jelly and an entre choice was guinea fowl coq au vin? And with this view

As the sun set, everything started to sparkle

Everything about this hotel has a personal touch and invites you to linger. The conservatory is bright and cheery, with the perfect view of the bay. 

The lounge is charming and what I would want from a 3-star, historical hotel. There are different sitting areas with fireplaces and comfortable couches and wing back chairs. 

Some might consider it old fashioned, but my romantic “I’m an American but I want quintessential British” imagination was smitten with it. I felt as if I had walked into Hyacinth Bucket’s ideal hotel, and I mean that in the nicest  possible way. 

Our room was simple and comfortable with large book of island information and stationary, a well stocked tray of tea, shortbread, water, and rubber duckies in the bath. 

I can’t wait to go back.

Before the distillery tour, we explored the main street of Tobermory, that runs the length of the bay. So many cute shops and friendly shopkeeps. 

Yes, this is a tourist place, but it didn’t feel like the tourist trap that Oban did. (I don't mean that to sound so negative about Oban. It was lovely, but the yarn shops were closed because it was a Sunday, so I was a wee bit cranky.) Maybe because it was smaller or that there were fewer people or that there were fewer shops so it didn’t feel like we were looking at the same thing in every shop, whatever the reason, it was a lovely morning stroll. We ended up at the Tobermory Distillery and sat looking at the boats in the harbor to wait for our tour to start. 

The building on cliff in the upper right is our hotel

The tour was wonderful, but like I said, I will get in to that later.

All too soon, it was time to catch the ferry back to the mainland to drive to catch the next ferry to Skye.

Next up, the mysterious and rural beauty of Skye.

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