Oban to Isle of Mull and Iona

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8 September 2017:

Oban Harbour by night is a pretty place when lights from buildings reflect off the water.  Last night I craved fish and chips and there were no shortage of licenced restaurants ready to supply.

We’re not having much luck with a lie in, all establishments want to complete serving breakfast by 9 or 9:30.

Today we caught the ferry to the Isle of Mull, a crossing which took just under an hour.  From the port of Craignure we turned left to visit Duart Castle, built in 1300s and occupying a prominent position overlooking the sea and surrounding land.  Afterwards a drive round the north west of the island including a late lunch at Calgary, the original one, where there is a beautiful beach of white sand.  Finally checked in   at B&B in Tobermory.

Motorways in Scotland are usually two lanes and on the islands A roads can be single track with passing places.

The news in Syria is that ISIL is on the back foot.  Of course we should celebrate their defeat on the battlefield but be careful friends, they do not need territory to kill others.  Defeat for ISIL won’t in itself bring peace to Syria as there was a civil war before they emerged and there will still be a state of conflict between pro and anti government forces after they’re finished with.

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Things I recommend, the Americans and Russians to talk to each other and agree a way forward.

Things I don’t recommend, early breakfast, with or without bagpipes

9 September 2017:

I’ve crashed.  Not my car, my body.  These early morning breakfasts are doing me in, am seriously considering missing one tomorrow to trade it off for sleep.  But have planned to visit the mystical island of Iona so we’ll see.  Can always sleep in Hastings.

Another thing to consider is how strictly they observe the Sabbath as we’re leaving Mull for the mainland and Fort William then.  Better make sure I have a full tank of petrol, garages selling them are scarce enough as it is.  The entire population of this island is 3,000, and it’s huge, or seems like it when you can’t get past third gear and speeds of 30-40 mph on most of the islands road’s.

The sun was out as I nursed half a pint in The Mishnish Arms whilst Penny had her hair done.  Life could be worse.  And the warming sound of a working class Londoner nearby, so many posh English accents around.  Some around me order the original energy drink, Irn Bru, it is midday after all.

Last night a meal in a Chinese, I’ve had better.  No one out, well not many.  I’m hoping for a livelier Friday night out in Tobermory, setting for Balamory, ask your kids if you’re scratching your head.

I’ve been away a week now, this time next week I’ll be catching up with my sister in Lincoln.  How to summarise my week?  Compared to England there is so much more powerful physical space.  Edinburgh plays on everyone’s stereotype of Scotland, if you want a picture of a man in a kilt playing bagpipes, it’s there in the city centre near the castle.  It’s town centre is low rise with little modern development.  Glasgow has had a tougher time economically but there is a vibrancy to the place which is appealing.  North of these two places are mountains, forests, islands, lochs and hardly any people.  And there’s a reason for that, which I’ll mention another time.  But if you can’t wait Google the Highland clearances to give you some idea.

Finally as I was returning to car park I noticed what looked like a large rat but think was actually a mink in the harbour.

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Things I recommend, sleep. Having knowledge of your history. Without knowledge you’re like a cabbage in this society.

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10 September 2016:

I’m getting better at driving on single track roads. You have to be alert for oncoming traffic which occasionally the landscape allows. Slower vehicles usually pull in at passing places, allowing overtaking. This prevents the creation of convoys behind lorries, buses etc. Sometimes you have to reverse to a passing place. Sometimes there is little margin for error as a misjudgement would have you in a ditch or worse, rolling down an embankment. But mostly the roads are empty, the scenery is beautiful, you drive at a sensible speed and watch out for sheep and cows tucking into top quality grass by the roadside. Cyclists would love it. But take supplies.

From the pictures you can see how green the landscape is, even at this time of year. Most days we have sunshine, cloud and rain. Last night it was torrential and I changed plan of walking into town centre. We are staying at the top of town.

Today we visited Iona, where Christianity was brought to Britain from Ireland 1500 years ago. That sounds long but it’s only 30 times my current lifespan. Now the Ice Age, that really is beyond comprehension.

To get there it’s nearly two hours drive, a distance of just over 50 miles. Two return tickets cost £6.60. Foot passengers only. It’s a small island with one road and a population of 80.

The fare across to Mull on the ferry was just under £20. The fares have been reduced under a scheme setup by the Scottish government and the result is more visitors to islands, more ferry crossings, more jobs. Socialism in action. The only downside is that islanders can’t get onto the mainland without planning and booking in advance. And they do have to as facilities on the island are limited. There are a few Spars and a Co-op but if you want clothing it’s a trip to Oban, which boasts a New Look. Which in all likelihood Penny and I will be visiting tomorrow as we’re getting low on supplies.

Returning to Oban wasn’t part of plan but as I’ve just realised there’s no other way off Mull on a September Sunday it will have to be.

Iona is the burial place for many Scottish kings, including Macbeth. Also buried there is John Smith, whom our host referred to as the greatest Prime Minister we never had.

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His early death, whilst still only in his 50s meant an opportunity for a young Labour MP called Tony Blair to stand for leadership. In hindsight John Smith is even more missed as a result of what occurred in the Labour Party afterwards.

Which brings me to the present and the current leadership election. Which wasn’t necessary after the one that occurred last year. The Labour MPs who have tried to bully Corbyn into resigning have behaved disgracefully.

If Corbyn wins again they will have to consider whether to back the leader or oppose the decision of the members. One of the issues in this leadership election is nuclear weapons. So it was interesting to find this in the Abbey at Iona.

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Thanks to Jafer for texts about Palace. We won! We’re 12th!

Things I recommend, peace.

 

 

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