Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iona, Staffa & puffins.

By now I was glad that amongst the suit, bike, summer clothes & bike clothes I had found some room for the trusty icebreakers - they were in full use now in the middle of the Scottish summer. Dad finally decided it was time to buy a jacket during our first afternoon in Oban - just as well there was a well stocked outdoor shop (these seem to pop up in the strangest little towns in Britain). Another cosy room in a pleasant guesthouse on the waterfront & it was up early for a day of ferries & bus rides. We were off to visit Iona & Staffa - as Mum & Dad had set this up I had little idea what was planned - but it was nice not to be driving for a change.

First it was a ferry ride over to Mull (an island off the west coast - not to be confused with Mull of Kintyre, as some have done), a forty minute bus ride to the south west corner of Mull & then we boarded a much smaller boat (saw some bottlenose dolphins jumping around the boat) to Staffa - an small uninhabited island north of Iona. We had an hour there to explore parts of the island. Much of it is basalt & the rocks near where we handed were huge basalt columns - some of which were so long, thin, regular in shape & close together they looked like giant pieces of hexagonal spaghetti that had been forced through one of those spaghetti makers (I'm reminded of the old Play-doh ad - "making spaghetti"). The other highlight of the island was seeing the crazy little puffins flying off from the cliffs to go fishing then returning to their nests - they are so small & quick.

Off to Iona in time for lunch, the Atlantic swell had increased somewhat to make a more interesting ride - at least all the French who got suitably soaked thought so (Dad & I managed to find the correct side of the deck, more by chance than anything & Mum retreated inside, where it was bumpier). Got a good look around the abbey at Iona - much more austere than any of the previous religious buildings I had seen in the preceding weeks. Back on more ferries & boats - where we promptly fell asleep - probably just preparing ourselves for the great dinner that night at some random restaurant that foiled us in our previous bid to eat there - being closed doesn't usually help matters.

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