Bhreac sounds like 'Vra-chk' with the 'ch' similar to that in Scottish loch. (It's gaelic for speckled.)

It's been a while since our last big adventure but it's also been a long and dreary winter throughout which the McGonks chose to hibernate!

Tobermory

Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. Legend has it that there is a sunken galleon in Tobermory Bay and there are whispers of another search being planned to try to locate it and its possible cargo of Spanish Armada gold. It is very interesting to note that Tobermory Bay in Ontario, Canada, boasts over 20 sunken shipwrecks that attract divers from throughout the world.

McGonk on the Tobermory bus

At Easter, we had a glimmer of sunshine and a hint of warmth, enough to stir our sleepy friends into activity. It was time for another great adventure and, once again, the brave Bhreac McGonk, having already conquered Ben Nevis, was chosen to set off and explore more of Scotland. We went by mini-bus then by train via Glasgow, up the west coast to Oban and then onto the ferry to the Isle of Mull.

Tobermory bus

The Tobermory double decker bus

Upstairs on the tobermory double decker

Bhreac McGonk had a bird's eye view of the island by sitting upstairs at the front of the Tobermory bus. From here he could see the sea and everything there was to be seen along the way - including the seals on the rocks by the shore near the little village of Salen.

Salen, Isle of Mull

Salen is in the centre of Mull, about halfway between Craignure and Tobermory. The bus passes through the village, so it was an ideal location for 'base camp', which was in lovely log cabins.

Hart of Mull cabins at Salen

Lady Luck shone on us during our stay at Hart of Mull log cabins warm, hot water on tap, shower and most things you need for basic living. The only things we really missed were a grill tray for cooking the morning bacon, a spare loo roll would have been nice and a forewarning about how close to the main road the cabin really was! Traffic noise is something we are not used to hearing. The single beds were none too comfortable; after miles of walking and hours of exploring it would have been nice to have relaxed and got a good night's sleep without being constantly prodded by lumpy, bumpy springs then woken to the ferry traffic whizzing past first thing in the morning. Salen is a great place to stay for its central location if you are exploring the island but cabin 2 isn't great if you are after some peaceful rest and quiet recuperation. Quit moaning, Bhreac, you still had a fabby-doo time on the islands, despite your luxury cabin proving to be a little less than you bargained for... it's not like the Tobermory hostel was full, was it?

Hart of Mull cabins, Salen, Isle of Mull

We were in cabin 2 - cabin 1 may have been quieter and it had a hot tub and sauna or steam room for relaxation. Annoyingly, said cabin 1 lay empty for 3 of our 4 nights there. Had we known that, we'd have booked a day less then moved on elsewhere.

patio picnic

McGonk did manage to sit out for breakfast on the patio and also a late night of star gazing. If only the aurora borealis had put in an appearance, that would have made it a magical occasion. We sat here to read through the information leaflets provided by the cabin owners, but none of the places we wanted to visit, nor the bus timetables or local hotel details were included. We found this peculiar, so went off looking for ourselves.

Calgary Bay

Next trip to the Isle of Mull will be planned around Calgary Bay. Thrift Cottage, as you may know, is situated in the Machars of southwest Scotland. Calgary Bay is a conservation area of machair, the Gaelic word for the distinctive coastal grassland. Calgary has a wild campsite just a short walk from its spectacular sandy beach and a woodland walk that's filled with eco art. Our bonus surprise was discovering that the Tobermory bus took us right there, so you don't even need your own transport to visit the location.

Did you know that Calgary in Alberta, Canada is named from Calgary on Mull? Calgary on Mull was a favourite haunt of Colonel James Macleod, of the Canadian North West Mounted Police. On a return from Calgary Castle on Mull, he suggested the name for Fort Calgary which, in turn gave its name to the Calgary we all know in Alberta, home of the world famous 'Calgary Stampede', the annual rodeo and exhibition that's billed as 'The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth'. Sadly, we saw no mention of this most famous connection while visiting the area, nor any mention of

McGonks on Staffa

Staffa Tours is who got us to Staffa and Iona. We were on Staffa long enough to walk along the path and right inside Fingal's Cave and then have a climb up the hill to the summit, where there is a cairn and a trig point (Ordinance survey triangulation point).

Cairn on top of Isle of Staffa

Sun bathing on the cairn on top of the Isle of Staffa, watching for puffins. We didn't get to see any, though, as they were around the other side of the island and we needed to head for home in order to catch the last bus from Fionnphort to Craignure and then catch the Tobermory bus back to Salen.

Trig-bagging on Staffa

Ordinance Survey Triangulation Point BM 10482 on the summit of Staffa island - bagged by Bhreac McGonk on Thursday 24th April 2014

Staffa National Nature Reserve

Saturday 26th April, the day we left the Isle of Mull, was the 28th anniversary of the gifting of the island of Staffa by John Elliot Jr of New York to the Scottish National Trust in celebration of his wife Elly's birthday.

Next, we sailed to 'The Sacred Isle' of Iona. Its Gaelic name, Innis-nam Druidbneach' means island of the Druids and it is here that MacBeth was buried.

Iona Abbey

A definite 'must visit' if you ever travel to the Isle of Mull - Iona Abbey. Iona has golden sands, turquoise sea, a ruined nunnery, visitor heritage centre, several little chapels, beautiful gardens and, of course, the abbey, itself. It has the feel of Whithorn, which serves as a sharp reminder that what we have remaining here in southwest Scotland must be preserved, even if it means a fight. The Pilgrim Way is something that we would love to see developed for walkers. Iona and Whithorn seem to have so many common denominators that the island felt familiar, in a strange way.

The Viking Seat in Oban

All too soon, it was time to return to Thrift Cottage after our whistle stop tour of the islands. By the time we returned to Oban, a mere five days and three islands later, Bhreac McGonk well and truly deserved a rest on the Viking Seat. Here he sat reflecting on the places he had been, the things he had seen and the fact that his name has now been firmly placed in a guest book as proof he visited the Isle of Mull.

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