May 30 – June 1, 2017: Oban, Isle of Iona
Our original plan was to drive from Nairn to Inverness, and then south down the west side of Loch Ness to Oban, with a brief photo stop at Urquhart Castle, and a longer visit to Glencoe Information centre along the way. However, we noticed an alternate route straight south from Nairn, through the Cairngorms National Park where there was a popular (and free) Highland Folk Museum. We hemmed and hawed about which route to take but eventually decided on the latter.
Since we weren’t planning to actually pay to look inside the ruins of Urquhart Castle (we’ve seen a lot of castles already), and we happen to live on a lake very similar to Loch Ness (with its own mythical monster, Ogopogo), we decided we would prefer to drive through the beautiful Cairngorms and spend a few hours visiting the Folk Museum instead, and we were happy we did.
As per usual, we didn’t rush our morning, and weren’t on the road until at least 10ish. We drove through beautiful countryside, first on narrow country roads, and then later on A95 and A9, until we reached the town of Aviemore where we managed to track down a set of standing stones, in the midst of a subdivision.
Thirty minutes further down the road, we reached Newtonmore, and the Highland Folk Museum. We made a donation, bought a guidebook, and wandered in and out of the many historical buildings in the mile-long open air museum, with its 1700’s village of five thatch homes on one end, and an early 1900’s farming village on the other. We spent at least three hours wandering around, had lunch at the cafe on site, and we even managed to finally get some photos of Heilin’ Coos (the adorable long-haired Highland Cows)! It was definitely a worthwhile stop, especially if you have kids.
We continued our drive down the A9 for another hour and a half, before turning east along A82 after crossing the bridge near North Ballachulish, and finally reached the information site at Glencoe and Dalness. Once again, the site was part of our NTS pass, so we didn’t have to pay for access.
The museum was a mix of geological information about the formation of Glen Coe and the other surrounding mountains, climbing (which reminded me of Angie), and of course, of the famous Glencoe Massacre where 38 members of the MacDonald clan were murdered in their beds by British Soldiers in 1692 because their chieftain was a few days late swearing fealty to the British monarch. It was yet another tragedy in Highland history.
Out back of the museum was a gorgeous view of the mountain and the valleys which are also famous as a back drop to movies such as Rob Roy, Braveheart, Skyfall, and Outlander. Unfortunately, it was an overcast day so we couldn’t get really great photos.
There is another museum (Glencoe Folk Museum) dedicated to the Glencoe Massacre in the town of Glencoe, but it was already closed for the day by the time we were there.
Finally on our way once again, it was only another half hour or so before we reached the coastal village of Oban, whose ferry terminal is the gateway to the Inner Hebrides, and where we would be staying for two nights. We checked into our B&B, and went for supper at a restaurant down on the pier. It had been a long, busy day and we were tired.
In the morning, we were up early, had breakfast at the B&B, and then packed a small daypack and headed down to the ferry terminal where we had booked a day trip to Mull and Iona Islands on West Coast Tours bus line. The company has a number of tours but the one we chose was £35 each, and included a 45 minute ferry to Mull Island, a bus ride with live commentary across Mull, a foot passenger ferry ride to Iona Island for a 2 1/2 hour wander around the small village, Abbey, and shops, and then return the same way we came. We left at 9:50am and returned by 6pm.
The commentary on the bus was excellent – super informative, and very funny – and Sheila, our driver, was amazing at how she managed to eek the bus around the crazy narrows roads. Erik particularly enjoyed the trip because he didn’t have to drive!
We liked Mull and thought we could easily spend a few days on the island, and tiny Iona itself was idyllic. The water was a gorgeous teal blue, the sand leaned towards white, and as there were no cars, it was relatively quiet and peaceful. Well, it would have been if there hadn’t been 500 tourists wandering around. At any rate, we managed to find our own quiet spots and enjoyed taking photos of the landscape, beaches, as well as the ruins of the Nunnery and the Abbey.
We ate our lunch on a bench in the sun (did I mention it was a glorious sunny day?!!), and Erik bought me some beautiful silver Celtic tree of life earrings that I had been perhaps not-so-secretly coveting. We had dinner in town when we returned to Oban, and then relaxed at our B&B for the evening. Overall, it was pretty much a perfect day!
Next up: Callander and Stirling, Scotland