Oban, Mull, and Iona

Just as England’s Lake District is full of lakes, so is Scotland. Driving north from Torpenhow to Oban, you pass plenty. After getting through the metropolis of Glasgow, the large Loch Lomond dominates. The cute village of Luss on the western shore makes a great lunch spot.

To our joy, the bluebells continued in Scotland. We pulled off somewhere (sorry, don’t remember the specifics!) to look at some more old stone circles and cairns and came across this delightful oasis.

Oban

Our destination was Oban, a small but bustling ferry and train town with a lovely seaside promenade. We used Oban as a launching point to do a day trip to the islands of Mull and Iona.

Below is one of my favourite pictures I took of our whole trip. I love the golden hour when the sun spotlights the earth before sinking into sleep.

Even in May, we learned that it’s important to reserve ferries ahead of time! I guess it must have been our lucky day because thankfully we reached Oban’s ferry terminal before it closed on the night we got in to see if we could book a trip to Mull and Iona the following day. There was one spot left on the ferry and it left at 7:30am. We’ll take it, we said!

And we’re so glad we did.

Mull

Mull is one of the Hebrides Islands and it was much bigger than we expected. We took our rental car across on the ferry so we could drive east to west at our own pace. Even though Mull is often overlooked as a “passing through” island on to the more well-known Iona, we could have stayed here for several days. It seemed like a beautiful and remote place to camp.

Mull boasts 480 km of coastline dotted with castles. It also has a whiskey distillery in the northern town of Tobermory—the largest settlement on the island with just over 1000 people. We didn’t make it that far north as we were headed west to catch the passenger ferry to Iona. Here are some examples of the rugged beauty we saw along the single-track road, which hugged the cliff a little too close to my liking at certain points.

Iona

On the far side of Mull is the small ferry town of Fionnphort that transports people to Iona, which you can see in the distance below. It’s only about a 10-minute ride and no cars allowed. Interestingly, we did see cars on Iona, so locals must be allowed to get on and off with cars but they thankfully don’t let tourists. It helps preserve the peacefulness of this otherworldly place. I couldn’t get over how vibrant the water looked with so many shades of blue.

The main attraction on Iona is the Abbey, which is still active today and a site for many Christian pilgrims. It’s not hard to see why people love travelling here (on the far right of the above pic).

Iona is famous as the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. In 563, Columba came over from Ireland and established this monastery. He is said to have written on top of this mound that I took the above picture from. The Book of Kells (or Book of Columba, an extravagantly illuminated Gospel manuscript) is believed to have been written by monks on this island. The book is now housed in Ireland.

We had a few hours roaming this island on foot but could have used more! After visiting the Abbey and having a lovely lunch in a garden, we walked to the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. How could you not be intrigued with a name like that? It’s called that because the next westward stop is North America. Pretty cool.

Ah, the picture of peace and privacy. So thankful the stars aligned to make this day trip happen because as you can see, we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day to do it!

Hadrian’s Wall and an Unfortunate Event

What’s a road trip in a foreign country without some misadventures?

Continuing on from Durham, we drove along Hadrian’s Wall on our first day with the car or boat as my husband often referred to it (we were given a very large car, not ideal for UK’s narrow roads).

Unfortunately, you can’t see the wall from the road so you have to stop at designated attractions, such as Housesteads Roman Fort. This is the best example of a preserved Roman fort in England though and definitely worth a stop. You can walk among ruins of a hospital, barracks, and even see flushable toilets though we missed those. Hadrian built this wall in 122 CE as the northernmost frontier of his empire to separate the Romans from the “barbarians.”

We got there with less than of hour of the fort closing. After a long day of learning to drive on the other side of the street and all your senses on overdrive (pardon the pun), our priority was running along the wall and taking shots with our bright red umbrella (with some occasional meandering through the fort). We had it all to ourselves and look at those pastoral views!

Our end destination that day was a tiny town (and I mean tiny) called Torpenhow that lay just north of the Lake District. We arrived late at night because we got the first of two flat tires on our 10-day road trip. We think the tires were lemons because what we hit would not normally deflate a car’s tires, but in any case, we managed to make it to a gas station and waited a few hours for roadside assistance to rescue us and patch the tire enough so we could get to our Airbnb 20 minutes away. Apparently UK cars don’t have spare tires like Canadian ones do. Who knew? The next day, we had to bring the car in to Carlisle to get the tire replaced, eating up what precious time we had left in this scenic part of northern England.

All that to say, when we got to this Ivy Cottage in the smallest town I have ever visited, we were very much ready to pack it in for the night after eating our gas station dinner of canned soup and beans.

Sunshine Coast Road Trip

A little late, but here are the rest of our Sunshine Coast pics from our trip in May. First part is here.

The Artist and I drove the Lower Sunshine Coast all the way to the last town, Egmont, stopping at most of the small towns along the way.

Here’s a brief look at our one-day road trip:

1. Roberts Creek

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2. Davis Bay

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3. Sechelt

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4. Halfmoon Bay

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5. Madeira Park

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7. Francis Point Provincial Park

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6. Pender Harbour & Garden Bay area (view from Pender Hill)

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This short but steep hike with incredible views was one of my favourite things we did.

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7. Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park (& Skookumchuck Rapids)

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The rapids were supposed to be “medium” height but this is about as good as they got.

And last but not least, a black bear we saw from the safety of our vehicle (phew!)

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