My road to the Isles however starts with one of the UK’s great rail journeys from Glasgow, travelling up the west coast through the stunning scenery of Loch Lomond and Loch Long, passing the Arrochar Alps, and past such iconic names are Crianlarich and Tyndrum, Taynuilt and Loch Etive before arriving in the lovely seaside town of Oban. with a quick Coffee at The Corryvreckan before jumping on the CalMac Ferry to the Isle of Mull, then on to the magical Isle of IONA, where I intend to do some exploring, some quiet contemplation and stay in luxury at the fabulous Ardoran House and enjoy some of the world’s best seafood at the neighbouring Restaurant of the year.
Having lived on Mull for a number of years, I can vouch for the beauty of the crossing between Oban and Craignure on the isle of Mull. The locals will tell you that there should be a sign saying “reality ends here” and it is true that these wonderful islands run on a different timescale to the rest of the world, a quieter, slower more convivial timescale, where you can stop and admire and think.
I’m now off on one of the most beautiful wee roads in Scotland, past castles and lochs, Inverlussa mussel and oyster farm giving testament to the unpolluted clear waters of the sound of Mull. If you think this road is a challenge, then come back in October and watch the Isle of Mull Rally, where competitors travel at speeds of over 100mph on these little roads. Past the picturesque seaside hamlets like Lochdon and Loch Ba, underneath the towering Ben More, the only Munro in the Southern Hebrides to the village of Bunessan.
I stop at the busy Argyll Arms Hotel for a warming pub lunch in a great atmosphere, with most of the menu featuring local ingredients, and local ales on tap, then off the further 8 miles to the ferry port of Fionnphort (the wine port in Gaelic). A tiny wee place with awesome views of Iona, the rocks here are strangely rounded. This I find out is because Fionnphort and indeed Iona sit on some of the oldest geological formations in the northern hemisphere…..three Billion years old!
The Keel Row pub sits invitingly overlooking the route the little ferry takes to Iona, and a little distance away is Scotland’s best restaurant, Ninth Wave. I will be sure to visit them both before my trip is over.
The little ferry to Iona, is for passengers only. One of the joys of Iona is the lack of noisy cars and buses, only the locals can have a car and they are happy to come and move your bags for you! I decide to walk the short distance to Ardoran House. The sea is a vivid blue green lapping on white sands which gives the impression of the West Indies rather than the West Coast. I find out later that the same sand made of dissolved shells is found in both locations, as Iona sits in the Gulf Stream and it’s not unusual for coconuts to travel the 3000 miles from the Bahamas and wash up here!
As I reach Ardoran House, I realise that I am happily tired and after a wonderfully warm welcome, I just want to relax and put my feet up for a while. This is where booking Ardoran really makes you feel clever. Not only is my room luxurious and spacious, I soon find out that Ardoran has an outdoor hot tub, where I can sit and plan my exploration of the astonishing Medieval Iona Abbey, walk in the steps of St Columba and imagine Viking hordes arriving by galleon.
I will watch whales and dolphins in the bay and maybe even get a glimpse of the UK’s rarest bird the Corncrake, extinct elsewhere, but doing just nicely in the peace and tranquillity of this magical Isle.