After seeing a cracking deal on a return bus fare from Glasgow to Oban for £5 (thanks CityLink!) a quick call to my brother-in-law Mike saw us planning a quick overnighter on the Isle of Mull before winter really sets in. I packed my 40 litre rucksack on the Sunday night in preparation for an early start the next day.
The pre dawn sky was clear and starry as Mike and I walked down to the train station with a spring in our step. The 7.00 am train from Saltcoats to Glasgow was quite busy with commuters but we managed to stow our gear and get seats together. As our journey progressed, the sun neared the horizon and streaked the clouds with a peachy pink glow – this was going to be a cracker of a day!
After departing Glasgow Central, we quickly walked up to Buchanan Bus Station and took our place at the bus stance. There were around 10 other passengers and most were travelling light – apart from a couple of German backpackers – and we were all keen to get going. We left on time and settled back to enjoy the views en route to Oban – a misty Loch Lomond and Loch Long looking like a mirror – before a quick stop in Inveraray to stretch our legs and take a quick photo or two.
Loch Fyne from Inveraray
Then it was back on the bus for some sandwiches while climbing over the Rest and Be Thankful and soon Loch Awe came into view with the ruins of Kilchurn Castle looking spectacular beneath a blue sky and reflected in the loch waters which were as flat and calm as a mill pond. Magic. The weather was just perfect and both Mike and I couldn’t keep from grinning and chatting like excited schoolboys – could we really be so lucky as to have this unexpected trip in October? Yes, it seemed like the Gods were indeed smiling on us.
Very soon we were heading down the hill into Oban and could see the ferry already waiting at the terminal. We got off the bus, grabbed our rucksacks and quickly headed to buy our tickets with no time to spare. We set sail a few minutes later and we found our way to the upper deck to enjoy the views. I’ve always loved Oban because it’s a lovely town with a great outlook over to the islands and it looks equally as great from the perspective of returning from the islands so its a win/win situation.
It was a busy boat but we managed to grab a seat outdoors and admired the view over to the island of Kerrera while enjoying a bottle of ‘Galleon Gold‘ which is a locally brewed blonde ale. We’d tried it once or twice (!) last time we visited Mull and were looking forward to sampling it again – although we both decided it had lost some of it’s unique flavour that we’d remembered because it had been chilled in the bar’s fridge for too long. However, that didn’t stop us from quaffing it down while taking a few photos of Duart Castle.
Duart Castle, Isle of Mull
All too soon, the ferry was docking at the terminal in Craignure and we made sure that we were among the first to walk down the gangway to the bus stances. We got on the bus bound for Tobermory (or Balamory if you are pre-pubescent) to find that it wasn’t quite as busy as we thought – maybe most of our fellow ferry passengers were heading round to Fionnphort to get the ferry over to the small island of Iona.
By the time we arrived in Tobermory the weather was fairly overcast with patches of blue here and there but we were confident that it would brighten up as the afternoon went on. We enjoyed a tasty and filling lunch in MacGochans bar and restaurant and, of course, had to sample a pint of locally brewed ale. This time it was ‘The Red Monk of Iona‘ and it was on tap – result! It was an amber ale that was unremarkable but pleasant enough to drink – especially in the beer garden while waiting for the bus and the sun to come back out
Mike enjoys a pint at Macgochans Pub, Tobermory
With our bellies full and our thirst slaked we sat on the bus and watched out for our stop. Everyone else on the bus was going back to Craignure but Mike and I were getting off at the head of Glen Forsa and walking the 5 miles or so to the magical place that would serve as our dwelling for the night – Tomsleibhe Bothy. We saw the sign for the Glen Forsa Hotel up ahead and asked the bus driver to drop us off. Even though there is no designated bus stop that I could see, island bus drivers are usually accommodating to such requests and ours obliged and even got out to hand our rucksacks over to us!
The late afternoon sun was now shining brightly and the clouds were receding as we adjusted our packs and started off down the estate road with the wonderful sight of Beinn Talaidh’s peak before us in the distance. Oh, and did I mention that we both still had wide grins on our faces?
Heading along Glen Forsa
More to follow in Part 2…