The Wow Factor ... Mull and Beyond.
Peace and tranquility on the island of Ulva with the mountains of Mull in the background.
Travelling the length and breadth of Scotland you will encounter the wow factor often. You will rarely be disappointed. I find that the West Coast of Scotland and especially the islands are rich sources of stunning scenery.
Puffins definitely have the wow factor. On Lunga Island which is one of the Treshnish Islands.
On our recent tour of Mull Iona Staffa and Lunga (one of the Tresnish Islands) we were constantly exposed to scenery which blew us away. In fact you can never get too much. You will be surprised again and again to the point that the beautiful Highlands of Scotland look a bit ordinary after spending time on and around the sea as you make your way to amazing destinations.
A boat carrying tourists enters the mouth of Fingal's Cave on the island of Staffa.
It is proximity to the sea whether on ferries or small boats and on magnificent beaches that makes the West Coast so special. Blues of all hues. Sea-life waiting to be seen. Winds and breezes. Absolute calm and reflections. The absence of any significant numbers of people. All of this add up to a feeling of great privileged as you explore the Island landscapes.
Iona Abbey and the wonderful sea.
And the shock! A great Golden Eagle swooped down in front of the car, touched down momentarily and took off again. It was pursued by four or five hooded crows which were hell bent on giving it “a doing”. I thought that I would run into the eagle however it was quick enough to get out of our way followed by the mob.
Janette, Irene and Laura have a break on Lunga before sailing back to Tobermory.
The amazement at seeing close up hundreds of Puffins coming and going on Lunga and occupying rabbits burrows for nesting purposes. They appear to be curious birds having a good look at humans and in some instances coming towards you to have a closer look.
Tobermory from the harbour.
Tobermory is the main and only real town on Mull. It's connections with Balamory aren't lost on anyone who has watched the popular children's TV programme. The brightly painted houses of many different colours make for a cheery and interesting place. It has many interesting shops and really special Bakery which makes up the most delicious sandwiches in a variety of rolls. The cakes are wonderful too.
This is Tobermory, the cat who is famous for being famous! He sleeps in the Youth Hostel and is fed by the staff at the Bakery in Main Street.
There are small Hotels, Bed and Breakfasts and a Scottish Youth Hostel for accommodation. Book any accommodation in advance to be sure of a bed! The Hostel has been for sale for two years but continues to provide accommodation until its future is determined.
The beach at Calgarry is a fabulous place to paddle and rest in the sun.
We have just spent a memorable four days in Mull, based on Tobermory and I believe it has just become my favourite island. Thank you Irene, Laura and Janette for your company and for sharing a few days of happiness together.
Crawick Multiverse near Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway.
And wow we saw an unco sight!!!
A vast fifty acre opencast coal mining site has been developed by Charles Jencks at Crawick. There was a launch event which with the entertainment laid on was reminiscent of the Glasgow Garden Festival. Bands and drama. All the stone on site has been found on site. The Herald ran a competition for tickets and Annie and I were able to go. Here are some pictures.
The land was left like this following coal extraction.
We look forward to visiting Crawick with the Glasgow Garden Walks Group.
A Place of Peace and Beauty. The Western Isles 2015.
The Butt of Lewis on a dreich day in June.
A party of eleven spent a week in the Western Isles from Monday 1st. to Sunday 7th June. We were, in the main, members of the Glasgow Garden Walks Group. From time to time we become a “Gardens and Landscapes” group which permits us to roam the land.
Our lovely Black House in Gearrannan on the right.
The start of the week was less promising as it was dull and drizzle dominated the day. The forecast was grim and we expected a rough sea crossing from Ullapool to Stornoway on Lewis. Fortunately the stormy weather stayed in the central west coast area of Scotland so we had an easy journey.
The peat fire in the Black House at Arnol. The tradition was that the fire is never allowed to go out.
We headed straight for Gearrannan on arrival and shock horror we were locked out of our Black House. This was soon remedied and were able to enjoy social time together in the peace and calm of our own wee black house.
Here we are ... happy as can be.
Our first full day was spent visiting the Butt of Lewis, finding a lovely new tea room and communing with the standing stones of Callinish. The stones have been in place for five thousand years however they are millions of years old so a hug and a quiet time drinking in their energy was time well spent.
Callinish where the stones have stood for about 5000 years. Their true height was only revealed after the removal of a metre of peat which had accumulated over the years.
To round off the day we visited a wonderful garden in Upper Carloway just ten minutes away from Gearrannan. We were all amazed at the garden packed full of interesting plants. Only by planting regular shelter belts in the garden was it possible to grow such a wide selection of plants which were in the main flourishing. Polythene tunnels were used for germinating seed and fruit and vegetables.
Rowena Oakley ably assisted by her dog gave us a first class tour and imparted lots of useful information. They don't get many visitors and would like more. There are plants for sale and our group took a few home to Glasgow. When you are in Lewis do go and visit. You will be welcomed with open arms.
Vegetables fruit and exotic plants such as ginger are possible in the poly tunnel.
This colourful bumble bee was grateful for the flowers of ...... (name to be added).
Euphorbia .... (name to be added) made a dramatic impact on a recently developed part of the garden.
Is there one along soon? Photograph by kind permission of Joe Glynn.
The warm evening sun was ideal for a photograph of Gearrannan village and when we were back home it was published in the Herald. It is at the top of this page.
An early start made it possible to drive through Harris and catch the 11.40 am ferry. This was necessary because of low tide making it impossible to cross to Bernery in the afternoon. The Black Houses on Bernery are still very basic but adequate for a one night stay. It was party time and we joined Alice in a celebration of her birthday. She was serenaded by a young man from Yorkshire who liked Beatles numbers which he coaxed out of a guitar.
What a swell party it was!
Nest day we travelled through North Uist stopping in a field of three telescopes trained on an Eagles eyrie. By being patient and focusing on the image we were able to view a Golden Eagle feeding a rather big chick. Wow! We then travelled south to the North Uist Smoke house to sample the peat smoked salmon and the peat smoked scallops.
Sailing from Harris to Bernery.
Our next hostel was Howmore which was so full by nightfall that two people were in a tent, two people slept on the dining area floor and one person slept in the shed! The latter was so glad to get in out of the rain he was grateful for the shed. Using our strategy of early arrival at hostels which cannot be booked we were all in comfortable coy beds. Whew, help ma bob! The Corncraik was making its rasping call in the field beside the hostel and it was a joy to listen to it.
Howmore Hostel on South Uist. The kitchen has been improved. It is twice it's previous space and all stainless steel throughout. Excellent!
The remains of two ancient Chapels sit close to Howmore and common land sometimes used for grazing cattle is sometimes used by campers.
On Friday morning it was wet. A constant drizzle persuaded the group to spend time in the Kildonan Museum on South Uist which is one of the most fascinating places. It was a bonus visit and the Wool Shop on site was perfect for the ladies.
Eriskay looks barren from the ferry. A tough place for the Eriskay Pony.
A quick run south took us to Eriskay and the ferry to Barra. Eriskay looks like a tough place to breed a beautiful grey highland pony. It is little wonder that the tough, sturdy animal is ideal for bringing deer down from the mountains after shoots. It is popular for this job all over the Highlands.
Loganair provide the service from Glasgow to Barra famously landing on a cockleshell beach with three runways at Barra's unique airport.
Crossing from Eriskay to Barra is always, for me, full of anticipation. We are approaching the beautiful Barra with its beach runways, comfortable Dunard hostel and the road to Vatersay with more beautiful beaches. We relax for two days before the sail back to Oban and a hop skip and jump home to Glasgow.
One of the wonderful beaches on Vatersay. It may have been cold but that did not stop Janette leading the charge to paddle!
The group would love you to experience the Western Isles and wish you good luck on your journey.