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The islands of Mull, Staffa and Iona
Text and photos: Eckart Winkler, Bad Nauheim, http://www.eckart-winkler.de
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Day trip from Oban: By ferry to the island of Mull, by bus across the island, then by boat to the islands of Staffa and Iona, back by boat and bus to Oban

Travel data
Date of the journeyJuli 1994
Duration1 day
Report online since02.11.2019

The worst day of the trip. It is raining, it is foggy and hazy. And we had just booked for today our day trip to the islands Mull, Staffa and Iona. It is a combination of boat and bus tour. The islands belong to the Inner Hebrides, and the tour is set to begin in the harbor of the small town of Oban on the Scottish west coast.
The port of Oban
We leave the port of Oban.

The day starts hectic, and we almost miss our ferry. At point 10 is departure, and not two minutes before we have finally boarded the ship. It is a large car ferry that is used by both tourists and islanders. Because it is the only connection to the island and runs every day, at least in summer.

Barely ten minutes from Oban, we are already covered in thick fog. You see the ferry, you see water, you see fog. Then nothing.

At some point on the left the island of Mull appears, only dimly recognizable. We arrive in Craignure, the destination port on Mull, get off and are picked up by the driver of the agency. He leads us to a minibus, and off we go to the northwest.

We go on the only 11 miles of country road, which are built two lanes. The remaining over 300 miles on the island are one-lane with the known holding bays.

Two lanes so it goes to Salen, one lane to the port above Loch na Keal, opposite the island of Ulva. Harbor is certainly said too much, it is a pier. And only one ship is there, namely ours. Exactly the moment we get out of the car, a debris starts, which drenched us pretty much on the short way to the ship.
The basalt formations on the island Staffa can be well recognized.

The ship is tiny compared to the car ferry, and this one goes to the island Staffa with their basalt formations and the very interesting "Fingal's Cave". Due to the bad weather and the storm, it rocks quite badly, and it gets pretty bad for a Swiss fellow traveler.

We reach Staffa, the sea has not yet calmed down. The rain patters and the ship rocks. The basalt formations are really impressive. Unfortunately, the Captain can not land on Staffa, the sea is too heavy. We circle the island several times, the Swiss does not come down from the toilet, hopefully his wife takes good pictures.

Every single basalt formation is shown to us, also we are not doing so well because of the swing. After a seemingly endless time, the captain sets course for Iona, the next stop. After we could not walk around in the famous Fingal's Cave on Staffa, as it was promised, we now hope to visit all the sights on this island.

But the sea does not calm down for a long time, on the contrary, it seems to rock more and more. Only by the speed of the boat it is still bearable, so it swings less.
The nunnery is only preserved as a ruin.

The island of Iona has long been visible on the horizon, but somehow it does not come closer. Shortly before the dock, the captain throttles the machines to slowly approach the landing stage. Of course, the big swing starts again.

And now it starts with me. I can only run to the bathroom. Luckily, the Swiss has just taken a break. Quickly I get rid of all those stomach contents that had so heavily burdened me all the time.

Unfortunately, I will not get along with the flushing system. A whole series of different levers and pumps must be operated there, in order to clear ship again in the bowl. Well, I'll let the Captain know, and he says with a mischievous smile, he'll do it. He probably amuses himself inwardly about us landlubbers.

With further rain, we leave the ship and have now three hours on Iona, since the Staffa shore leave had fallen victim to the adverse circumstances. With the first step on land we are doing well again.

From Iona the Christianization of Scotland went through the Holy Columba, who, coming from Ireland, had landed here. Accordingly, there are some Christian buildings to visit.

First, there is the nunnery, but only as a ruin available. There we meet our Swiss again. He still does not seem to feel any better. There is only a tiny covered area, so you can not stay here long.
Abbey on Iona
The most significant building on Iona is the abbey.

Worthwhile is under better weather conditions certainly the Dun-I, with 101 m highest elevation of the island. We can not get through to an ascent.

Last salvation is the abbey. Probably a dry place. The rain is very heavy again, we sprint back. Now they take 3 euros, but what do you do not do everything for a roof over your head? Inside, we can at least take off our wet jackets and put on the cold heating.

We sit here for an hour and a half and read everything about the abbey, about Iona and Staffa and about Saint Columba.

We have to catch the ferry to Mull at 5:15 pm, so we start back at about 4:30 pm. Too bad that the stay here was so rainy. Iona is really a pretty island with almost no traffic. 100 people live here officially, and Iona is wonderful for long walks. Especially if you are not afraid of the rain.
Duart Castle
In this weather Duart Castle is hardly recognizable.

The ferry to the island of Mull is relatively punctual. We are looking for a comfortable place, the ride takes only a few minutes. On the other side, a car is already waiting. Some had already taken the ferry before and now they are already in it.

The return journey to Craignure is wildly romantic. On the entire island of Mull it has apparently rained the whole day, and so everywhere the torrents come down from the mountains. Waterfalls where it is otherwise dry. A great sight. And the mountains are sometimes quite high. The highest, the Ben More, at least 966 meters. The roads, of course, still single track.

It's raining more, sometimes less, while driving, but when it comes to disembarking in Craignure, it gets more violent. The ferry to Oban also comes after a short time. On the way back the visibility is a bit better than on the outward journey. After all, we can catch a glimpse of Duart Castle on the easternmost point of the island of Mull. At 7.45pm we are back in Oban.


If you have such bad luck with the weather as we do, of course, no excursion remains particularly well remembered. The island of Mull we experienced through the fogged windows of a minibus, Staffa with violent swing and persistent nausea from the boat and without visiting the largest attraction, the Fingal's Cave. And our time spent on Iona almost exclusively in the abbey because it was dry.

Nevertheless, the program of this excursion is not always wrong (with 32 euros but not exactly cheap). Nevertheless, next time we would probably spend more days on the island of Mull, preferably with the rental car. Then you are more flexible and have better chances to react to the bad weather.


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