A spot of island hopping Part 7: leaving South Uist for home16th October 2008
At the end of every good trip, there’s the bittersweet experience of the journey home, especially you like the wilder places as much as I do. Nevertheless, this was a journey that had its good points with the surroundings becoming ever more familiar as it continued. The first part of the journey involved a lengthy ferry crossing from Lochboisdale to Oban and I readily admit that I was looking forward to it because places that I have never visited before were to be passed along the way. After breaking my journey in Oban for the night, it was time for travelling on land again, a journey that I had undertaken many times before.
Saturday, August 16th:
Of course, good weather can make any enticing sea journey even more memorable but I wasn’t to be blessed with perfect weather. When I arose on the Saturday of my onward passage, the day was taking a more autumnal aspect with damp greyness being the recurring theme. There was a certain end of season feel too, not at all that inappropriate given that another of Scotland’s school years was to begin on the following Monday.
Drier interludes allowed me out and about for one final stroll in the stillness before the afternoon sailing. However, the dampness was to win over the dryness and cars assembled for the ferry with rain falling. I had by now ensconced myself in the ferry terminal’s waiting room and remained there until the Lord of the Isles made its appearance at the appointed time. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for foot passengers like me to get on board and I went to the cafeteria for a midday meal. A sailing taking around five hours meant that it was never to get overly busy but getting some food was good use of the time taken for all cars to be loaded onto the boat and the rain meant that being outside on the ship’s deck at this stage in the day wouldn’t have been the pleasure that it otherwise might have been.
Thankfully, heading due east meant that the rain was going to be left after us at some point. However, we were in the vicinity of Rum before you could reside on the top deck without your sanity being questioned; it was good timing. In fact, there were flashes of blue sky and Rum was allowed to catch some sun and tease any onlookers. Eigg and Much were gathered about the tantaliser while Skye’s Cuillin loomed in the distance beyond it. I did spy some indentations on the eastern horizon from South Uist and wondered if they belonged to Skye or to Rum; I am now inclined to think that it was the former that I had been seeing. Speaking of sightings on a horizon, Colonsay and Tiree may have lain to the south but there was little sign of them.
It was nearly the half way point of the crossing before the mainland made its appearance after my being away from it for the most of a week. Ardnamurchan’s lighthouse was approached and passed as we changed to a more southerly direction to enter the Sound of Mull. The appearance of Mull allowed for some spotting of familiar locations like Tobermory and Craignure while we left Ardnamurchan behind on reaching Morvern. This continuous sight of land did make time go by a lot faster than the earlier expanse of open sea. The sun remained hidden away so my camera was never going to be that useful and so I contented myself with savouring what was on offer. In any event, there’s more to life than being concerned with photographic opportunities every single second when merely taking in the sights is often sufficient.
South of Craignure, I was well into territory frequented on my crossings from Oban to Mull. Landmarks like Torosay Castle, Duart Castle, the island of Lismore, Loch Linnhe, Ben Cruachan and so on all served to remind me that landfall was not far away. Nevertheless, I think that it might have when we passed Kerrera that I went downstairs to collect my belongings. I was well organised by the time that we were to dock, even if remembering where I put the copy of my boarding card took some thinking (you start to wonder what will happen if you can’t can find it…). For sailings into (more) open water, Calmac need you to fill out a boarding card in addition to purchasing your ticket. For the crossing from Skye to Harris, one copy sufficed but two were needed for the South Uist-Argyll sailing; I suppose that it’s an extra check that no one has fallen overboard, not at all a great thought.
After my island hopping and all of the new places that I had explored, you could say that reaching Oban was like a partial homecoming, to what is familiar to me at least. The town caught the sun and a memorable sunset was gifted to those who were out and about. Before all this, I needed to get to the SYHA hostel where I would spend the night. Duly booked in and organised, I then popped out to take in the last of the evening, a perfect end to a good day.
Sunday, August 17th:
The next morning was glorious too and I had some time to enjoy it before catching the midday Citylink coach to Glasgow; familiarity was to reign supreme for the remainder of my travels. The sun did duck and dive behind the clouds but the countryside retained its inviting feel as the bus passed Kilchurn Castle and Loch Awe. A short sunny stop in Inverary allowed for a quick piece of camera action; I don’t believe that I have seen the town and its surroundings catching the sun before. The sun stayed out as we passed Arrochar and Loch Lomond on the way to Glasgow. A flying visit to George Square preceded my onward journey by train, an uneventful journey that is more typical of my experiences of railway travel, that landed me at home at not too unreasonable hour. It was a good end to a wonderful trip to places where I had not gone before and the best bit is that I am left with reasons to return, should the opportunity ever arise.