The trip May 9 - 10, 2017
Oban is the third largest town in Argyll & Bute, Scotland. Sightly trailing in size behind my hometown of Dunoon. It is a tourist hotspot, and is known for the surrounding beauty, as well as the locally produced whiskey and seafood.
On Monday morning, I left my house, heading for Glasgow. I had a little bit of a layover in Glasgow before the train to Oban, so I did some walking around and even got a nice lunch to enjoy in George Square.
It was my birthday on the 9th of May, and rather than spend it at home, I decided that I wanted to go somewhere. I’ve always wanted to travel by myself, but going on that first trip is hard.
After reaching Oban, I spent some time exploring the town and getting dinner before heading to bed. I had to get up early the next morning as the tour left at 7am! A bit too early for me, but it was the only way I could do it and make it back home in the same day.
But... I had 2 days off work, and the weather forecast was sunny clear skies! Now would be the perfect time to try out solo travelling. So I went for it. I checked my bucket list, saw ‘The Isle of Staffa’, and decided I would go there! Oban is nicknamed the ‘Gateway to the Isles’, and this was why I was visiting. I had read about Staffa a few months earlier, and was dying to visit. The plan was to visit Oban and go on a days tour to Staffa, which would also stop on the Isle of Iona. I’d been to Oban once before for a college event, but I never got to see much. I’ve always heard people talk about the place, and I was excited to see how it compared to Dunoon! The trip was very last minute. I had the idea to go on Sunday night around 7pm, had everything planned and booked by 10pm, and I was out the door 12 hours later. I was trying to embrace my inner Scottishness. I wanted to see castles, pet a Highland Cow, eat Haggis, ride through the highlands, and drink Irn-Bru all trip long!
The tour took us across the Isle of Mull, and then we got on a small boat to Staffa. We spent an hour on the Island, before heading down to Iona for another couple of hours. After that, we would head back to Oban, and I would catch the train back to Glasgow, eventually arriving home around at around midnight. It was a long day, but a memorable one!
• 340 Miles • 2 Days • 1 Hotel
• 4 trains (8 hours) • 6 ferries (4 hours) • 2 buses (3 hours)
THE JOURNEY Dunoon > Glasgow > Oban
The journey from Dunoon to Oban was a long one! First I had to walk down to the ferry, get the ferry to Gourock, then the train to Glasgow Central, then walk to Glasgow Queen Street, and then finally get the train to Oban. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day! The ferry crossing was smooth, and brought great views of the River Clyde and surrounding areas.
I opted for the train over the bus as I love trains, and buses make me feel a little ill. I thought it would be a scenic journey, but i underestimated just how nice it would be. The entire route was filled with views of mountains, lochs, and castles. My favorite part was going along Loch Long, as the track was elevated and it brought amazing views, as you can see in the bottom right picture!
The Gateway to the Isles After arriving and checking into my hotel, I decided to walk around the town for a while, and then go up to McCaigâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tower. McCaigâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Tower was built in 1987 by a local banker who wanted to both create a monument for his family, and give local stonesmen some work. It looks like a Roman Colosseum, which certainly stands out in this part of Scotland!
Getting up there was tough. Although not a long walk, the roads up were very steep. The view from the top was a worthy reward though. On the way back down I stopped at a chippy to try some haggis for the first time (ew) and prepare for tomorrow. I would get up at 6am to get the 7am ferry to the Isle of Mull, then catch a bus to the other side of Mull, connecting with the ferry to Staffa.
Oban to Craignure Ferry
Craignure to Fionnphort Bus, The Isle of Mull
The Isle of Staffa Scotlands Geological Marvel
Staffa is only half a mile long, but it’s got a lot to see! The unique rock faces were formed millions of years ago during volcanic eruptions, and years of strong waves have added to this, forming the famous Fingals Cave. The island was named by the Vikings, who believed the vertical rocks looked like the pillars they used to hold up their houses. Staffa means ‘Pillar Island’.
The Hexagon shaped stones are similar to the ones at the Giants Causeway. Legend has it, there was a giant at each location throwing rocks at each other, and the crashes caused these shapes! Once we were on the island, we had around 2 hours to explore. Some people sat waiting for Puffins to appear, but I spent the time walking around and looking at Fingals Cave.
The Isle of Staffa
The Isle of iona
The Isle of Iona The Cradle of Scottish Christianity
The Isle Iona is only three miles long by one mile wide, and has a population of around 120. Despite this, it has had a huge impact on Scotland. In 563, St. Columbus, an Irish Monk, arrived on Iona with a handful of followers. They built the Iona Abbey, and turned Iona into a place of pilgrimage. St. Columbus would go on to spread Christianity to most of Pagan Scotland and Northern England. To this day Iona continues to be a place of huge importance in Christianity. There is also a dark side to the island. In 806, the Vikings began to arrive, and many of the Monks were brutally slaughtered, with their work being destroyed. One of Iona’s beaches is called ‘The White Strand of the Monks’, and is supposedly the location of one of these slaughters. My time on Iona was very relaxing. I had a walk over to the White Strand of the Monks, and enjoyed the beach for a while. Iona has a few beautiful, very sandy beaches! I then walked back and went into the Abbey. I’m not a very religious person, but it was still interesting to see inside the building. My favorite part was the black Cat I saw outside the Abbey, which proceeded to hiss at me. Not a good sign. But the devil Cat was super cute and very fluffy! What I found more interesting was the group of locals hanging out next to the Abbey, a few Highland Cows and Sheep! The photo to the left was taken just beside the Abbey, and is probably the best photo I’ll ever take. After the Abbey, I walked into the ‘town’ and had my birthday dinner. Fish and Chips, with some ice cream at the end! After that, it was time to start the journey back to Dunoon and end the trip. The whole trip was a great experience, and I had a great time! I learned a lot about the area I live in, and got to see some nearby pleaces which I’ve only ever heard people talk about. People travel from all over the world to see the Scottish Highlands, and it is easy to see why. This was my first time travelling solo, but it won’t be the last. It was only a wee trip to a nearby town, but it inspired me to get out and see the world!
The Iona Abbey
The Iona Devil Cat
With my people!
Iona Gallery and Pottery
Oban to Glasgow train, heading home!
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand timesâ&#x20AC;? - Asian Proverb
Oban • Staffa • Iona