Jun 21, 2018 - Lord of the Glens
The rumble of the Lord of the Glens’ engine provided our wake-up call this morning. During breakfast, we sailed from Tobermory to Craignure, with sunshine lighting the way. A bus ride across the Isle of Mull, with its green slopes and rugged terrain, kicked off the day’s activities, with a lively, joke-filled commentary from our bus driver. Mull is one of the large islands of the Inner Hebrides, with a population of just over 3,000. On the far side of Mull, we left the bus to take a short ferry ride over to Iona.
The tiny island of Iona has been a sacred site since St. Columba established a monastery there in 563 A.D. From Iona, St. Columba and others spread Celtic Christianity across the Pictish lands, pagan country that we know now as Scotland. Today, the island holds the ruins of a nunnery and a restored Benedictine abbey that was established around 1200 A.D. by the sons of Somerled, the ‘King of the Isles.’ Adjacent to the abbey is the king’s graveyard, where Scottish, Irish, and Norwegian kings have been buried over the centuries, including Duncan, MacAlpine and MacBeth. We spent most of the day on the island, with lunch at St. Columba Hotel, giving us time to walk the peaceful grounds of the nunnery or explore outwards from the abbey. While walking the island, a few of the relatively rare (for Scotland) corncrakes were heard in the fields, with their odd call that sounds like the noise made by running a finger over a comb.
We left Iona at midafternoon, heading back by bus to Craignure and our ship, with a stop at Duart Castle along the way. This seat of Clan Maclean is a big block of a building set on the coastline, with stone walls rising from the rocky cliffs. Originally constructed in the mid-13th century, the castle fell to ruins after the first Jacobite uprisings of the 17th century, when the Macleans lost it. Restored in the early 1900s, the castle now functions as a residence and a museum, with exhibits and displays for visitors. We wandered up and down spiraling staircases and through the restored rooms, refurbished and decorated to recreate the atmosphere of an old clan castle, complete with “lobster” in the kitchen pots and a Spaniard in the dungeon.
Then it was back on the Lord of the Glens, with a beautiful crossing over to the mainland. The sun continued to shine, lighting up Duart Castle and a picturesque Stevenson lighthouse. The ship put in at Oban, a bustling town of around 20,000 people─quite a large-sized community compared to where we’ve been. We will berth here tonight and have time to explore this town in the morning.
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