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Scotland's Hebrides Islands, off its west coast, offer a wonderful range of different sights and experiences.

Our Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour takes you 8 islands (via 11 ferry crossings and a steam train ride), giving you a great time seeing much of the Inner and Outer Hebrides as well as time in the Highlands.

Here is one person's account of her experiences on our 2010 tour.

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Scotland's Islands & Highlands Tour Diary

Day 6 :  Mull, Iona and Staff

The distinctive sheer cliffs of Staffa, with Fingals Cave just to the right of center

Two more islands today - a five minute ferry ride to Iona, then a longer boat ride to Staffa and Fingals Cave.

Part of an 11 day/page trip diary - click the links on the right hand side for the other days in this diary.



Jeanette and her husband Ken were on our 2010 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour, and Jeanette kept a detailed day by day diary of the tour.

She has very graciously allowed it to be re-published here, so as to allow you an unvarnished view into what the tour was all about.

The text is hers, which I've respected and not changed apart from a few subheadings and extra paragraph breaks and some Americanizations of her English spelling (they are from New Zealand).

I've sourced the pictures and their captions are also from me, not Jeanette.

You can follow along with her narration by tracking the tour on this tour itinerary page and the linked Google maps.

I hope this will encourage you to come on our 2011 Scotland's Islands and Highlands Tour.

Day 6 – Saturday June 19th 2010 – Isle of Mull and Isle of Iona

Google Touring Map for the Day

When the alarm woke us at 6:30am, I reluctantly got up so we could both shower and be ready to go down for breakfast at 8am. We had a nice breakfast of muesli and summer berries followed by smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. By 8:30am we had to walk the short distance to the coach while David organised a minivan to bring the people from the Park Lodge down the hill to the foreshore where the bus was parked. We then drove for 1.5 hours to Fionnphort on the western end of the island, mainly on single track roads with frequent passing bays (even though it was an A road). We crossed a number of cattle stops too. It was very picturesque along the coast then into the hills. We had to slow down for sheep on the road and even had to stop for one lamb who was enjoying a siesta on the road. Ieva managed to get a great photo of a highland cow near the water on Loch Scridain.

We arrived at the port about 10:10am and could see the Isle of Iona across the narrow channel. We did not have long to wait for the small ferry and crossed as passengers as the coach was not allowed on the island. We had about 40 minutes to explore the island. There are only about 120 people living on Iona which is small - 3miles by 1.5 miles, but it is considered to be one of Scotland's holiest places.

Iona Abbey, one of Scotland's holiest - and remotest - places.

It was settled in 1563 by St Columba who came from Ireland where he built the Iona Abbey. The Book Of Kells is believed to have been written by the Columban Monks on Iona, who took it to Kells in Ireland when they were chased off Iona by the Vikings in the late 8th century. The monks later returned to Iona but were evicted again in 1560 due to Henry VIII's reformation. All the Scottish Kings from the 9th to the 11th century are buried in the cemetery adjacent to the Abbey.

There was a very nice gift shop where we bought 3 books - “150 Famous Scots”, “Kings and Queens of Scotland” and “Scotland” (total 15.47). We walked to the ruins of the nunnery then on to the still standing Abbey. We did not have time to go inside so we walked back past the organic gardens owned by the island's 2 hotels.

At about 11:45am a much smaller boat pulled up to the wharf and we got on for the short ride back to Fionnphort to pick up more passengers for the 40 minute journey out to Staffa Island. The wind was rather strong from the North so it was extremely cold. The boat passed through a narrow passage between some nearby islands then we hit the swell and headed out to sea. Hugh waves crashed over the bow but people sitting on the open stern deck did not get very wet, just some light spray. The shape of Staffa Island is quite remarkable and especially interesting as the boat gets closer. It is really just a very large rock composed of 3 different layers of rock structure with the middle layer consisting of vertical columns.

We climbed up the steep steps onto the grassy top to get photos from above then went down to the water's edge to walked around the cliff across the hexagonal rocks to Fingal's Cave. The pathway went partway into this very interesting deep cave. I enjoyed looking into a tidal pool near the water's edge for a while while we had a drink of water and some nuts. It was a lovely sunny day and very warm when we were out of the wind.

Our launch which took us to Staffa and Fingals Cave.

The journey back at 1:55pm was very smooth as the wind was behind us and we surfed along with the waves. Before we left the lee of the island the captain took us slightly north to see a large number of puffins on the water. They had not yet started to build their nests so they were just resting on the water. He got the boat quite close to them without disturbing them. I enjoyed watching an island way out to sea on the western side called “Dutchman's Cap” as it really was well named. We had a great view of Ben More from the sea, a high mountain/munro, standing out against the blue sky. We were pleasantly entertained by lots of gannets, diving for fish from a great height.

15 of us did the trip to Staffa accompanied by Jay (our driver) while David looked after the rest on Iona to get them back to Fionnphort by 3pm. We were all on the bus and away by 3pm and arrived back at Tobermory by 4:30pm. The front seat was free and as no-one else wanted to sit there I took advantage of the opportunity to get a superb view of the scenic journey home.

We returned to our room to drop our day pack then walked over to the harbour visitors centre again. I loved watching the crabs that were in a huge glass tank in the shop. They were such fun to watch climbing all over each other and occasionally fighting. Ken bought 3 packs of picture playing cards - “Scotland”, “Trees”, and “Birds of Prey” (3.99 each). We took them back to the hotel, changed into warmer clothes then walked to the ferry end to see if we could get a table at the Fish Cafe but the notice said “Full Tonight”. We retraced our steps and stopped at the Posh Nosh cafe for dinner at 6:15pm. I had a very nice seafood platter with local crab, prawns, smoked mussels, smoked salmon, scallops, peas, carrots and a salad. It was a nice light meal. Ken had haddock and chips with salad. We both enjoyed a very nice hot chocolate topped with cream. (22.00).

We walked back along the waterfront to our hotel watching the boats on the incoming tide, slowly get water under their hulls and start to float again. We had showers tonight as we have an early morning departure tomorrow again. We watched Denmark play Cameroons in the World Cup Soccer tournament, which was a better game to watch than last nights England game. The noise in the stands was nearly unbearable like a million bees buzzing. Lights out by 10:30pm.

Read more in the rest of Jeanette's Diary

See the links to each day of the eleven day tour/trip diary at the top right of this page.


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Originally published 7 Jan 2011, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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