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.
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
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
Iona Abbey, one of Scotland's holiest - and remotest
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
See the links to each day
of the eleven day tour/trip diary at the top
right of this page.
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7 Jan 2011, last update
21 Jul 2020
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