Well, it wouldn’t be an adventure holiday if there weren’t surprises. Today was one of those days where nothing I’d planned came to the fore. It seems the universe had other plans for me and I am glad I was rerouted. I was supposed to be on Iona today but there were high gale winds and all ferries were canceled. I must pause here to say that the coach (bus) drivers here on Mull must be magicians in their spare time. They navigate these tiny roads in these huge vehicles with style and humour. Literally, the bus takes up the whole road so they often have to reverse to let other cars through. Ditches to one side and old rock walls to the other, I felt safe during all these risky maneuvers and a little awe-struck. I would have asked for his autograph if I’d thought of it then.
Luckily, my hostel roommate (Catherine from Tasmania) left on the same bus as I did from Tobermory and before I knew about the changes, we made plans to go visit Torosay Castle and Gardens in Craignure. This is a beautiful Victorian family “home” with 12 acres of manicured gardens surrounding the castle. What continuously strikes me each time I come to Europe is their attention to beauty. I am taken by the old stone buildings with window boxes brimming with colourful annuals everywhere I go. Here, it seems, flowers are not superfluous; they are a way to feed the spirit with inspiration. People in the smallest dwellings take care of their gardens and take pride in them. I am among people who have a similar aesthetic to my own. Those of you who have lived with me know I like to keep fresh flowers somewhere in the house pretty continuously.
Catherine and I took this hilarious little train (think Stanley Park train Vancouverites) to the castle. It was pretty funny to see all these adults stuffed two by two into these little carriages. The trip took us slowly along the seashore and we got to see a lot of native plants and trees. Catherine is a zoologist in training and she told me that there are wild orchids that grow here on the islands so I hope I catch them on Iona this next week. We got absolutely soaked on our trip. These high winds mixed with rain means that even if you are in full rain gear, a part of you is bound to get wet. Was pretty invigorating. I like a good storm and have been known to walk the beaches on blustery days in Vancouver. When we got to the castle, we immediately went into the tearoom for a cup of tea and homemade lentil soup, which was delicious. Catherine took some pictures of me on this really neat old tree that looked like a walnut tree of some kind. It had a fairy feel to it and I am sure the little folk party there at night when all the humans go home. Catherine and I would have stayed longer but it didn’t look like the weather was going to hold so we made our way back on the put-put train.
The original plan was that I was going to leave to Iona on the 5 pm bus but when we returned, I found out the ferries had been canceled. Luckily, Catherine had booked a tent right by the ocean at the Shieling and there was an extra bed in her tent so it was mine for the night! Inside, there is a brick floor, two cots, and a cooking stove. We are set. The washroom facilities are immaculate and the owners are lovely. Their redheaded, blue-eyed, two year old grandson pretty muchknows how to use the Mastercard machine and rang in my costs with the help of his gran. I am amazed! He even gave me my receipt while looking me in the eye. Wow. He could train some service folks I’ve met, that’s for sure!
I have included some pictures of Catherine cooking so you can see what this basic and lovely accommodation is like. There are gale force winds at the moment so our whole tent is shaking and leaves are blowing in from underneath all over Catherine’s bed but we are dry and warm. I will fill you in on how the night went tomorrow when I get to Iona. If, of course, these winds decide to die down and I don’t blow away in the night. Here’s a picture of me wearing my “body” bag and all my gear taken graciously by Catherine to spare you from an overload of my head shots.