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Posts Tagged ‘Iona’

White sand beach on Iona

On day 2 of the tour (the first of two full days on Mull) we travelled around the south of the island during the morning and at lunchtime crossed over to Iona. The weather had improved, by mid-morning the sun was shining, and it only got better from then on.

Most of the morning was spent on the mini-coach (again). We must have stopped somewhere for mid-morning coffee but I don’t recall where. Certainly the drive was spectacular and beautiful but it was also long. Looking at maps now, I see that from Tobermory in the NE of Mull to Fionnphort Terminal in the SW of the island is 56 miles, and it was mainly along single-track roads. I think it was almost two hours to Fionnphort.

Once there, things picked up. We had a short break while we waited for the small ferry over to Iona. That journey takes maybe 10 minutes or so – certainly very quick – and by not long after midday we were on Iona. The visit there turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole tour.

We decided to look for lunch at a cafe we’d been told about “beyond Iona Nunnery”, so off we went. First we found the nunnery. It’s a ruin, but well-preserved, and you can walk around its grounds. On the day we were there, with the sun shining and just a low wind, it was very peaceful, quiet and pleasant, though I’ll guess that in other conditions it would be different. Just beyond the nunnery we found the cafe, the Heritage Garden Cafe, but before lunch we went a few steps further to the Iona Heritage Centre. This is a small museum – just one room, I think – and quite traditional, with cases containing old press clippings about events on Iona from many years ago, plus artefacts and objects. I think we were the only people there.┬áThen it was back to the cafe next door for lunch. We ate it outside in the garden, enjoying the sun.

The big attraction on Iona is the Abbey, but we’d already decided that we weren’t very interested in it (heresy, I know). We’d heard about some beaches at the northern end of Iona – white sand, we were told – so we set off along the road towards them. We were a little disconcerted when we were nearly run over – the point being that there are practically no cars or other vehicles on Iona and only half-a-mile of road! There’s no vehicle access either – the regular ferry is foot passengers only. So we had got used (along with everyone else on the island) to walking down the middle of the road, when this Range Rover hove into view and we had to move smartly to get out of its way. Then five minutes later it came back and we had to repeat the trick….

We walked all the way to the end of the road where it became first a track and then a footpath leading us across short-cropped turf. Then over a short rise and we were onto the sand. At first the actual beach was hidden by dunes and hillocks, but we walked on and eventually it was revealed. I think it’s one of the best beaches I’ve ever seen – fine, white sand, with dramatic black rock outcrops, and amazing views across to Mull. In the foreground was another small island, Eileen Annraidh (Storm Island), which also seemed to have a dramatic white beach. As far as looks go it could have been the Caribbean, I thought. We spent about an hour on the beach; Val sat and read while I wandered around and took pictures.

Eventually it was time to leave, so we walked back. By this time it was getting cooler and the wind had got up, so it was good to find an indoors cafe by the jetty with picture windows and good views back to Mull and the ferry. Also helpful was the fact that we could watch for the ferry from there! Then it was back onto Mull and the long drive to Tobermory.

That evening we had a meal down by the harbour at the Tobermory Hotel. I’m pretty certain that we had fish, and it was good, albeit there was a bit of comedy. The waiter didn’t seem to be altogether with it; for example, when I asked for the bill he queried “for this table?…” Err, yes, I thought – I’m not paying for everyone in the restaurant! Then it was time for the walk along the harbour before the struggle up the hill to the B&B. We made it eventually.

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