If I have one regret from my time in Scotland, it’s that I wasn’t able to spend nearly as much of it exploring the Hebrides. With little more than a week allotted for my trip, I had to accept that I wouldn’t get to see and do everything (isn’t culling your itinerary the worst part of planning a holiday?) The upside to this is that I have very good reason to go back.
The harbourfront of Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
I loved the bit I did get to see. I started in Oban, the gateway to the Hebrides. A lovely seaside town, Oban has seen its fair share of rain. It was continually washed in a soft mist the entire time I was there, so it goes without saying a raincoat is a must. The harbour is the town’s focal feature, with ferry service that would take me to the isle of Mull. I wanted to spend a little time there, making my way back to Oban in time for a tour of their famous whisky distillery and a bite to eat.
Oban, the gateway to the Hebrides (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
The harbour at Oban (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
A word of warning: Mull is difficult to do in a day. It is even more difficult to do without a car. And the ferry service’s allocated spots for vehicles fill up VERY QUICKLY (read: book in advance). I did not do this, and so had to be content with getting by on public transit. More on that later.
The ferry ride to Mull felt as if I was crossing into another world, the mists parting before the boat to reveal countless islands that make up the Hebridean archipelago. The air was raw and biting, the perfect opportunity to wrap up in some thick Scottish knits.
On the ferry ride to Mull (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
Once on Mull, my transport was restricted to a bus that shuttles you from the ferry terminal to the town of Tobermory. The coach’s schedule marries up with that of the ferry’s, but here’s the catch: it takes an hour in one direction. This is where having a vehicle of our own would have come in handy; Mull is impractical as a day trip, especially without a car. But I was already there, so we resolved to spend some time in Tobermory.
Tobermory’s colourful harbourfront (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
View from the dock in Tobermory (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
Tobermory’s iconic and easily-photographable harbour is fronted by colourful shops and a few restaurants, as well as a quintessential fish and chips van by the dock. They were by far the best fish and chips I’ve ever had; perhaps their flavour was enhanced whilst sitting on a bench overlooking the harbour, tasting the salt on the air. Tobermory also has a very appealing whisky distillery, but with limited time to spend on Mull, I had to forgo that experience.
Tobermory distillery (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
Not to worry, I still had my fill of whisky. Back in Oban, we had the opportunity to tour their famous distillery. The tour was informative, hands-on, and complete with samples and a complimentary glass. It was fascinating to see how such simple ingredients (water, barley, yeast), via different chemical processes, could produce varied tastes and flavours. I couldn’t walk through the gift shop on my way out without coming off with a souvenir bottle.
The Oban distillery (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
A wee dram at the Oban distillery (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
In a rather good mood after that tour, we wandered into Cuan Mor, a relaxed harbourfront restaurant serving contemporary Scottish cuisine. We warmed up as we watched the rain tipping down outside, and the isle of Mull scallops were just what I needed after a day on and by the water.
The harbourfront at Oban (photo credit: canuckrunningamuck)
Oban and the Hebrides are well-worth spending a few days in, and I can’t wait to come back and give it its due attention!