This report starts on our second day in Tobermory, settled at the Mosshill B&B.
Day 7: We dropped our baggage off at the B&B, then drove down to Salen, over to Gruline, and down the B8035 along the south west coast of Mull towards Iona. It was a stunning drive, with cliffs, waterfalls foaming down to the sea, heather, sheep, and ruined crofts galore. The weather swung from sun to rain to sun to gales. As rain lashed our little car we figured that the ferry to Iona would surely be docked; however, by the time we arrived the clouds had blown away and it turned into a lovely afternoon. First item of business once we arrived on Iona was lunch and tea at the little inn, and then we explored. It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon to wander around this serene community, and the abbey was beautiful and very interesting. After several hours we headed back to the ferry, picked up our car on the other side, and started back to Tobermory. We took the A849 all the way, through spectacular Glen More with its desolate, velvety dun-coloured hills, cut through with waterfalls, and topped off with a rainbow. We stopped for a quick look at Duart Castle before carrying on to Tobermory. The day was long and tiring and we were satisfied with a simple dinner at the pub before bed.
Day 8: Breakfast wasn’t included in our little B&B, but no problem. We enjoyed a good latte, quicke, and a huge scone at the Tobermory Bakery on the main street. While my husband went off to play a round at the local Tobermory course, I trundled down to the Information Centre to do a load of laundry at the self-serve machines there. Husband and I met up afterwards for lunch at the Mish Nish Inn, sharing a very good Angus beef burger. Feeling lazy, we took a little drive out of town for a peek at the Glengorm Castle, but it’s a private hotel and we weren’t able to go in. We had made a reservation at the highly recommended Café Fish for dinner—it’s a simple little restaurant by the ferry with an absolutely delicious seafood menu—stopping at the Mish Nish afterwards for a nightcap.
Day 9: We awoke early to the sound of rain on the sloping roof of our B&B, finished packing up, and headed off to catch the 7:20am ferry, which was about a block away. You can’t make a reservation for the Tobermory-Kilchoan ferry, you just show up. We needn’t have hurried, as our car and one lone foot passenger were the only ones onboard! It rained steadily all the way to Mallaig, which wasn’t as scenic a route as I had hoped. Plus, I had thought we’d see the “Harry Potter” train trestle, but I didn’t research well enough and that viaduct was back towards Glenfinnan. Traffic was so light that we made it to Mallaig in time to catch the 10:55 ferry. We didn’t have a reservation, but luckily there was lots of room. The rain stopped and the sky cleared as we arrived and after lunch at the Lochneish Hotel in Kyle of Lochneish, we made a quick stop at Eilean Donan Castle. Too many tourists for our taste, so we just snapped a few photos and carried on. We had originally thought of spending a night on Skye, but decided that we wouldn't be able to do it justice with such little time, so carried on to Gairloch. It was a beautiful drive. We made a stop at the side of Loch Maree so that I could have a look at the remnants of Caledonian pine forests on the islands, then arrived at Gairloch. We didn’t have a reservation, but after deciding against the very expensive Myrtle Bank Hotel (where our £110 wouldn’t even get us a water view) we instead found a cozy room at the Wayside B&B. We went back for dinner at the Myrtle Bank, but I found the meal and the ambiance a little bland. The walk there and back was pleasant, though.
Day 10: The skies were grey when we woke after a great sleep. Nevertheless, when finished with our delicious breakfast we hopped in the car and went to the Inverewe Gardens in Poolewe. We were the first folks there that morning and it was incredible to walk around these beautiful botanical gardens all on our own, especially as the sky cleared and the sun came out. This was a highlight of the trip for me! When we had explored as much as we wished, we drove back to the Gairloch golf club for a tasty and inexpensive lunch. My husband wanted to play the course and I decided to walk with him. We were the only ones on the course, and it was a lot of fun. The course, which overlooks the loch and a spectacular beach, is beautiful. Afterwards it was pub time and a little rest before going to The Old Inn for a very good dinner. I had leafed through the local paper earlier in the day and saw an announcement for a ceilidh that evening at the Poolewe Community Hall. We lived in a rural community ourselves for many years and the ceilidh celebration (acknowledging local kids who had participated in a Gaelic festival) was reminiscent of the strength of small-town togetherness. It was an honour to be there.
Day 11: We bid farewell to our gracious hosts, Shirley and Iain, and were gifted with a delightful drawing by their son, Andrew, to remember them by. Our first stop was at the Corrieshalloch Gorge at Braemore, which was a pleasant walk. We had planned to stop next at Ullapool, but there was some kind of music festival happening and the streets were jammed so we didn’t linger. We took our next break at the geology exhibit at Knockan Cliff—really interesting! The wind was too brisk to walk too far up the hillside, but we certainly enjoyed the display and the information at the centre. The A837 was a quick route across the country, with depressing expanses of industrial forestry (which I’m accustomed to from living in BC). As we got closer to Dornoch we realized that we were too early to check in to our B&B. We considered a little side trip to see the Falls of Shin, but suddenly noticed a poster for a local Highland Games happening that day. We ended up spending a wonderful afternoon at the Invercharron Highland Games, which we learned later was the last Games of the season. After a very enjoyable afternoon watching pipers, dancers, saber tossers, tug’o’war, etc, we drove on to Dornoch. A small crisis ensued! Kate at Sule Skerry thought we were arriving the following day. After a few panicked minutes, she took matters in hand and found a room for us for that night across the street at The Bank House and everyone (me) calmed down. We settled in; explored downtown, including the cathedral; took a walk to the golf course; had a pint at the Castle Pub; and then stopped in at the Eagle Inn for an excellent dinner.
Day 12: We had a nice breakfast in The Bank House’s exquisite dining room, then packed up and moved across the street back to Sule Skerry, where we received a warm welcome from Kate and the adorable little Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Pippin. We then walked to the Royal Dornoch golf course where my husband had booked a round. While he played (a ‘humbling’ experience, himself proclaimed afterwards), I returned to the cathedral and slipped in for the last of the service, as I wanted to hear the beautiful pipe organ. I then took a long walk south along the beach, seeing flocks of plovers, a heron, and several seals on the way. I met up with my husband after his game and we went for another good dinner at the Eagle Inn, then home to bed.
Day 13: This was a lovely calm clear day for my husband to try out the Struie course. I had picked up a brochure at the local museum showing a “Historylinks” walking tour, which took me past the spot where the last condemned witch in Scotland was burned (poor Janet Horne), the cholera stone, and the Earl’s Cross at the outskirts of town. It included a very pleasant walk through the Dornoch Wood, where the local rooks roost at night. I met my husband at the museum afterwards and we greatly enjoyed the displays, then went for a pint at the Castle pub, followed by a bit of shopping. We enjoyed an excellent dinner at the Sutherland, and went home to bed.
The next part of my report will finish up our Dornoch stay and see us on our way to Speyside.