The Lords and Ladies of the Isles…

So we made it to the Isle of Mull and back… with the car in one piece, seaweed for my halloween costume, lots of photos, Benji’s newfound childhood and yet more things on our TO DO list…

We started off badly, but once we’d successfully located the hand break and the reverse gear things picked up a bit. The vibe was good from the start as the foreign visitors (my mum, her sister Mima, her cousin Eva and Eva’s husband Lubo) really liked the Vauxhall Zafira that I booked for the trip. A seven seater but supposedly they felt like they were on a bus. The “ideme” and “nejdeme”of an infamous slovakian advertisement clip were more than common.

The weather that Metoffice threatened us with didn’t take long to make an appearance; when we got to Doune castle (Winterfell) at was already raining unscottish rain and as my shoes are easy to get soaked through, I had my first chance to test out the new gumboots… best buy ever! Stylish, comfortable, swell, they keep out the water and they keep in the smell!!!
We didn’t go inside the castle but the ticket lady was saying how amazing it was to see the great hall all done up for the filming of A Game of Thrones.
In Killin it was pissing down so I went straight into the tourist shop and got myself a poncho. We had lunch at the old inn and then went to the MacNab island, which was pretty but very very wet. Thank fuck for gumboots!

We decided the next stop was going to be our destination in Tralee bay. Fortunately, the day before we managed to book ourselves a six berth caravan unit in a caravan park by Oban.
The rain had stopped by the time we got there and the Slovakians were pretty blown away by the place. Located on a beach, the trailer won them over with a huge living space and smartly arranged rooms. Also, it was probably a lot better than what they imagined when I said we were staying in a caravan, mwahaha! For £25 per head it was by far the cheapest thing we could get and the ratio of price / comfort / privacy (yes, a triple ratio, geek!) was more than favorable and made me an accommodation guru in an instant.

Having a few hours of daylight left we decided to go check out the nearby town of Oban, which neither of us had ever been to. There we discovered a pretty little fishing town with a waterfront promenade, a crazy colosseum-like structure called McCaig’s Tower and rightfully nicknamed McCaig’s Folly, lots of ducks to spit on and lots of old ladies to disapprove of us doing so, and a Tesco supermarket with the most shocking car park in the world.
When we got back to Tralee bay with provisions of beer and whisky, we still had a little while to go and check out the little beach before it got dark. On the way there, we ran into a playground with a foofy slide where Benji finally had the opportunity to discover the joys of childhood other than candy and video games. I have pictorial evidence of this!
We spend the rest of the evening drinking whisky and leffes, chilling and talking in our caravan, yo!

The next day started off easier from the driving point of view, as we headed off early on Sunday morning. It was drizzling and the hills were wrapped in clouds. After we crossed on the Corran ferry, the mist started to lift and reveal beautiful countryside. We took some toursity breaks on the drive to the next ferry crossing which ended up being a huge mistake. When the road changed into a single track with passing places, we realised we might not make it in time for the ferry departure. It was hard to speed up on that road as one could run into oncoming traffic behind any odd hill and if the road happened to be straight, there were weasels promptly crossing the road to make the task more impossible. As we neared the terminal the traffic off the ferry slowed us a little bit more and we arrived to the slipway when the goddamned ferry was about 2 meters off the shore! Next crossing in two hours time!

A friendly lady from the refreshments stall gave us advice on how to spend the time and sent us up the old Drumnin road which supposedly goes all the way to Mull underwater. (Which we considered as an alternative way of getting there, with 0 excess and all, our liability reduction waiver never listed underwater driving not being covered.) We drove along the coast with a pretty view of Mull that had evaded us, but the sky was blue and cloudless by that point and everyone’s mood was improving. We found the wishing stone that the lady had mentioned and we made wishes before climbing through the hole, the way it’s meant to be done!

We finally crossed over to Mull and decided to take the low road, as Benji has not been down there with his parents. The plan was to see what happens and we ran into a sign for Duart castle, so we spontaneously went for it. It was a pretty location for a castle, with an underwater wreck of HMS Swan nearby. In the boggy area under the castle I managed to get my gay shoes wet. The only time I didn’t wear gumboots on an outing and this was what happened, dammit! It was nice and sunny otherwise.

Since we’d missed the “Last eating place for the next 27 miles” sign in Craignure, we pushed ahead and tried to look for a restaurant, to no avail. The hills were beautiful but when we finally got to the loch (about 26 miles from Craignure) we had to turn back to the wish of the majority (or more like people that expressed the wish, as there might have been four of us wanting to push on). That has left the isle of Iona and its famous abbey on our TO DO list.
Craignure Inn had amazing food though. I was hesitating for a long time but eventually decided to go for fish stew which was exceptionally yummy!

After that we pressed on! We took an earlier ferry back and made it just in time for the small Corran one this time. That way, we managed to see Glencoe before it got completely dark. The drive back started to be tiring somewhere along the Bonnie (but windie) Banks of Loch Lomond and after we hit the motorway a few gay signposts and missed turns didn’t help, but we saw some real life police action on Erskine Bridge, where a suicidal fellow on the phone was standing on the edge. Eventually we made it back safe and sound and before the hour of ghosts to the open arms of Claivid and Hellipp.

Neish Island trip…

We did it!!! We went to the Neish Island, and we beat the waves, and we rode the Hasslehoff, and we brought Nettlebush back in time for Whistlebinkies. Or was it SeaWhiskitt we rode?

Everything went pretty much as planned! Metoffice got the weather completely wrong earlier but on Saturday it was mostly right.

We hitched a ride from Lochearnhead, thanks to our strategy where the guys were hiding and launched the boat probably just after midday. Being perfectly organised, the guys and I crossed to the island while the girls went to get ginger beer and complimentary Orkney ice-cream. By the time they settled on the pier with provisions (which were not nicked by anyone on the way) I was already on the way back to pick them up.

The crannog was very cool! It’s length twenty meter and width twenty meter. Its sewerage system a marvel to behold. Especially the guest bathroom. It looks like without the trees it could have been home to a large enough house or “castle” as the clans would have called them. The walls are still visible at certain places. A little bay cut into an island was obviously a mooring point, though judging by all the thorn bushes, not for inflatable dinghies…

We had our ginger beer, sandwiches and pancakes, complained about noisy neighbours and did a few rounds of the island. By then it was time to head back… The first trip with the women was tough! The winds were strong and we overshot the pier. Unable to come back to the red pier, we unloaded Princes Nettlebush Soggyfoot and Ginger Hell in the water and I headed back to the island on a rescue mission. The rowing was pretty hard, but by the time I reached the buoys I knew it would be ok… I could always moor at one and rest my arms. But that proved unnecessary. I reached the island alright, recovered the men and my shoes and headed back to shore, this time choosing a more weather appropriate strategy and rowing straight to shore before floating sideways to the pier.

Hitchhiking back proved less successful then hitchhiking there, and we ended up getting a local cab! Thank god we thought of getting the number beforehand. They said they’d “see if one of the drivers could do it”, and in less than 40 minutes we had our ride. The day was concluded with amazing sushi at the new Koyama restaurant.

Moral of the story: Hire a car instead of taking a bus!!!

Highlight: Princess Nettlebush dropping both of her shoes in the loch on two occasions, one on the way there, the other on the way back…

Weekend tripping…

The “summer” is drawing to an end and temperatures will now drop to under 10°C instead of 10-15°C, for a while…

So I have started planning another boat trip well in time before the canals and lochs freeze over, or so I hope. My idea is to grab SeaWhiskitt and the “whores”, warm clothes, yummy sandwiches and brews, cameras and a notepad for inspiring moments and take a bus to Lochearnhead on of these Saturdays at a godforsaken hour of 8h55 to arrive there 2 mins before 11. Then proceed to hitchhike to the eastern side of the loch. This is necessary as rowing across would take the best part of the day and we wouldn’t have time to enjoy our provisions.
The village at the other side of the Loch Earn is called St. Fillans and the reason why I want to set sail there is the little island that you can see from the bank there. The Neish Island (dum dum duuum)… a tiny uninhabited islet, supposedly a crannog? It was a refuge for members of Clan Neish until the 17th Century, when they were decimated by their ancient enemies of the fearsome Clan MacNab from Killin.

Here is the story in short, taken from Wikipedia, my flexible friend, extended with bits and pieces of information from other versions of the tale:
One Christmas the chief of MacNabs sent his servant to Crieff for provisions, however on his return he was attacked and robbed of everything he carried. He survived and returned empty handed to the MacNab chief, a man old and frail, but with twelve strong sons. One above all was exceedingly athletic and the mightiest of them all. He was called in gaelic “Iain Min Mac an Aba” or “Smooth John MacNab”.
They waited for a suitable night when there was a full moon, then the chief spoke ” Bhi’n oidche an oidche, nan ghillean an ghillean”… “The night is the night, if the lads are the lads”. Carrying on their shoulders a fishing boat, the brothers set out to climb over the hill from Loch Tay up Ardeonaig Glen and down Glentarken to Loch Earn, where they eventually launched the boat and rowed across to Neish Island (kinda like we will, only faster). Smooth John MacNab kicked open the door of the Neishes house and the MacNabs killed all of the Neishes who were taken by surprise. However two Neishes, a man and a boy, survived by hiding under a bed (cowards!).
Carrying off the heads of the Neishes, and any plunder they could secure, the sons headed off back to Killin but along the way back some way up Glentarken they tired of carrying their boat and abandoned it. It is said the remains of it were to be seen until 1900. When the youths presented themselves to their father, while the piper struck up the Pibroch of Victory (the local version of Reines of Castamere?), the old man said “The night was the night, and the lads were the lads.”
The sigil of the Clan MacNab is the severed head of the Neish clan chief, and alternatively a couple of dudes in a boat… and their motto is “Timor Omnis Abesto” (Let fear be far from all… or Dreadnaught), although I suspect this precedes the boat story.

Anyway… I thought it was a cool place to go and drink beers, but now I am also quite intrigued by the crannog thing. They are a type of ancient loch-dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland. Most are circular structures that seem to have been built as individual homes to accommodate extended families. Today, they appear as tree-covered islands or remain hidden as submerged stony mounds.

The bus goes back to Edinburgh at 17h12 (or two hours later) and that should give us enough time to enjoy the trip. Very convenient…
Now just to find a sunny Saturday without Whiski vet appointments…

And the moral of the story? When the snows fall, and the night is dark and you can hear the soft jingling of bells and the skittish whinny of reindeer in the whistling of the winds, whatever you do… do not mess with Kitteh McNabb!