Saturday, January 01, 2005

Welcome to Oban in Gaelic

My Trip to Oban

My friend and I picked up the train tickets from Waverly Station before Christmas so that we could get the lowest priced tickets. We left from Waverly at 7:15 in the morning or we would have if they could get their trains to run on time. It was still pitch black outside as we made our way across Scotland's central belt from Edinburgh to Glasgow. I was not able to get any pictures of that but what always strikes me about Scotland's central belt is that it is not a metropolis like Seattle is. Basically, from Everett in the North to Tacoma in the South, the Puget Sound area is one city (including the Eastside of Lake Washington). This is not the case in Scotland; there are fields with sheep and small villages that feed Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Fortunately for us, we arrived at Glasgow Queen Street Station in time to change trains for our trip to Oban. By this time the dawn had broken and it was becoming light enough for pictures. I took a few out of the window of the train. The only problem with them is the glare but I hope you can see something. Anyway, I took a picture of Dumbarton, which is an important fort out side of Glasgow. I was really lucky to get this picture as we were traveling very quickly and there were not that many chances for a clear shot. Farther up the salt-water loch, I was able to get another view out the window. Then we started to climb into the highlands.

The train does not actually go straight to Oban from Glasgow. It makes several stops at very small highland villages, like Ardlui. Once out of there, you get views such as this. Honestly, you have to take the train yourself to appreciate fully the natural beauty of train ride. It goes just fast enough to get there in a reasonable time but slow enough that you get the best of what the Western Highlands has to offer. I do not remember where but the train splits at one of the stations so you have to be in the right car to get to the right place. One goes on to Oban and the other goes to Mallaig from which you can get to the Isle of Skye.

We arrived at Oban just before noon. We went directly to the hostel. That is another thing about Scotland. The Scottish Youth Hostel Association is a great way to see Scotland. The hostels that I have stayed at are all very clean, well run, with friendly people. If this is what Youth Hostels are in Europe, these are wonderful places to stay. If not, this is a true Scottish hidden treasure. It massively cuts down on the costs of the trip and you get to meet all sorts of interesting people from all over the world. Anyway, I was met by Bailey the dog who is there often. We got checked in and put our bags in a locker then went to have something to eat.

We walked back into downtown Oban. On the way, I took a picture of the harbor and St. Columba's Cathedral. We decided to eat at the Lorne pub which is near the Lorne river. We had a good lunch. When I mentioned that it was my birthday, they gave me a mince pie with a candle in it.

We then decided to grab some sandwiches from the Tesco superstore for something to eat. Once we grabbed some sandwiches and stuff, we went over to the ferry terminal to get tickets so that we could go to Mull and then off to Tobermory, the following day. We then made our way to McCaig's Tower, which is on a hill over-looking the town. It started to rain heavily so we took a few quick pictures then made our way back down the hill. I did not get a chance to take a picture of my favorite cottages on the way back. Hopefully, I will have the chance next time I go up there. We then went back to the hostel to read and hang out. We ended up watching Tomb Raider.

The first ferry was leaving at 8 am so we got up at 7 and made our way down to the ferry terminal. Again, it was pitch black but it lightened up as we made our way out to the Isle of Mull. I was able to get a few good pictures on the way. I had to take them out the window again since it was raining pretty hard. I got this as we got close to Mull. I was also able to get this one. It was a smooth ride for such a blustery day. We disembarked at Cragnure then got on a bus for Tobermory.

The bus ride was uneventful. The only thing of interest is that they put up shelters for people to use while they wait for the bus in Tobermory. I was talking to the bus driver who said that mostly he finds bicyclists in there but one day he saw a couple and a horse in one. I can just imagine that. A huge horse with two people in a tiny bus shelter. Anyway, we got off the bus and I took a horrible picture of the Tobermory Distillery. It looks like I had one shot too many then tried to take a picture.

We then went up to my favoirite spot in Tobermory. It is just up a trail not too far from the bus stop. It has a great view of Tobermory and the harbor. After a little hike into the forest, we came to my favorite waterfall. It is quite a place. You really should go out and see it for yourself. We then went on a ways into the park but we saw a very large rain cloud move our way so we went back into town. The cloud ultimately moved off to the north so we were safe.

We then ate the sandwiches from Tesco that we bought the day before. We were both cold so we stopped by the Mishnish pub for some tea before we decided to tackle the trail to the light house. We had a great conversation about global warming and what we can and cannot do about it. We then came to a cross roads where one way was just too muddy to cross so we went up and over a rise and got a great picture of Coll and a picture of the cliffs on the shore. Once we crossed the rise, we came down to the lighthouse.

After getting a closer look, we made our way back. My friend asked about a trail that went farther up the rise. I told him that I talked to some French guys when I was in Tobermory last and they went up that way and ended up on a golf course. We decided to go up that way. We ran into a fence with a sign near it and the golf course the two French guys had talked about. I had some trepidation about walking on the golf course but there were a set of stairs over the fence and the sign was completely blank. So We went over the fence and started to walk across. This is when things went South. My friend noticed a large cloud moving our way. The wind started to howl and then the hail started. The hail ranged in size from bb gun pellets to pea-sized and it was being driven by gale force winds. The only thing you could do was turn your back to it and walk backwards. It was very painful as the hail pounded me in the legs. At one point, I lost track of my friend so I had to move sideways to get back to him. I had my arm up to cover my face but the hail made it through a few times and hit me very near my eye. My friend found a small dale that we could use for shelter during the hail storm. It lasted another few minutes and then the sun came out.

We then made our way down the hill back into downtown Tobermory. We spend the rest of the afternoon in a pub having some food and drink while talking about the new Sun Microsystem's CPUs. We made our way back to Oban on the bus and ferry. It was pretty uneventful. We ate again at the Lorne that night. He went to bed and I stayed up to watch a documentary about the "Secret Policemen's Ball", which was a Monty Python charity event for Amnesty International. It was hilarious to watch them do famous skits where the actors are laughing and screwing up their lines.

The third day was a bit of overkill. We spent most of it getting souvenirs for my friend. Especially, at the whiskey shop. After a long time looking around, we got help from the staff who were quite knowledgeable and friendly. He got two bottles of Islay whisky and I got something for my grandmother, which I am going to send back with him. We then wandered around for a while then went back to the hostel to do some reading and drinking of some whisky samples he got for Christmas. We played many game of cards and drank. It was fun.

The next morning we packed everything for our return trip to Edinburgh. We then played cards for a while. We caught the train after walking around a bit and getting some sandwiches from Tesco. The return trip was uneventful.

When we made it home, my roommate had the librarian for Scottish Studies and her family over and we had dinner with them. We played games and talked. We had a great time. Although, it was a long day with the traveling.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and commentary. As always, there are a bunch more pictures on my Flickr account. I even have some from Hogmanay!

posted by Chris  #1:35 PM | 0 comments |