Friday, 4 June 2010

Paint your faces blue and...

... head for Scotland. Sorry to mock 'Braveheart' not my favourite film.

Friday 28 May 2010

We had decided to spend a long weekend in Scotland at one of our favourite spots, Port Sonachan on the side of Loch Awe, the longest freshwater loch in Scotland (over 25 miles) and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. “It was from Loch Awe and surrounding area that Clan Campbell established itself as a powerful family. In 1308, Robert the Bruce defeated the Clan MacDougall at the Battle of the Pass of Brander downstream from the loch.” (Wikipedia).

Anyway, we set off about 8am in heavy traffic for the drive North, but as we drove through the Lake District the traffic thinned out as the landscape improved. There’s a lot to be said for the North of England (and I am strongly aware of the horrific occurrences of the last few days, so I’m sorry if this blog item seems frivolous; this blog isn’t intended to explore the deepest depths of human depravity.)

Having got through Glasgow, we headed for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs but first we decided to stop for a bite. Unfortunately the Services turned out to be a Little Chef! When my mushroom omelette came, it could have been used to sole boots. I think this is probably more ‘Glasgow’ than ‘Scotland’.

Loch Lomond

Beside Loch Lomond, all the verges were full of bluebells (Photo Billogs and, of course there were more along the way and at Loch Awe.

Loch Awe

Highland Cattle near Loch Awe

We did our usual trick of heading for the North side of the Loch, but soon recognised the road and turned back to the South side.

Port Sonachan is always just a bit further off the main road than we remember but we arrived in sunshine and the Loch and Ben Cruachan looked beautiful.

Our room wasn’t ready because of staff shortages – the hotel is rather isolated and finds it difficult to get staff to stay but this did not bode well. Anyway, we sat outside with a cup of tea and shortbreads while we waited. Last time we came (in late August) we couldn’t have sat outside – too cold!

The room itself was delightful and the Loch view was well worth paying a bit extra for. We decided to eat in the bar so went down early for a sundowner (though sundown is a bit later the further North you go – still light at 10.30pm – the ‘land of the simmer dim’). We found out later that some guests had had to wait about 2 hours for their rooms to be got ready. Ate in the bar; lentil soup and venison sausages – pretty good!

Sunset over Loch Awe

Bluebells at Loch Awe

Saturday 29 May 2010

We had wonderful local smoked haddock for breakfast and decided to go into Oban, actually about 42 miles away, to see whether there was an island trip we’d like to go on (any boat, anytime, anywhere – that’s me). Marea, of course, wanted to do some shopping so we had a wander around, particularly aiming for a shoe shop we visited last time we were in Oban. After trying on about 20 pairs, Marea decided on one pair and we went upstairs where I picked up a pair of Barker’s slip-ons, tried them on and bought them.

Oban - weather not great

Typical of Oban's Victorian style. The lady in green is Marea.

We wandered around to the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry office and eventually decided on a Sunday lunch cruise to Tiree, leaving port at 9am and getting back at 17.15 so it would fill the day. After further wanderings and purchases (Marea buying 2 tops) and both of us indulging in chips (VG) from the local chippy, we set off for Inveraray with the intention of buying a bottle of Loch Fyne whisky.

Inveraray Maritime Museum

Main Street, Inveraray

As we set off, it was raining but Marea said “Don’t worry, it will be dry by the time we reach Inveraray. It wasn’t! And it got worse! We bought the whisky – an extra bottle for a present and a couple of pieces of jewellery, one for Marea (birthday) and one for her sister (also for her birthday). The rain eased as we drove back to PortSonachan and had stopped by the time we reached the hotel, but it was rather cold.

When we got to the room it had not been made up. One of the great pleasures of staying in a hotel is that you come back to a perfect room and have time to get yourself sorted before dinner. Marea rang down and they said; “We’re sorry, we haven’t got around to your room yet; she will be there straight away” (this was 5pm). So we had to go down to the bar while the room was prepared. As soon as we got to the bar/conservatory, the heavens opened and it rained into the evening. Needs to be better tomorrow!

Sunday 30 May 2010

Up early and had a scratch breakfast. Set off for Oban in cool, cloudy weather. On the way down the Loch to the Oban Road, we flushed a Sika deer, our first of the holiday. Oban was still dull and a bit rainy as we boarded so we sat inside – comfortable but a bit noisy because we were in the family lounge with the children.

On the road to Oban - bright gorse but cloudy skies

The Calmac Ferry (left) ready to board

The Sound of Mull

Craignure Ferry

Into the Atlantic!

The cruise up the Sound of Mull was quite dull (weather wise) but as we turned out into the Atlantic, the sun came out through broken cloud and it got a bit warmer. Still too windy to sit outside, however.
Staffa in the far distance

Mull from the East

It’s a long cruise to Coll – about 3 hours 30, mostly not very exciting except when passing some of the smaller islands – Staffa in the very far distance. Coll seems rather bleak and there’s no sign of habitation but many people go there to walk and study the wildlife. Lots of vehicles got off the boat. By this time, the skies were gloriously clear and it was sunny and hot!

Arriving at Coll

A further hour’s cruising to Tiree which looks more lively. I know there’s windsurfing and kite surfing and there are great beaches and beautiful water on both islands. We think that coming from the midlands to sit on beaches in the far North sounds daft – it’s easier to go South, even over to Europe – but to Scottish tourists, they’re very close and easy to get to.

We ate lunch on the way from Coll to Tiree. CalMac advertise it as a Sunday Lunch Cruise but what they ought to say is that you can eat a traditional Sunday lunch aboard the ferry to Coll and Tiree. They do make an effort, setting tables with decent linen, etc., and the service is friendly and efficient. It’s still served in the cafeteria, however.

And Tiree

Leaving Tiree


Ben Mor on Mull

We sat in the sun all the way back to Coll and Oban, so I’ll probably regret that. Had cheese and wine for dinner – too full after a large lunch.

Back to Oban

Loch Etive, like a millpond

... and Loch Awe

Sunset over Loch Awe

Monday 1 June 2010

On the way home, we called at Loch Fine Oysters for smoked haddock, peppered mackerel and kippers... oh, and milk for when we got home.

Still some patches of snow on the mountains outside Inveraray

We drove back in sunshine. Not as much traffic as we feared, it being a bank holiday, and arrived home to our own beautiful garden about 4pm. We have a list of improvements we’d like to make to the Port Sonachan Hotel but, all-in-all, a very enjoyable break.


  1. Hi - I just happened upon your blog and am enjoying it immensely! Thank you for sharing the glory of the UK with us. Ezra

  2. Thanks Ezra; that's exactly what I hoped to do. Where are you reading from?


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