Late August 2011, Around Oban and Mull Area
Once we arrived at Oban, the weather was either wet or dead still, neither of which is conducive to pleasant sailing (or even sailing at all). Our first goal was a trip to the cinema to see the new Harry Potter film. However, the Highland Theatre cinema in Oban has gone into receivership and is now closed so we'll have to wait until we get home to see HP8.
As this was a short summer for us, we had left the car at MRC so a quick bus trip out to Barcaldine was all that was needed to retrieve it. We spent a week, day tripping out of Oban in the car. Just outside Fort William is a gem stone museum called 'Treasures of the Earth' in an old converted church building. The displays were most impressive and we particularly like liked the luminous fluorescent rocks displayed in their own special room where they could be seen to glow. (move the mouse over the image to see it in the light and dark)
In 2007, we had walked over to Kilmartin Glen from an anchorage off Goat Island in Loch Craignish. There are many standing stones and cairns around Kilmartin but they spread out over a wide area so this year we took the advantage of having the car to visit some of the ones we missed (left). We also visited Dunadd, the home of the Kings of Dalriahad. It is a strange place, a lone hill in the middle of the marshy delta that is formed as the River Add meets the sea at Crinan. It was certainly a good spot from which to keep an eye on the surroundings but the midges must have been hell, they were out in abundance on our visit.
Previously, in 2008, while in Crinan, we had walked the western half the Crinan Canal so this year we revisited the canal but by car to walk the other half - from Ardrishaig to Cairnbaan. The path along the side of the canal makes for easy walking and we managed to dodge most of the showers. We passed a rugby pitch (below) near Cairnbaan but it looks like rugby can no longer be on the local school's curriculum given the state of the grass (or bog!). The timing was perfect as we arrived at the Cairnbann hotel for a welcome pint just as a sharp shower arrived. The sky clearing in time for our return to Ardrishaig (we seem to remember we did just this same scenario when we walked the Crinan to Cairnbaan section).
Eventually, we escaped from Oban and had a short trip back up the Sound of Mull to Lochaline. Here we found that there were some very new pontoons (literally only commissioned in early August). This provided a good opportunity to get out the folding bikes and have a ride up the glen (see below) to Loch Anesas. It was quite steep up the glen but this was more than rewarded but a nice free-wheel back down on our return.
A few days of strong winds were forecast and we took the first of these winds for an exciting sail up to Tobermory. Tobermory is very sheltered from southerly winds so we were happy to stay and wait for the Lifeboat open day. The day started with the lifeboat making a trip across the harbour from it's mooring by the pier, over to the pontoons, all the while a group of pipers playing on the foredeck. They did very well until the tricky manoeuvres as the lifeboat spun in its length to get into on of the finger pontoons, at which point they had to stop playing an hold on! As usual, the day included a helicopter display. The down draught of which sent the boats in the harbour spinning on their moorings. It was a good day with several charity fund raising events. The most popular of which was an auction to shave off the hair of several of the members of the life boat crew who by the looks of it had not had a hair cut or shave since last years event! The deal was that they had to keep the resultant hair "style" for the rest of the day, and very bizarre they looked to!
The other attraction of Tobermory which should not be missed is the fish and chips from the trailer on the pier (left). Probably the best in western Scotland. They are certainly very popular (even in the rain!).
After a blustery first three weeks of August, the weather settled down to a flat calm with little or no good sailing in prospect we returned under motor to Oban. Our planned haul out was on 31 August so a week in Oban would be fine for a few more day trips and some time to decommission the boat ready for the winter.
We did the round trip from Oban to Oban by bus and train via Fort William and Crianlarich. A great trip where we enjoyed the remoteness of Rannoch Moor and this must be one the the most picturesque railway trips in the UK. The ticket lady at Fort William was a bit surprised when we asked for 2 singles to Oban. She warned that it was a 4 hour trip by train and much quicker by bus!
We had use of the Oban branch train another day when on a walk up and around the dam at the pump storage electricity generating station at Cruachan. We had left the car at the Falls of Cruachan station (actually a halt that is only open in the summer) and had walked up to the dam. The cloud base was low enough to make a high probability of no views from the summit of Ben Cruchan, so we were not in the least tempted to climb the extra 1000ft of so. We took the dam road back down the hill, but the path back to the car that looked promising on the map was very overgrown with gate-less fences so we had to continue on the main track ending up in Loch Awe village some 3 miles away from the car along the busy A85. Not feeling inclined to risk our lives walking along the road we waited for a suitable bus/train that would get us back to the car. The train arrived first and we had to rush to find the conductor to pay our fare (£1) and request that the train stop at the next station - a grand trip of 5 minutes. The power station was under summer maintenance and there were workers replacing the insulators up on the pylons so we didn't take the tour which is supposed to be very good.
While we were in the marina, it was the Kerrera weekend (Oban Marina is actually on Kerrera and not in Oban). There were a number of events, walks and talks over the weekend. The geology walk sounded good so we set off down to the south end of Kerrera. We were quite surprised to find a retired university professor leading the walk and talk on his studies of rocks on the south shores of Kerrera and the fossils they contained. The walk was attended by some well educated geologists and the level of the discussion was quite advanced. We were offered a lift back in a four wheel drive truck by one of the locals, but it was such a nice day that we declined the generous offer. This allowed us to stopped off at the food tent on our way back to the marina and enjoy some good highland cattle beef burgers and also purchase some excellent sausages and highland cattle steak from local farm for the remainder of our meals aboard. We did feel slightly guilty as we stopped to say hello to the friendly local piglets. They were unaffraid and very curious, even going so far as to see if Judith's boot laces were good to eat (left).
Finally, it came time to motor around to Loch Creran and get hauled out at MRC. It can be a bit of a lottery on the haul out depending on how much fish farm food business is going on at the same time. This year though, we were lifted, spray cleaned, mast down and in the shed in just under three hours. Innisfree is now safely tucked up for the winter. Next season will probably also be shorted given what we know about our work commitments so no problem being in the back of the shed for now!