Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Iona, Inner Hebrides


After a busy month due to one reason and another, I have managed to get something published here albeit not the next post in the series but the following one. Remembering the season of Christmas and not having the opportunity of my camera seeing anything seasonal this month, I opted for the place that had more meaning. It is often thought that the Island of Iona where Saint Columba built the monastery in 563 AD was when and where Christianity came to the UK, however there is evidence to suggest from Roman Britain history that this not the case. My recent visit to see the Lindisfarne Gospels revealed that there were two sides to the story with rival interests.

Coach chasing along single track roads.
A journey to Iona from the travellers point of view can be perceived by many travellers as a challenge or to others as a pilgrimage. The journey is torturous and basically takes all day involving two return ferry trips and a very long bus tour across the length of Mull from Oban. It is probably only achievable for those who base themselves in the town of Oban for a least a few days. To give you an indication of what I'm talking about here, this was only the second time that I did this trip.

Ben More, highest mountain, Isle of Mull


Although Fionnphort has a granite quarry and a shellfish industry, it is maybe surprising to know that it has nearby (Island of Erraid) connections with the novel Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Ferry GJC_012379 - Version 2

The village is mainly known as a port for onward journeys to Iona & Staffa.

Staffa Boat   GJC_012391
Staffa Boat


Whether it's the colour of the sea, the restful atmosphere of the place or just being pure hungry after a long bus trip ….

Beach  GJC_012412

It was time to sit on this beach in front of the … errr … village promenade !!

Rocky beach  GJC_012425
… and enjoy this view for 30 mins 

Post Office and postbox


Christianity in Scotland became focused on Iona when Columba landed on Iona from Ireland with his 12 colleagues and founded a monastery in 563 AD.

Cloisters   GJC_012462

It developed to a place of important significance as Kings were crowned and buried here. Two viking raids and martyrdom in the next 500 years caused the monks to disperse and spread the message with the Abbey eventually being burned.

Windows  GJC_012456

Once the Island had been recaptured from the King of Norway by Somerled, his son Ranald, allowed the Benedictine monks to build a new Abbey in 1203 and subsequently expanded 200 years later only to be dismantled during the reformation period.

Nave GJC_012472

The Duke of Argyll gave the site to The Church of Scotland in the late 19th century who lovingly restored and rebuilt the Abbey back to it's former glory.



One of the ministers, George McLeod, had inspiration to found the Iona Community which looked beyond the borders of The Church of Scotland into the roots of Celtic Christianity thus embracing other denominations. They later re-constructed some of the external buildings in the 20th century, all of which are still in use at present.

Cloisters   GJC_012493

One of the unfortunate points about a day trip to Iona is that the tours that the Abbey staff do usually don't coincide with the small time available on the shore, given there's just enough time for lunch and a good look around.

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As I said earlier, I wanted to post something seasonal as it's Christmas Eve but life has been that busy that I haven't had the chance with a whole range of commitments (sorry for my absence).

Silent Bookend  GJC_012468 (1)
No snow at the moment, It's just been extremely cold and windy.
It was 1992 when I made my only other trip here, I wanted to return this year for some digital images, I wonder if there will be a next time.

Farewell to the Iona ferry "Loch Buidhe"
As a postscript, angels are always part of the Christmas Nativity and here's an alternative one that I have to look at a lot ... taken earlier in the year …

Happy Christmas

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A Bridge and a Seal Sanctuary, Loch Creran near Oban

Connel Bridge, Oban.
Looking for something a little different to do amongst the standard tourist things was a little difficult particularly on the wettest day of my time here. I was talking to the Guest House owners son who inspired me with an an amazing idea that I would never have thought of (next post). This idea needed a lot of research and thought at a location near Connel Bridge that I had been wanting to photograph properly for many years. Having only driven to Oban once before back in 1992, all my shots were essentially taken from a moving train window. It was time to rectify that today.

(On a side note, despite writing this uncompleted draft some time ago, I've been having internet problems for some time now with my provider who can't seem to come and repair the job on the day I pre-arranged with them. Decided on moving to a temporary Dongle from the company Three which could be useful on the road if I choose that option. I'll be catching up with all your blogs next week as I'm back on line as of this evening)

The Connel bridge built in 1903 with 2600 tonnes of steel has had an unusual history with regards to its use. It was originally built to carry a single track railway but with the advent of the car, geographical and transportation difficulties, a narrow road was added alongside the railway track in 1914 that could only be utilised when there were no trains using it. During the Dr Beeching era of the 1960's the railway closed and it was converted to a single track road with traffic lights at each end.

Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary, Loch Creran 
After researching what I may consider doing in the afternoon (or the next post for that matter), I drove northwards to the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary on the shore of Loch Creran.

Flatfish S.S.S.    GJC_012186
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The sanctuary houses all the usual Aquatic wonders that can be discovered at a sea life centre in addition to a seal hospital for rescuing injured or abandoned pups.


Fortunately there were none in residence when I was there although there were three that could not be returned to the wild.

Pippa info GJC_012221

S.S.S. Oban GJC_012163

Lunchtime is always a great way of attracting a crowd for entertainment … and those people jostling for the best photographic viewpoints !!

Gliding gracefully ……            towards lunch !

Feeding time  GJC_012176

Lunch at S.S.S.   GJC_012175

S.S.S. Oban   GJC_012182


" Ha, you need a better lens than that mate !"

S.S.S.   GJC_012208

The sanctuary also has a separate enclosure with two North American River Otters named Isla & Lewis … hmmm.

Very slippery customers to photograph !

Otter GJC_012209
Otter, Scottish Sealife sanctuary

Wooden Sculpture S.S.S. GJC_012201

That just left the nature trail through the woods with a variety of wooden sculptures generally not conducive to photography although here's a couple of examples with suitable unobtrusive backgrounds.

Squirrel in he woods haha  GJC_012224

Loch Creran
The nature trail followed a path to a point that gave more accessible views across Loch Creran.

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Children are obviously encouraged here by allowing them to take a gift home and ….

getting the opportunity of drawing their favourite sea creature with chalk…

Chalk moment GJC_012188
"Delicious !  with chips  £6.90"

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Tobermory, Isle of Mull

Tobermory has been made famous by a mixture of interesting and bizarre things most superficially the coloured buildings that encircle the bay.

Errrr .... not the MV Isle of Mull !!, Tobermory Harbour
After disembarking the MV Isle of Mull (previous post) at Craignure, I was met with a strange sight of a hive of activity with a packed temporary bus and coach station ready to take passengers to the onward destinations of their dreams. This moment occurs at least twice a day before returning to an insignificant and desolate village beside the waters edge.

Bowmans Coaches seem to have a monopoly on Mull & took me some time to find the right one.

Tobermory Bay
Although the coach to Tobermory looked like something for the tourist, it operated as a local bus service along the north of the island connecting with a smaller ferry terminal on the return route.

Tobermory Promenade
Arriving in Tobermory for the agreed 4 - 5 hour stop to fit in with the bus service times, I seemed to have proved my Guest House host wrong with my choice of weather day.

Tobermory Seagull
To be fair, there was a mix of clouds and weather throughout the day but was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy being outdoors !!

The Tobermory Galleon !!
Legend suggests that back in the year 1588 there was a large Spanish Galleon full of Gold hiding from the English fleet in Tobermory Bay. The crew supposedly had a dispute over payments with local traders as they were taking on supplies and subsequently the vessel caught fire from an explosion of gunpowder and was sunk without trace.


Attempts were made to locate it in 1950 without success although it did help with the development of products in this process.

Fishing port founded on the bicentenary in 1788 by Thomas Telford !, Tobermory Harbour

Awaiting a treasure trip !!, Tobermory Harbour
Tobermory Distillery
Ten years later, with an abundant supply of water and the new access route open, the distillery was founded. The business has had a chequered history with the most notable occasion being its closure in 1930 due a drop in demand from the prohibition of alcohol law in the USA for 10 years. It took until 1972 for the doors to re-open but subsequent problems with the production and suitability of the buildings caused further disruption before the present owners (A finance company in Trinidad ! ) took it on in 2002.

Mishnish, Tobermory
Due to the coloured buildings, the town was chosen to become famous in more recent times as a location for the children's television programme Balamory from 2002 - 2005. It was good enough to last 254 episodes but only the kind of thing very small children would like !!

Balamory map
Imagine the disappointment on a child's face when they realise that Archie's Castle is on the other side of the country.
With the passage of time, the town may have readjusted to tourist normality whatever that is, but the tourist board continue to flog the nostalgic horse years after the programme ended. Who would have thought that Balamory would have become the focus for an intellectual media tourism study paper  ...

media tourism with Balamory study

It's a long pdf paper that is tedious at first but there are figures in a table at the end that gives an interesting public survey overview along with a map of the island depicting the difficulties of travel to such a place for large numbers of people.

Boom & Bust tourism ?? !!, Balamory
I have to say about the next bit here ... this is totally alien to my blog as I didn't come on blogger to do this !! haha ...
I couldn't find a short clip of the programme but in the interests of journalism, a few shots of the town (and a North Berwick Castle !!), children's TV, a local otter,  me being a completist & if you have up to 20 minutes of your life to waste !!! well here it is.... haha

youtube Balamory episode example          .... back to reality !!!

Tobermory Pier
Tobermory pier was built for the larger boats at the advice of Thomas Telford in 1814. Today the old ferry waiting room now houses a cafe with the ferry ticket office and tourist board information room next door. An award winning quality restaurant is located upstairs called Cafe Fish. The main ferry link from Calmac is to Kilchoan on the remote peninsula of Ardnamurchan that is a community link for the local people. It is also an exit route off the island for those tourists on a Calmac Island Hopscotch ticket that want to explore a variety of places on a preplanned tour of the Inner Hebrides.


Stopped for a lunch break in a cafe that was converted from an old church ... What a fantastic viewpoint I had from the the table just inside the doorway.


Next door was an active church with a sign outside that gave me meaning both then and now. No doubt the weather can often seem grim in places like this although I had no reason to complain today. I thought it was worth capturing and sharing, a help to others in recent times of difficulties.

M.V. Loch Linnhe
"Anyone for Balamory today ? " ........ errr no

The Western Isle Hotel built in 1882



Just to give you a close up flavour of some colour and the shops available in 2013

Number 47
Not a laundry ... but a gift shop

Balamory location changed beyond recognition


The Co-operative food chain store provide the green ... haha
Lastly, as I was fixed to a time slot for the coach back to Craignure, I was starting to repeat my images with brighter skies and not much left to see. I thought it was time to sample some coffee shop wares and took a fancy to a chocolate orange cheesecake. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the best piece of cake for 2013 ... if not the decade !!  On leaving the Tobermory Bakery, I said to the cashier .....

Tobermory Bakery GJC_IMG_4016
"Please don't ever stop selling that !!"
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