Well it was pretty stupid booking the Three Chimneys the night before an early departure when we’re staying at the opposite end of the island wasn’t it. Blind Freddy could see that. We’re up just after six and packing up and showering ready for brekky. Nothing cooked today, just some cereal and coffee and we’re off to get the first ferry over to Mallaig from Armadale. I step out into the guest sitting room and there’s a beautiful sunrise over behind the ruins of the castle. I rush back to our room and grab my camera, put my new Isle of Skye hoodie on and head outside to take a few photos. Delayed on my return by a herring gull and its fledged chicks who are sitting on top of the B&B begging and being generally demanding of their parent bird.
|Can't you just imagine angels and a deity on throne up behind those rays?|
We’re running a bit late getting away and then we chat with Greta for 5 mins or so. This is a great B&B they’ve set up here. There’s absolutely nothing I could fault with it. It appears to be designed for the purpose and it’s fairly new with landscaping well suited to the job including a big off-street parking area. We love the true black out curtains and the fantastic, fast, reliable internet, not to mention the most important thing of all, a comfortable bed. Mo Dhachaidh is definitely the best place we’ve stayed so far this trip and it would hold its head high among the fantastic B&Bs we stayed at in 2012 and let me tell you they were brilliant. This one is called Mo Dhachaidh.
By now we are familiar with the route we need to take initially to head down to Armadale but we don’t have time to get it wrong so the Billy is instructed where we are going. It’s a beautiful still morning and it should be great for the crossing to Mallaig. As you would expect really now we are leaving. I bet the Cuillins are visible today. Never mind, we knew when we got off the plane that we were sure to get a range of weather, it’s all part of experiencing Scotland and that’s what the trip was for. None-the-less as we do so often when moving on, I think of all the things we weren’t able to do. We pass a large construction project and signs in Gaelic and think that maybe that’s the Gaelic College. Then we come to the Clan Donald centre. Oh. Yeah. I really should have gone there. Oh well, maybe one day we can come back, even if it’s just to ride the Jacobite and catch the ferry over for that… and I’m really glad that saw the things we did see. Two days was never going to be more that a taster.
We arrive at the ferry terminal at 7:50 or thereabouts and there’s a few cars lined up. You’d think it a no brainer to just join the queue, but the terminal is still closed and there’s a chain across the obvious boarding queue paint markers. Those here have reached a point where that would put us on the road proper and we hesitate. We try the office where we expect to have to pick up our tickets. It’s locked. There’s a couple of young guys there who are equally puzzled and waiting. Last check in is ten past eight. I steel myself for looking like a stupid tourist and wander over the man who is wandering about and talking to people in their cars. He clearly does think I’m a stupid tourist and isn’t inclined to be much use, but the lady in the little fish van explains what the go is. The terminal opens at 8 o’clock and then we can go in and claim our tickets and yep, we should just line up behind the other cars. Hubby tends to the queuing. I tend to the ticket collection. Done…
|Yes, you do queue up on the road like this...|
…but why just sit here. Look, Grumpy George’s has opened. I give Hubby his ticket and the ticket for the car and wander in for a look. I complete my transaction with the downright cheerful Scottish man serving me, who is presumably George. As I’m about to leave and he’s wishing me all manner of good things, I cannot help but note the false advertising. “… you know, I have to say, you’re not grumpy at all.” He laughs and says that he ran a garden centre for a long time and it was called Happy George’s or something like that and when they were setting us this new enterprise his wife said well you’ve been Happy George for 20 years, this time you’d better be Grumpy George. Seems you can’t teach a Happy George new tricks then doesn’t it. Good luck to him.
The queue has moved on and I wave my ticket to the man who declines to take it and I walk up and join Hubby in the car and explain what I got. Oh this is cool, we’re rolling onto the car ferry, which is only reasonable small for this route. We’re not allowed to stay in the car during the passage and we get out and head upstairs and look for the way to get up on the viewing deck. The water may be like a mill pond but there’s a cold breeze blowing so I head back down to get my coat hurrying because they must surely be close to locking off access. Deed done we settle in trying and failing to capture the beautiful mist veiled mountains spread along the coast of the mainland. Hubby takes a seat and sits huddled for the trip, I wander about this way and that, ducking away from the second hand smoke of a young guy with a long lens. The light bursts through the clouds over in the east over misty mountain peaks that seem to go on forever into the far distance. A fantasy land of elves, and mystic imponderables. Anything is possible in those valleys that call the traveller on. Across to our right islands sit blue veiled blocking the horizon. It doesn’t exactly a master feat of deduction that the little town across the way must be Mallaig. Most of what we can see looks quite new.
We’re rolling off the ferry at just before 9 am. Do you want to stop here somewhere for brekky we’ve got plenty of time this morning, we don’t need to get to Glenfinnan until 11 o’clock? Nope. Hubby’s keen to press on. I tell Billy to get us to Glenfinnan as insurance navigating the town, but it’s not necessary, we can just follow signs. There’s one pointing to the Alternate Coastal Route. Turn! Turn! Follow that brown sign! I declare repeatedly and with some urgency. Hubby always needs a pretty good warning for turns like this. I know there’s great beaches along this route. Pretty soon we come to a parking area with signs for a walk to the beach. Let’s take a look.
We wander through a little wooden gate with a faded amateur printed poster in a plastic sleeve making the now familiar declarations about local superstitions. There is no dog poo fairy. Just in case we’re wondering. The track is worn deep in the dune which is stabilised by a broad range of vegetation. I wonder about this. How long has this path been in use? It’s sand underfoot, initially tightly packed and later looser and I walk carefully to avoid filling my shoes with sand. It’s a skill I need to think about with each step because at home, whatever the season, beaches are a place for bare feet. Eventually we reach a choice of ways and elect to take the right hand side. This brings us out onto a beautiful pale creamy white sand beach overlooked by a few nice, fairly modern looking beach homes. We move out towards the waves, heading as directly as possible for the firmer, damp sand to make the walking easier. Down there’s the dune illustrated on the information board in the car park. In the past there’s apparently been a problem with damage and erosion to the dunes, but it’s now well covered with dune grass. Apparently people have responded positively to the information about how they can help care for this dune environment. I have to say, the whole tone of that notice board was educational rather than prohibitive. It’s a very mature and inclusive way to approach the issue. We take just a few minutes on the beach before we head back. As I walk I’m thinking that this whole environment is just so much like Australia, I can so easily visualise this landscape in the heat. I turn my mind to imagining the Scottish winter here. My inexperience of true cold defeats me.
I wonder whether people live in those houses with the brilliant views or are they holiday homes. That one up on the hill there doesn’t look cheap. We were lucky to get the beach to ourselves for a while, there’s a couple of groups of people heading outward as we come back past the fruiting Rowan tree and to the car.
Back on the road We pass a golf course right on the beach next to a little tidal inlet and Hubby comments aloud that this whole area is just so much like Australia. Yeah, just what I have been thinking. It’s not at all difficult to imagine we are here in the winter and that a warmer season is just around the corner. I can really understand how Cook did the reverse and mistook the Australian winter for its summer season. A NSW winter would be just like the area and beaches around here today.
Pretty soon we come to an object lesson for the rest of the world. Arisaig. There’s some new development and the whole area is unified by beautiful, modern street furniture. The lamp posts in particular are a clear demonstration of the enormous difference to the tone of a place that can be made by outlaying a little more on such things. And yet of all the many images of Arisaig that people have made available online, no-one has featured the beautiful street lamps. Go figure. haha.
I’m feeling tired and lazy and we don’t pull up to get a proper picture, but I manage a quick and dirty snap as a reminder. It’s an old tired rant, so I try to resist it but really.. twitch… twitch.. it shouldn’t be such a novelty to come across a lovely seaside community who have done the bleeding obvious ...twitch twitch...and beautified their town with beautiful street lighting.. aaaggghh Twitch… twitch… twitch…
As we progress along our way to Glenfinnan, ultimately rejoining the main route, we observe what a lovely scenic drive this is. It's not the sort of landscape that shows up well in quick snaps, but it's open and it's wild and green. The road is fast and has enough curves and variations to make the driving fun. We did pull over in one parking area and make an attempt to capture the scene, Hubby’s tells me to photograph that rock. Here I say. You take what you want, I don’t know what you mean.
We arrive early to Glenfinnan Monument. Again it’s not what I imagined from the photos. The photos make the place seem much bigger and they look great but they haven’t prepared me for the visual impact of being here. This is bloody spectacular! To think I toyed with skipping it. I’m so glad I didn’t!!
It’s really busy with people but we have no trouble getting a parking spot. As we park and get out, we can see the viaduct and lots of people are lining up on a slight right at the edge of it to watch. On the tour on Skye another passenger (also an Australian) commented that they’d come through here but they don’t say when the train passes, so they missed that and just bought a postcard. I guess he must have meant on their website because there’s a big print notice on the information board saying that the Jacobite passes over the viaduct between 10.45 and 11 am and again at 15.00 to 15.15. It’s 10.30 now. Just as well we’re early. I’d read on the internet that the train wasn’t due here until about 11.20. We head straight in to get tickets. Another freebie on our National Trust membership. We can have monument tour only or the exhibition as well. We may as well get tickets for both. The tours up the monument are pretty much an open book. No-one’s booked on as yet at all. Next tour is 10.45. We’ve already read the sign saying the top of the monument has spectacular views of the viaduct. I ask advice. I’m not sure whether to go up on the viewing hill then do the tower or take a chance that we’ll make the top of the tower quickly at 10.45 and see the train. A little bit of procrastinating but in the end I take a chance and say we’ll do the monument tour at 10.45. We have about 10 minutes to kill.
We decide to head over to the meeting point. The thing that strikes me here the most today is not just the grand view but the colours. The blue of the Loch. The bright green and russet of the grasses and seed heads. There’s an intensity on this now bright sunshiney day that we’ve had hints of as we’ve explored over the last few days but here is displayed in its full grandeur.
I spend my first 5 minutes or so checking out where around here is good to get photos of the train if we’re stuck on the flat when it comes past. Then I look at the panels around the stone wall. They’re in Latin and there’s no translation. It all looks in good nick. I wonder when they were erected. Never one to stand still for long periods I start to wander around the back of the monument for views of the loch. Hubby sings out “He’s here!” It’s bang on 10.45. I hurry back and we’re heading up the narrow stairway as quick as we can. How many stairs are there? I ask. 62. Easy. That’s just one level of the Wallace Monument! Easy. We should see the train no worries. As we near the top we are cautioned to watch our heads. It’s an awkward manoeuvre to get out the hatch and onto the lookout. Wow. It is a good view. The breeze is blowing in our direction from over the Caledonian Pine Forest. It is an absolutely glorious smell. Not the same as other pine scents I’ve been exposed to. It’s more subtle, more elusive in a way that makes you crave a stronger intensity of it. Breathe deep.
Someone below sings out asking our guide to remove his high vis jacket. He calls down to them that he can’t, it’s a requirement of his job. He gets this a lot. People turn up and want to snap a quick photo of the monument and head on along their way. Understandably they can be a bit miffed to find there’s not only people standing on it, one of them is dressed in fleuro yellow! Strictly speaking the image of the monument is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, so really it’s a case of pay up and do the tour of the monument in which case you have the tower for half an hour or take your chances. In the high summer when people have their holidays in the UK, these monument tours are apparently booked solid so you may need to be prepared to wait for the gap between tours while there’s no-one up there if you want a freebie shot. I still can’t believe our luck just rocking up and being up here bang on time for the train.
The main focus of information we’re provided is about the viaduct. Clearly we’re standing looking straight at it waiting for the Jacobite to come by so we may as well talk about it. The many Harry Potter fans have just edged out the other group of railway enthusiasts for whom this railway viaduct is an important historical milestone. It’s the first concrete structure formed by pouring in the concrete to formed wooden frames. As each span was finished they would move on to the next This is a technology the Romans used but was lost and the bloke who build this viaduct was experimenting here and rediscovering how it was done. There’s no concrete reinforcement in it either so no concrete cancer. The company who built it went on to build stuff in Australia and is still an international civil engineering company today.
We’re tipped off when we need to get ready because the train will be along any minute now. Sue enough, he it is bursting out from behind the trees trailing a long plume of steam. Magnificent. Hubby videos as I take stills with my camera that has greater zoom. Brilliant. Simply brilliant. By the way, I observed that steam trains aren’t so impressive to watch in Australia because you don’t get the steam hanging in the air like that most of the time. Apparently it’s the same here for people who come in the summer and they can be disappointed at the lack of plume.
We turn our attention to the Loch and the statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie which was erected years after the memorial tower itself. It’s in surprisingly good condition, given evidence for the lack of pollution and comparatively mild, dry conditions meaning that the damaging effects of frost on the sandstone are avoided. Ultimately we just hang out, chatting with our guide and admiring the scenery. The hills around the loch look sort of crumpled.
Eventually it’s time to head down. There’ now people booked for the next tour and they are waiting at the bottom. We reverse our way out, heading backwards down the narrow stair treads. That was all we could have hoped and then some.
There’s an option of a short boardwalk into the pine forest but Hubby’s not keen to be on his feet and we want to have a bit of a look at the exhibition before we go. The exhibition is good but largely covers content we have already learned at Culloden though in a much more concise way. There’s a big wall with the ancestral lines of both the Hanoverian king and Prince Charles Edward Stewart along with a big question: Who do you think has the greater right to the crown? There is also information around about the various factors that influenced the selection of monarchs. People don’t think of the Hanoverians as Stewart kings but the lineage makes it clear that they are descended down through a succession of daughters from James VI of Scotland /I of England. Having been asked to form an opinion I think about it. On lineage alone, clearly Charles Edward Stewart was absolutely correct. His father was the rightful king. But the issue isn’t decided on lineage alone and it never has been. It’s about power and who can hold and wield it. It has been a long long time since the monarch was really the seat of power in Britain. The monarch has influence, a ceremonial role and defined powers limited by the constitution and this has been the case since the restoration. The displays don’t really open up the question about the constitution though. The intention seems to be to point out the lineage of the current royal house and reinforce the status quo. Naturally. In any case the Jacobite issue is a red herring. The real issue was and still is about what Scotland’s place in the world is and should be. It’s not an issue that’s gone away, obviously, despite the recent referendum. It seems to me there’s still a lot of discussion that needs to happen to reform the constitution and refine what we in Australia would think of as “State’s Rights”. Not just for Scotland’s sake, but for all the separate parts of the United Kingdom. I sincerely wish all concerned the very best of luck in sorting it out!
Well, it’s high time we headed on. We’ve spend a lot more time here than I was expecting. The manifesto says grab some lunch here. Hubby’s not keen. He wants to wait until we get to Glencoe which I an hour and more away yet. Surely the National Trust have a café there. I guess so. We move on. Glenfinnan, with fantastic luck getting on the next tour has taken us 1.5 hours.
I’m falling down on the job and just sitting back, enjoying the ride and the music that we’ve picked up at the Glenfinnan visitor centre. We just went bezerk and bought a CD by a local ceilidh band and took a big gamble and got the CD by the Caipercaillies we’d been considering at Inverewe. We pull over at Glencoe Boat Club grateful for the opportunity to capture the pretty scene of the yachts resting against blue and green. Glencoe is a pretty little place and we meander about a bit, fairly aimlessly following our nose across a pretty little burn and along dim paths among densely leaved woodland trees. I can certainly see why people come here. Just by chance we pass right by Glencoe Café which my research has suggested is very good, but we are nothing if not determined to give the NTS as much business as we can. In a very short while we decide we’d better stick to our knitting and find the visitor centre for the historic sites. We don’t have a lot of time we pick up the NTS signs not far out of Glencoe. It’s also more wooded than I had imagined. By now we're accustomed to open moorland. It’s also extremely busy and not a parking space to be had. We give up in disgust and head back to have lunch at Glencoe Café. This is going to take longer than we wanted to spend on lunch I’m sure. Fate is intervening. There’s parking onsite and a table indoors although it is a glorious day today and outside would be very pleasant. We just want to eat and get on. Hubby goes for the BLTC ie Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Chicken on a ciabatta roll. I stick with what had tempted me at Glenfinnan – here too they are selling Coronation Chicken sandwiches. That’s the one for me. The smell of the bacon cooking as we wait makes me wonder if I’ve done the right thing going for something else. It’s deliciously smokey. In due course out they come. Hubby’s BLTC is beautiful. He offers me a taste. Oh yes. That’s a very very good example of its kind. My sandwich is very good too. Generous on the seasoned mayo and very nice soft bread. More luxuriant than the basic, fairly dry version we’d picked up at Dunvegan Castle. Eating to order they don’t need to worry about the sandwich going soggy. We really must track down a recipe for Coronation Chicken. As we’ve been waiting for our meals to arrive, Hubby makes an observation. “The Apple Pie looks good.” My smoked fish obsession seems to be in remission. The apple obsession stirs sluggishly. “Does it?” I lean across to peer over at the cakes in the cabinet. “Hmm. Yes it does doesn’t it.” I reply more out of obligation than sincerity. Bought apple pies rarely live up to expectation. Home-made apple pie is best. However the high quality of the savoury elements makes my decision for me. Hubby encourages restraint. Seriously, he really did. I don’t know if that’s ever happened before. Never mind, I’m not to be deterred. It’s apple pie. This is the UK. It might be made with the world’s most delicious apple – the Bramley. My obsession is tapping me forcefully on the shoulder. I’m having some. Hubby takes the rapp and places the order when the lady comes to ask if there’s anything else we want. Would we like it warm or cold? Warm please. Icecream or custard with it? Ice cream thanks. Ice cream? Hubby ALWAYS chooses ice cream. He LOVES ice cream. Yes, ice cream please. She’s seems rather surprised at our choice. Don’t you guys do cold with hot or something? Soon our apple pie arrives, sitting modestly in the wide white dessert bowl nestled next to a ball of snowy white ice cream. I suppose you may wonder why such detail is required for a slice of apple pie. I guess then that you do not know that the Glencoe Café does the world’s best apple pie. Yes, I have no doubt, there’s nowhere on earth does a better apple pie than that. The pastry is clearly a superior recipe involving lard. Even reheated it’s texture and its sugar crusting is perfectly light and delicately crisp …and the filling. Oh surrender to the deep, tangy, intense apple flavour –Martin Wishart eat your heart out! If ever there was a place to indulge oneself at pudding time it’s at the Glencoe Café. The ice cream is also of a high quality with a glossy smooth velvety finish to it.
|Sorry, we were in such a hurry to try it we forgot to photograph it as it arrived!|
So, time to have another crack at parking at the Glencoe Visitor Centre. There’s heaps of space available now. Like I said. Fate. That apple pie and I were destined to meet. We head straight in and don’t worry about the pay and display seeing other National Trust sites have said not to for members. The design of the visitor centre at Glencoe is quite different to other similar purposed centres we’ve visited in Britain. It is nestled in the woodland with open covered walkways. It reminds me of the sort of architecture they have in the Northern Territory visitor centres. Very engaged with its environment.
I wander up to the desk and hand over my membership card. “Oh, FANTASTIC! One of these at LAST!!” exclaims the man on the desk. I’m clearly looking surprised. “Not many members coming through?” I ask. “Not many AUSTRALIAN National Trust members.” He replies. “The NUMBER of Australians we get through who’ve never heard of the National Trust!!” Well I don’t feel like such a cheapskate using my Australian membership for entry in Scotland now! “We don’t have so many National Trust properties in Australia” I say instinctively defending my countrymen and women who have unwittingly shamed their nation. He looks like he thinks that’s no bloody excuse at all. How could I say such a thing! I drift off with a feebly muttered “…perhaps because they don’t have enough members…” rolling over in submission to his clear disgust at all these hopeless Australian slackers who don’t support their National Trust! He does have a point.
We begin our look at the exhibition with the interesting short film on the massacre. Out in the exhibition space there’s plenty here to read but I skim and my head is all over the shop today unable to settle. So much sorrow. Such an atrocity. I’m fairly familiar with the events at Glencoe through some of my preparatory reading. There’s more here about MacDonalds too. I stop at a listening post and hear about an apparently well connected MacDonald (clanwise) who lived in North America and married a Nez Perce woman. He wrote to someone or other defending the Indigenous tribes. I’ve read a fair bit about the American West and Indian culture too, but first and foremost I’m getting worried about the time. It’s coming on for 3pm. We have a deadline and have to get the last ferry from Oban. Let’s go. First a quick look at the viewing area behind the visitor centre. The view is of the mountains all around. They’re fairly smooth sided and more or less uniformly green. Definitely a suitable candidate for naïve art work. There’s huge billboard sized open frame erected. It’s a big add for the National Trust and its work. Other than that we’ve got no idea what the point of this viewing area is. Strange. Doesn’t take us long, so that’s good.
Armed with advice about how best to use our time in the glen, we drive on. OMG! There are so many people around. What day is it? Ah. Saturday. A glorious Autumn Saturday. Where better to spend it than Glencoe. I wish it was a weekday. We drive on. Parking at the various stopping places is a bit of a shit-fight today. We decide we’ll just check the next one. Perhaps go to the furthest point and tick the stops off coming back. They’re all just as busy and there’s quite a bit of traffic driving through the glen as well. I beg a return and a drive back down the valley to try to get a scene I’d missed. The views are significantly better to my mind on the downward drive but I’m just not feeling it. If this were a break up I’d be saying. “It’s not you it’s me!” I just can’t settle to it. I snap half heartedly. Nope, forget it. Let’s just head on and try to get a look at Bonawe Historic Furnace. I interrogate the TomTom. It’s suggesting that from here it’s quickest continuing through the valley and around to Bonawe that way. We would have virtually no time at all there before we have to leave, but I’ve read that Bonawe processed awe mined in Ayrshire back in the day when my rellies were still breathing in that area. I’m intrigued and we both enjoy industrial sites. I’m over these crowds and all this traffic. Done we’re committed. We drive on. Glencoe is yet another thing we can revisit if we’re lucky enough to return. Note to self – visit Glencoe on a week day.
The upper part of the glen opens up into a broad flat landscape. I never imagined that Scotland had landscapes like this! There’s a sense of open-ness and emptiness out across the plain. Part of the Australian creation myth is the aspect of people torn from the bosom of their mother country and dumped in a place where everything is topsy turvey and unrecognisable and they knuckle down to toil and struggle. Well, you know, in terms of this strange landscape, I don’t know that it was as strange as all that. Not always anyhow.
We’ve changed the tone of our music. Our mood and this landscape demands rock. Dire Straits and Queen hit the spot in a playlist whose common characteristic is a strong beat. We love the open road. Nothing better. Eventually we start to come back into civilisation. Of sorts. Driving slowly along in a village I glance across to be confronted with the most extreme case of plumbers’ bum crack I’ve ever had the um, privilege, to witness. Good lord. I wonder that he bothered to put pants on at all. Why not just fix the fence in the buff? Save on the washing. Surely those pants are by now just restricting movement whilst adding nothing functional in terms of either modesty or warmth. Well I suppose they may be offering some sort of protection from injury at the front. Got to admit that’s important. ;-p
We have been passing through some very attractive little villages and along water edged drives with railway accessible resorts peppered here and there. It’s all very attractive and it’s always fun to be exploring somewhere new. We have the Historic Scotland satnav points in the TomTom and Billy tells us to turn down what seems to be an overgrown dirt track. We’re used to being given out of date instructions after Pitmedden so we continue on and look for an alternative entry. We eventually find one along a pretty lane with nice little cottages and an entrance to Bonawe House. There’s a neat fence and signage but no visitor centre office. We wander in. We’ve got precisely 10 minutes here. It was worth it. Bonawe Historic Furnace is brilliant. I’ll be getting the reputation as the woman with no idea soon, because once again I had no idea the site was on such a scale. It’s really very large and there’s multiple buildings with all the main buildings used in the foundary process intact.
The location is beautiful too. It’s a very pretty site and we're the only people here. It’s hard to imagine the hustle and bustle that took place here for so long. We quickly wiz around the site getting a feel for each of the spaces and then I notice the official entrance. That overgrown lane was the right turn!! Someone needs to do some clipping perhaps. I wander down to flash my membership card and buy the guidebook. I can read up some more later. Obviously we have a pretty good idea about the water technology aspect from our tour at Stanley Historic Mills, so that helps us understand what we’re seeing here today on such a lightning visit. It’s been a very profitable 15 minutes. Very much worth making the effort. I pat myself on the back. Nice work Snodge.
Now, we’re intent on getting into Oban, finding the ferry terminal and getting ourselves to Tobermory and to dinner by 8 pm. This all goes to plan. We find fuel and fill up, me watching the minutes tick by anxious lest we miss our slot on the last ferry of the day. Thankful for British queueing courtesy, we merge at a stop sign rejoining the main road. We’re in plenty of time (good) and we’re old hands now on the Calmac process and I try to catch up the journal a little while we wait in the queue.
We pull out from Oban bathed in evening light. The water is calm but there’s a stiff breeze blowing. We watch from the viewing deck but the funnel of the ship sends fumes over this area and I’m keen to get out of them. Aren’t diesel fumes carcinogenic? We find shelter around on the side of the boat where an elderly couple is busy watching the gannets fishing. We saw young gannets fishing at Chanonry Point, these ones are adults with their beautiful yellow necks and expert technique shooting like a pointed missile down into the water.
Duart Castle makes an imposing statement as we pass. It looks intact to. Not a ruin. Tempting. It’s not a long crossing and it’s not long before we are directed back to our vehicle and disembarking at Craignure. We press on straight away for our B&B, just a few minutes to defy the light for a look at Garmony which is a waterside patch of grass looking out over weed encrusted rocks and the coastline along either side of the Sound of Mull.
We’re a bit shocked by the terrain around Tobermory when we get there. The hill up from the waterfront is really steep and the town is arrayed around it along terraced lanes. We won’t be walking back and forth from our B&B that’s decided immediately. We check in and make the acquaintance of our hostess, spend a few minutes in our lovely, large room (more on that later) and head back out to dinner. Tonight we’re at Café Fish.
At this time in the evening 8 pm, we’re obliged to park down the street quite a way but it’s not really that far. We climb up the stairs and head inside. It’s very warm inside. Uncomfortably so and the place is jam packed with people. There’s an extensive specials board, so I photograph that and we settle down to try and make a choice what to have. Expectations are high because this is a very well regarded establishment. You could even say it’s a Tobermory must do on iconic status alone. Well, that’s the impression I’ve got anyhow. So. Hubby starts by ordering the Calgary Gold, by Ale of Mull Brewery. “Yeah, it’s good”. Is the verdict. Then he went for the bisque soup of the day £6.50, followed by the Seafood Stroganoff – salmon, haddock, smoked haddock, queenies and mussels in a paprika, white wine and cream sauce £18.50.
I am torn between a few options but in the end I decide to put them to the seafood litmus test. Salt and pepper squid with aoli and salad. I follow up with the Sound of Mull Scallops with truffled celeriac puree & caramel apple drizzle £18.50.
Well this is interesting isn’t it. The Salt and Pepper Squid is enormous and the coating is almost identical to the version we had in Kansas City. In Kansas city though they’d minced the squid up so it was mostly coating. Here the squid is the perfect size and cooked to perfection. The coating is reminiscent of KFC coating, but a bit more peppery and crisp. I’d describe this as chicken fried squid. For what it is, it’s well done, but I prefer my salt and pepper squid done with a lighter coating as Asian restaurants at home do it, or perhaps with just a light dusting of flour like the Italian calamari.
My scallops are also cooked to perfection, each of the individual elements on the plate are very nice but there’s just far too much of them. The scallops are drowning. Quality seafood speaks for itself. It only takes a touch of complementary flavour to enhance it. It's OK, and thankfully the scallops sans other stuff is not to much after the squid.
Hubby’s bisque was very nice and he enjoyed it and the flavour of the seafood stroganoff is great, but again there’s an excessive amount of sauce with it. I’m thinking this is the style. We’ve come across the same style of death by sauce inundation cuisine in New Zealand around Dunedin. It’s intriguing. I guess this is just a style of food that local people and obviously a bulk of visitors prefer. I’m reserving my verdict on Café Fish for now.
We see they have Pavolva on the menu. That’s certainly throwing down the gauntlet. I can’t fit it in now, but I’ll be having that before we leave Tobermory.