And just like that it’s all over for another year. Christmas and Hogmanay are a distant memory and after 11 blissful work free days I’m back in the office with a serious case of January blues and an aching desire to wander in remote corners of Scotland. Also, my liver hurts and my clothes have all shrunk.
This year I’ve resolved to spend as much time as possible outdoors. I plan to catch the sun rise and set, gaze upon starry skies, watch the Aurora Borealis dance and spot some of Scotland’s more elusive wild beasties.
I planned to get off to a flying start with my resolution on the lovely Isle of Mull.
Will wild weather hamper our plans?
I woke early on Hogmanay to the sound of the wind battering my house. I immediately checked the status of CalMac’s sailings from Oban. My heart sank when I saw my crossing had an amber warning. Disruption possible due to high winds, grrrrr. We set off not knowing where we’d be welcoming in the New Year but remained hopeful that it would be Mull. It was a miserable journey – dark, rainy and blowing a hoolie.
Near Crianlarich I picked up a fleeting 3G signal on my phone and checked my CalMac app for any new updates. The sailing before our midday one had been cancelled.
We arrived in Oban 90 minutes early and were delighted to see other cars queuing for the ferry. We were ushered into a lane to await boarding and happily joined our fellow Hogmanay island hoppers. Woo hoo we were off to Mull.
Our ferry the MV Isle of Mull sat in the harbour and the crew having found themselves with some spare time after the earlier cancellation were running through a safety drill. ‘Abandon ship’ boomed over a tannoy system.
Our crossing was choppy but not enough to make us queasy or put us off eating lunch on board.
A Hebridean Hogmanay
Tobermory was our base for the weekend. It’s a lovely town, even on a dreich day (Scots for miserable). We were staying at the Park Lodge Hotel or for those of you familiar with the children’s tv show Balamory we were staying at Josie Jump’s House.
After a drink in the hotel bar to toast our good fortune at making it onto Mull we headed down to Main Street to the legendary Mishnish. The Mish is a much-loved Tobermory watering hole. It was only mid-afternoon but the place was already jumping.
That night we enjoyed dinner and a few drinks at our hotel before wrapping up warm to make our way to Main Street to see in the New Year.
Mr G donned the new Harris Tweed cap Santa had given him for Christmas and was transformed into a strutting peacock. I’ve never seen him look quite so pleased with himself or a new item of clothing before.
Outside it was a cold, clear night and as I looked up at the sky millions of stars twinkled back at me. The plough stood out and there was Orion’s Belt too – and that’s where my stargazing knowledge ends. Even with my shortsighted eyes I could see the stars clearly, and over on the mainland was that a faint green glow I could see shimmering and dancing in the sky? Mr G was too consumed with adoration for his new tweed bunnet to bother himself with stars, Aurora Borealis and suchlike.
On Main Street a happy crowd of all ages had gathered by the clock tower and music was pumping from the iconic Tobermory fish & chip van.
As The Proclaimers blasted out into the night air, adults and children danced in the street, singing along – it was lovely. Innocent, inclusive and just how Hogmanany used to be when I was a young child.
The clock began to chime, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – Happy New Year.
A fantastic firework display followed and seemed to last forever. The islanders should feel very proud of that display as they worked hard to raise the funds to pay for it. We couldn’t have picked a better place to see in 2017.
We toasted its arrival with a nip of Jura Superstition then headed off to bed, tired after a day of travel and fresh island air.
Blowing away the cobwebs
We felt smug waking hangover free on New Year’s day. After breakfast we set off in search of adventure. The roads were deserted and it felt like we had the whole island to ourselves.
It was a cold, blue sky day which is my absolute favourite type of day.
I wore my new Trespass down jacket which was cosy and light as a feather. Mr G gave it admiring glances and I caught a Gollum like glint in his eye. If it hadn’t been a girlie pink colour I suspect he’d have relieved me of it. My Nana used to use a great expression ‘He can’t see green cheese’ – it translates as he sees someone else with something and wants it. Mr G most definitely can’t see green cheese, and for that reason he’ll be getting a fancy new Trespass jacket of his own for his birthday this weekend.
We drove, stopping frequently to take photos and admire the scenery and not long into our day out a Golden eagle soared by close to where we stood. Scotland never ceases to amaze and inspire me.
To boost our step count we headed towards Grasspoint for a walk. As we approached we were greeted by a barking hound charging towards us. She turned out to be full of bluster and really loveable. I think the boy fell in love with his new ‘strawberry blonde’ friend. They had a great time leaping playfully at each other.
Grasspoint was once the main entry point onto Mull from the mainland. Today it’s a lovely quiet spot. It’s also a great place to spot adders if snakes are your thing. Despite trampling around in long grass we didn’t meet any on our walk, which is probably a good thing.
As we left Grasspoint our new friend bade us farewell and bound off into a nearby house.
We were hungry and ready for lunch but there was still time to stop and snap a dream house of mine.
The light was shifting beautifully around the wee white house as we took photos. A heavy topping of cloud sat above the snow-capped Ben More. It was a stunning scene.
We lunched at the Bellachroy in Dervaig where the food is consistently good and the soup awesome. A gaggle of rowdy villagers appeared in the bar. 13 hours after seeing in 2017 they showed no sign of calling it a day and succumbing to sleep or alcohol poisoning.
Our post lunch walk on the beach at Calgary Bay wasn’t quite as tranquil as expected. We arrived to find it thronging with people and after only a short visit we headed to a quieter spot.
I love the viewpoint above the village of Dervaig. It was delightfully people free too which was just perfect.
I’ve visited this spot for years as there are Neolithic stones which I adore nearby. The Cnoc Fada or Kilmore stones once stood in a clearing in woodland. On bright days beams of light would penetrate the trees, casting a lovely cool light on the stones.
The trees were felled a couple of years ago and the place lost a little of its mysterious atmosphere but now the stones glow like gold under the setting sun and I love their new-found warmth.
After a long day exploring the island we had dinner and a chilled night back at the hotel. There was live music billed so we decided to listen to it over a drink or two.
It turned out to be more like a stand up comedy routine. The singer rambled his way through a disjoined performance. He forgot the words, made others up and stopped half-way through songs to chat to people at the bar. He blamed his guitar and amp for not working properly, looking at them incredulously like they’d offended him greatly.
When he did sing he sounded like he’d been surviving on a diet of cigarettes and gravel. I was reminded of Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer on the quiz show Shooting Stars when Vic sang popular songs in the style of a club singer for the contestants to guess. They were notoriously hard to identify, just like these songs. We may not have got the live music we’d been hoping for but we had a brilliant laugh instead.
Farewell for now Mull
When we woke next morning Mr G relayed a nightmare to me which involved his tweed bunnet being stolen and replaced by a yellow sou’wester hat – terrifying indeed!
We were barely seconds into our journey homewards before we’d pulled the car over to watch a stunning sunrise over Tobermory bay – perfect timing.
Down on Main Street Tobermory’s weather-beaten cherub had gained a cosy winter hat. She looked angelic in her pink beanie against a backdrop of pretty fishing boats and a rising sun.
As we wound our way along the scenic route between Tobermory and the ferry port at Craignure, chasing the rising sun the second eagle of our trip flew right across our path – magical.
I joke that I’m blasé about eagles as I spot them on Mull so often. Yet every time I see one I get a thrill.
Far too soon we were swallowed up by the gaping jaws of the MV Isle of Mull and another wonderful island adventure came to an end.
You could say that 2017 got off to a flying start for me and I’ve done what I resolved to do. I’ve watched the sun rise and set, gazed upon starry skies, caught the Aurora Borealis doing a little dance and spotted elusive wild Scottish beasties.
Now back at work and living under light polluted city skies without an eagle to be seen, I resolve to continue 2017 as I started it – chasing dramatic skies and wild beasties so awe-inspiring they seem mythical.
So here’s to 2017 and a Happy New Year to you all.
Until next time ……..