Crossing the heart of Skye we realised we were at the centre of our Scottish Isles Journey, but it was also a turning point emotionally. Only another week of travelling and we would be heading home to Bedfordshire, after nine months absence on Scottish shores. We had truly been ‘living the dream.’ We were upgraded to a delightful flat above our intended B & B with views on all sides ~ The Highlands and loch, the sea and coastline and the Quiraing hills towering at the back of us. Our aim on Skye was to walk as much as possible.
The sombre weather did nothing to dampen our experience, although our final drive across the Cuillins was disappointingly wet ~ in contrast to our following day in Tobermory, Mull, when we ate fish and chips by the harbour in the evening sunshine.
The quickest way from Skye to Mull is to take the ferry to the mainland from Armadale to Mallaig, (joining the circles of our train trip to Mallaig in March here) and to wind the way around the headland to an insignificant ferry port ~ in fact only a small neon sign announcing the next ferry reassured us that we were waiting at the correct location. The ferry was so small (a temporary event we were told) that my husband had to back out on the other side and do a three point turn on the peer head ~ not for the faint-hearted!
Our drive across Mull the next day was a kind of pilgrimage and, having visited Iona three times back in the 8o’s and 90’s, I was particularly excited to return.
The Seaview B & B at Fionnphort was a perfect welcome to take photos of Iona and the abbey and to wander along the coastal path before eating supper at the local pub. I was so excited to board the ferry the next morning and fortunately the sun was shining on us.
What can I say about the abbey experience? Now owned by Scottish Heritage, expect to visit this spiritual home of Christianity as if you are visiting a castle or stately home. In the end I ignored the headphones which hung redundant around my neck and, giving the many numbered plaques a wide birth too, I attempted to breathe in the heart of the place, pausing occasionally to light a candle or just to sit and let my mind drift wherever it willed. Fortunate that we had caught the first ferry, this was just about possible.
Before we left my husband wanted to find the tomb stones of the Kings and Chieftains which should have been in the wee graveyard, if his memory was correct. Disappointed we headed back to the village but, avoiding a sudden rain shower, we sheltered in the little museum, which was both informative and dry!
We remarked on our poor memory and the tomb stones.
‘Ah,’ the lady said. ‘Many folks ask me that. They are now in the abbey museum or on the walls of the cloisters.’ Seeing our puzzled faces she added, ‘to protect them from the weather I should think.’
On leaving Iona I was aware that nothing in life remains the same. Everything moves on with the times and so should I. I’m not sure that I was ready or even prepared for going home, but soon I would find out ~ nevertheless I would certainly hold dear many precious memories of our Scottish experience.