From Glasgow, I took the incredible West Highland Line train route to Oban. At Crianlarich, the train splits into two legs. I eventually took the line all the way up to Mallaig (more on that later), and the scenery was SPECTACULAR. I’ve mentally nicknamed it The Happy Train because everyone on board was in a fantastic mood thanks to the view and fresh air blowing through the open windows. You can also ride a portion of the tracks on the Jacobite — the steam train made famous in the Harry Potter films. More on that later too!
But before I get too ahead of myself …
Oban is a small port city with ferry links to a number of Hebrides islands, including the Isle of Iona. I really liked Oban and its seaside culture. I happily made it my base for four nights and wish I’d stayed longer. Oban was where I had my first freshly-caught Hake fish and chips. Yum! And where I tasted my first “peaty” whisky. Yuck!
There was also a big Tesco a couple of blocks from my flat, and it was the first grocery store I’d ever visited where you could buy eggs, milk … and a wetsuit. This particular Tesco also stocked my favorite yogurt. If you’re ever in Scotland, eat this!
I should’ve taken photos of Oban, but I didn’t, and that’s actually kind of a compliment. I felt so relaxed there — and in my Airbnb flat — that I was more in living mode vs. tourist mode.
But I did take photos during my day trip to Iona. The island was the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland and has a fascinating history, which you can read more about here. People go there for spiritual retreats, and lots of tourists visit too.
It’s a bit of a journey to get to Iona from Oban, but every step of the way is incredibly scenic. First, there’s a 45 minute ferry ride from Oban to the island of Mull.
Then there’s an hour-plus bus ride across Mull to another ferry port where you can catch a brief boat ride to Iona. Depending on how you time it, you can have anywhere from 2-4 hours on Iona if you’re not spending the night. Many people consider the island a sacred place and describe a “mystical” feeling when they’re there. Honestly, while I thought Iona was very beautiful, my mystical places have been in Wales (St. Davids and Rossili) and Ireland (all of it!!!).
But I would still highly recommend a day trip to Iona and a walk to the North Beach that’s covered in white sand and loaded with pink granite.
The weather on Iona — and getting there — was cold! I wore a pair of shorts I’d bought the day before (at Tesco 🙂 ) because the weather in Oban was sunny and getting quite hot. In hindsight, I should’ve at least layered on a windbreaker and light scarf. I hadn’t realized just how chilly the islands can get in comparison, or how a simple change in wind direction can make such a huge difference in the “feels like” temps … even when the sun’s out in full force.
On the ferry back to Oban, I was exhausted and could see that many of my fellow passengers were too. It had been a long day. A lot of people had dogs with them, and every dog I saw was sleeping soundly. One was sprawled in the middle of the floor, asleep and oblivious to everyone stepping over him.
Here are a few more photos from my trip to Iona: