Oban and the Isle of Iona

Alright, this might be a rather lengthy post but this was my first weekend trip so I want to make sure I do it justice.

On Friday me and three other ISS students started our adventure to the Isle of Iona. This island is on the West coast of Scotland and is known as the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. I must say that I mostly tagged along on this trip because I trusted the others and figured it was interesting and going to be fun no matter what.

We left campus at around 3 pm to catch a bus into Glasgow where we then got on another bus that took us to Oban. This part of the journey took about 5-6 hours including the layovers between our buses. We got into Oban a little after 8:30 and walked the short distance to our hostel. It was my first time staying in a hostel so I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially since I had heard some… not so good stories from other people. Luckily, the hostel we were suggested was highly rated and turned out to be really nice! It was in an old church that had been converted into a hostel so the layout was interesting. The rooms where on the lower levels and you went upstairs to check in where the kitchen area was. The top level was very open and had the equivalent of 2 full kitchens as well as a lounge area with couches, board games, giant chess, tables and chairs, a pool table, and a foosball table. We ended up getting our own room with 4 bunk beds that was painted lime green and teal blue. The room itself was not very large and the only furniture in it were the bunks but it was clean and nice. The bathrooms were spacious and clean (which after hearing stories I was very thankful for).

After setting all of our stuff in our room we were hungry and not ready for bed yet so we decided to walk around town to see what all there was. Most shops close early in the UK so we looked around in the windows of a few and then stopped in at a little restaurant that was still serving take away. I split a mean of fish and chips with one girl and the other two shared some chips and mushy peas (mushy peas are very interesting, imagine mashed potatoes but peas instead piled on top of the french fries). I tasted this strange combination and it was actually pretty good! We took our food back to the hostel and sat upstairs to eat it while we drank hot chocolate. By this time it was still too early to go to bed so we decided to play some games. First we played a few rounds of Scategories then we switched to a made up game that Laura invented called “Getting to Know You.” A fantastic game that really is useful for learning more about people in a fun way. It is hard to explain the rules but basically you draw cards and different cards mean different things. The person that loses the challenge has to tell the group something about themselves. This entertainment lasted well into the night and we finally decided to call it quits and head to bed.

We woke up around 8am the next morning, got ready and ate some breakfast then left our hostel to catch a ferry to the Isle of Mull. Once on Mull we needed to take a bus to the other side to catch a ferry to Iona. No trip is really complete without some form of mishap that you do not expect and this is the point where our trip ran into a minor incident. We made the mistake of not planning very accurately and assumed that once on Mull we could just hop onto a bus that would take us to the ferry. Unfortunately we needed to purchase our tickets for the service bus in advance and there was no room on it. We were faced with a choice: either wait until 1:30 for the next service bus or pay 20 pounds a piece to take a different bus (it was a guide bus that is why it was so pricey). There was no way we could wait until 1:30 so we had to suck it up and pay to get on the bus. The ride was 1.5 hours but once we got to the ferry everything else went very smoothly. I must add in here that while most of us were able to accept the fact we had to pay a lot more than expected and just made the best of it, one in our group was particularly upset about it and let us know about it for the REST of the entire trip. I will keep my venting down to a minimum and in no way do I want my readers to think it completely ruined my trip but it does put a damper on things when you have a complainy, whiney, naggy, irritating, loud, obnoxious person traveling with you. Anyway! Enough about that just keep in mind that there was that aspect of it.

Okay so we get on the ferry and crossing the sea was really fun! It wasn’t too rough of a trip and we got to see some really beautiful sights. It was a bit chilly but we sat on the deck so we could get a good view of everything. Once we got to Iona we got off the ferry and at this point it had started to mist/rain and it was kind of cold (typical Scotland weather). The island of Iona is small so it didn’t take long to cover. We went to the Nunnery which is a ruin of the old building where the nuns lived but there was a lot still remaining of it. Next, we went to the Abbey and got to look around in it as well as see some very old stone carvings and stone crosses (I’ll post pictures). After leaving there we browsed around in some local shops that had a variety of handmade crafts. We stopped by the beach and took some pictures before we had to board our ferry back to Mull.

We took the ferry back and then got on a service bus (which was MUCH cheaper than the ride there) and got to the other side of the island in time to catch the early ferry back to Oban. We got back to Oban a little after 5 so most of the shops were already closed so we could shop around so we decided to go to dinner and take our time. Since we were in the Sea food capital of Scotland we chose to go to a seafood restaurant. I ordered mussels in a cream sauce and a patte of some type that came with toast. Both were very good! We decided to go all out and get dessert as well so I got an ice cream sundae which was a good note to end on. We headed back to the hostel feeling full and ready to relax with some hot chocolate and more games. We stayed awake playing Monopoly (the UK version) and sipping our hot chocolate and talking. After we realized we were all getting slap-happy we decided it was time for bed.

The next morning we woke up but took our time getting ready and enjoying breakfast because shops don’t open up until later on Sundays. We checked out of the hostel and Since most of the shops were still closed at 10am we decided to take a tour of the Oban whiskey distillery. I am not much into whiskey and I hadn’t planned on taking a tour but it was really interesting and a lot of fun! The Oban distillery is one of the oldest ones in Scotland and one of the smallest so it was a very personal tour. We got to see where the whiskey is made and of course, we got to taste some of it! Let me tell you, whiskey at 10:30 am is an experience. It definitely will wake you up. We also got to keep the glass we sampled out of which was really exciting (yay free stuff!!!) and a nice touch to the tour. After the tour we spent the rest of the day looking around at shops and walking around Oban. We went into one store that specialized in jewelry and it was so beautiful but so expensive. One artist had a lot of work on display which I liked the best and will keep in mind for when I hit it big one day and am ready to pay $800 for a ring! Her name was Sheila Fleet if you want to check her work out, just beautiful!

Like I mention, shops here close early and they close even earlier on Sundays so we had about 2 hours to kill while we waited for our bus back to Glasgow. Most of us made the best of this my chatting and two of my friends attempted to teach me how to ballroom dance. I decided that ballroom dancing is a class I must take if possible when offered at McKendree because it looked like so much when they were showing me! Finally it was time for the bus and we got to Glasgow without any problems. We had another 2 hours of time until our bus to Stirling so we just waited, got a snack and talked. Finally we made it home and were all vey relieved to get to bed.

So, overall I had a really enjoyable weekend and learned several important things about traveling: 1) Always make sure you plan ahead, 2) Always budget a little extra money in case something happens as it probably will, and 3) make sure you know the type of people you are traveling with. I hope you enjoyed reading this very long update about my trip and as always, thank you for taking the time to read it!

2 thoughts on “Oban and the Isle of Iona

  1. 1.) Love the pictures! 2.) peas on the fries?! Did I read that right? 3.) I bet the distillery tour was awesome!! I watched a show on History Channel once about the different whiskeys in Scotland, doesn’t each region have it’s over taste because of the different peat that they use?

    • Thanks Breanna!Haha yes you read correctly. Mushy peas on top of the french fries… it was a very strange combo but not too bad! And the tour was really cool. Yes, the different distilleries all produce different tastes but it isn’t only the peat that determines it! There are like a million factors that influence the flavor and undertones of the whiskey including the water they use, the shape of the machines they use, the barrels they use, ect!

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