Part 3: Beaches and Islands
From the moment of our arrival at Fidden Farm, we settled in quickly and loved the natural beauty of our position. We walked a while around the white sandy beach, clambered over the rugged seaweed-covered rocks and enjoyed the beautiful views over to the nearby island of Iona. We spotted two seals swimming nearby, their heads comically bobbing around in the clear water, with us hoping they would join us in our shallow, sheltered bay; no such luck.
We crossed the damp beach and climbed the largest grassy mound in the bay, simply for the walk and the views. It felt good to explore the pools, humps and bumps of the beach, child-like and investigative. It may have been only light exercise, but mentally it felt restorative and renewing, and lots of fun. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon and evening, watching the sea slowly rise and the sun slowly set on our pretty corner of the bay.
The following morning, as we had already decided to spend a second night here, we readied our bikes for a short cycle to the ferry port in Fionnphort and packed a nice lunch. We set off through the quiet, moorland hills, enjoying the quiet ride. It was a shorter trip than expected, maybe two miles, and we arrived at the slipway with the ferry in port and a short queue of pedestrians waiting to board. We dismounted and joined them, bought a day return ticket, then deposited our bikes on the lower deck before climbing to the top to watch our jaunt over to the island of Iona.
On arrival, we pushed our bikes off the ferry behind a lady and man struggling to push a large wooden cart full of vegetables, before cycling north past the monastery and tourist centre, to reach the end of the road. Here we parked our bikes and walked through a field of sheep and spring lambs to reach the north coast of the island. We discovered stretches of beautiful white sandy beaches in volcanic black rocky coves, flanked by long, flowing lime-green sand dune grasses; picture postcard perfect. We walked over and around the rocks before following the coastline around to an even larger expanse of white beach punctuated with more jagged, black volcanic outbursts.
We returned to our bikes and this time headed south along the same road. We briefly stopped into the island’s community shop and welcome office where we bought postcards for family, before continuing back past the ferry slipway and onwards, to an open area of machair, sandy grasslands, that bordered the sea on the west side of Iona. Here we cycled to the far end of the beach and sat a while to eat our lunch, looking over the beach and out to sea. With immaculate timing the sun arrived to warm us, so we laid down on the soft grass and enjoyed a restful snooze.
Deciding we had to visit the highest point of the island, we returned to the north end again by bike. We found a footpath to the left leading to the Bishop’s Walk up to Dùn I, the largest hill on the tiny island at 101 metres. It took us all of seven minutes to reach the top, from where we could see almost the full extent of Iona. We pointed out the northern beaches and our western lunch spot as we pottered around the trig point and beehive stone cairn. From this vantage point the island reminded us a little of Easter Island, Isla de Pascua, with its rolling green fields, a distinct lack of trees and rugged, sea-battered coasts, but without the multitude of Moai.
We later caught the ferry back to Mull and cycled the short distance back to Fidden where we passed another relaxing evening exploring the beaches and watching out for seals. We held out a small hope for the aurora to visit us this night, but it wasn’t to be as there was a full moon instead and the night never really got very dark.
In the morning, with the dull grey clouds bringing light rain, we packed up and headed off for a long drive to the furthest point of the island from us; Calgary bay, on the far north west corner. To reach it, we had to return to Craignure on the east and then head north. We stopped for lunch in a damp picnic spot near Fishnish, before making the remainder of the drive on tiny single track roads to Dervaig and then to the wild camping spot at Calgary Bay.
After hearing nothing but good things about this area, we arrived in heavy rain to see a puddle-strewn grassy pitch by a scruffy river and were at first slightly underwhelmed. But we squeezed onto the site, picked our place and settled in, waiting for the rain to abate. A few hours later the clouds cleared and blue skies appeared, lighting up the surrounding hills and giving us the signal to get our boots on and go explore. We crossed the river and the local machair to reach an impressively wide expanse of white sandy beach that wasn’t visible from our site, and we instantly saw the appeal of this setting. The calm blue sea rolled in gently, with tall grassy cliffs on both sides framing the view.
Part 4 to follow.