I’ve been itching to go exploring for a while now and as fun as our local day trips are, I had been looking for something a little further afield so I couldn’t have been happier when a trip out to the Western Isles came up – they’ve been on my must see list for ages! So we took the trip to Oban to join the Three Isles Tour run by West Coast Tours to take in the sights of Mull, Staffa and Iona.
Our first port of call was, of course, getting from Glasgow to Oban but this was roughly a two hour drive but a very pleasant one. It wasn’t the best of mornings but despite the rainy start the views just on the drive up were great as the route takes us right along the shore of Loch Lomond and then Loch Awe on the way.
On arrival in Oban, we collect our Three Isles Tour tickets and set about finding somewhere to leave the car for the day. We found a long stay (and free!) car park on next to the supermarket superstore on Lochside Street and wandered down to the CalMac Ferry terminal to join our boat crossing over to Craignure on Mull.
The trip across to Mull takes around 45 minutes but the journey feels very speedy and the views from deck are pretty good too! You can spend your time inside which is pretty comfy but the real fun is checking out the uninterrupted views from the deck.
The route to Fionnphort takes us right across the island past some of Mull’s fantastic scenery. There there are no stopping points on the journey with the Three Isles Tour but our driver and guide provided an in depth commentary of local sites, island history and is quite the wildlife spotter, pointing out wild deer, sea eagles and the tourist favourite of the Highland cow.
It turns out Mull is exceptionally green, which is in no doubt down to the lovely weather we were enjoying on our trip. Our guide highlights walking trails and important landmarks for anyone planing a return visit and I must include myself in that as having seen but a small part of Mull I’m eager to return.
Once we have all been thoroughly dazzled with wealth of knowledge on the history of Mull and it’s people we find ourselves at Fionnphort, our departure point for the next stage of our Three Isle Tour. The bay itself is also a lovely spot with a gorgeous little beach but we’re straight onto our little boat in the hope of seeing some puffins!
We arrive at Staffa and the magnificent Fingal’s Cave after around 30 or 40 minutes and scale of the structure is quite awe inspiring, It fascinating to see the unique rock formations that create the sea cave but also the power of the waves on the day we visited. At Fionnphort our vessel awaits and we join the crew from Staffa Tours who will be skippering us out to the famous Fingal’s Cave and of course helping us spot some puffins. The weather still hadn’t picked up so its pretty wet on the boat and the journey gets a bit rougher the closer we got to Staffa. The crew did warn us that the waters were pretty choppy and that there were big swells so they’ll need to make a decision once we’re a bit closer as to whether it was safe to land. And he wasn’t joking about those waves!
We spent a little time viewing the caves but sadly the seas were just too rough for us to reach the jetty and spend any time on Staffa but our boat crew took us round to a much calmer spot to see the puffins fishing and bobbin about in the water. Though we didn’t get to see the puffins on land they were still very cute to see in their groups preening on the water.
Before we go we make another pass at Fingal’s Cave before heading over to Iona but the the rough seas finally got the better of me and I’m embarrassed to say that yes I was indeed sea sick. Our weather wasn’t great and the sea conditions where quite choppy which was a shame but luckily once we made it on to Iona, I was instantly better.
Landing on Iona we were met by yet another beautiful beach but our first stop on the isle is the Nunnery , before going on to explore St Oran’s Chapel and Reilig Odhráin; the legendary burial place of early Scottish kings. As well as housing ancient royals, it may also be the final resting place of some of my own family as my own great grandmother was born on Iona and her family before her worked the land here so it’s quite nice to have the family connections to such a beautiful place.
Of course, the big draw of the island is Iona Abbey and there are plenty of features to the site from the Tòrr an Aba rock, the St Colomba Shine and the ancient Christian procession way to the Cloisters, High Crosses and the Abbey Church itself. To explore all the parts of the Abbey it is best to spend a fair bit of time here and Historic Scotland who are caretakers of the site supply an information audio unit which gives the history of all the different sections.
We worked our way through all the sites and were even treated to a performance from the church’s music man before losing Andrew to the Iona Abbey Museum where he inevitably got lost reading board after board of island and community history.
Spending so much time at the Abbey mean we didn’t quite have time to explore Dun I, Iona’s highest point though we did go a little wander near by before heading back to Mull on the 8 minute ferry and to continue our stories with our West Coast Motors driver and our last little hop back over to Oban to find some fish and chips and a nice sleep after a long day.
This tours give an excellent introduction to the Western Isles and really is perfect for those short on time. For us it’s fuelled our passion to see more for these beautiful islands and to spend more time exploring the Hebrides.
Have you ever visited any of the Scottish Western Isles? Tell us about your trip in the comments
We would like to thank West Coast Tours for our trip on the Three Isles Tour
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