Quantock & West Somerset N.T. Associations
Scotland & Isle of Mull
Report by Roger Wyatt

National Trust “Fun Group” invades Scotland
30th August – 7th Sept 2015
Cotswold Holiday

A coach load of intrepid travellers set off for Scotland on the Bank Holiday Sunday, led by Sue and Vickie and in the capable hands of our driver Steve. The traffic was light and, after the usual stops for comfort and refreshment, we reached our first night’s stop, the Crown Hotel at Wetheral, near Carlisle. A word of praise for this Hotel, we all agreed that this was a first class place for comfort, food and most agreeable staff. It was our favourite residence of the trip and we were well pleased to return there on our way home.

WSNTA Inverary Castle Next day we entered Scotland and a welcome return to the grand and magnificent scenery for many of us. Our first visit of the trip was to Inverary Castle, past and present home of the Dukes of Argyll and seat of the Clan Campbell. We were met by an imposing building from the exterior and an even more impressive interior. Of particular note was the magnificent Armoury Hall with a ceiling over 20 metres in height and a vast array of muskets, pole-arms, axes and swords, all displayed in elaborate patterns on the walls. Also the opulence and colours of the State Dining Room and the beautiful decoration and furnishing throughout were a delight. The history of the Castle and the Dukes of Argyll are of significant importance in the history of the United Kingdom. This is not the place for a history lesson but research on the internet would be interesting and rewarding.

WSNTA Oban On we went to the Royal Hotel in the centre of Oban, our base for our three nights whilst we explored the area. I will not dwell on the delights of The Royal as they were few but it was conveniently in the centre of town and it is difficult to find hotels large enough, and willing, to take a coach party of 50 or so.

“…A coach load of intrepid travellers set off for Scotland …”
WSNTA Duart Castle

We made an early start on Thursday to catch the ferry from Oban to Craignure on Mull. From the ferry we visited Duart Castle dating back to the 13th century and ancestral home of the Clan McLean. It is an imposing sight standing high on the cliffs overlooking the Sound of Mull. The rooms and their contents were of great interest and gave us a glimpse into the turbulent history of the area and of the Clan. One of the ships of the Spanish Armada was sunk nearby and many artefacts from this and other shipwrecks were on display. From the Castle Sue had planned a scenic tour to the Isle of Mull Hotel and Spa where we were to spend three nights on Mull. Now even the A roads on Mull are mostly single track with passing places so for our driver Steve to agree to go off track to the B roads was brave to say the least. The scenery was superb but the road twisted and turned and became so tortuous that Steve had to manoeuvre to and fro to cross one bridge; his efforts there received a round of applause from us all!

Friday saw us off to Iona via another ferry, to visit The Abbey, a centre of Christian worship since St Columba and his Irish followers arrived there in AD 563. The monastery he founded thrived for centuries despite repeated raids by the Vikings. The buildings were renovated in the 20th century and the Iona Community was formed continuing the abbey’s spiritual role to the present day. I think we were all impressed by the sense of peace and history that pervaded the building and site. Also of interest on the island were the ruins of the Nunnery, formed about AD 1200 until closed at the time of the Reformation. In the afternoon many of us opted to go on a boat trip to the Isle of Staffa, famous for Fingal’s Cave, formed from hexagonal basalt columns. Unfortunately the crossing was rather rough and several travellers regretted their trip, although many others appeared to enjoy yet another wave washing over them! However most of us enjoyed landing on Staffa and walking the path into the cave and experiencing its weird acoustics.

WSNTA Tobermorey

Saturday, and a visit to Tobermory, greatly enhanced by an interesting commentary from Alan who, as a resident of the area for many years, was a fund of local knowledge. On the way to Tobermory we visited the Isle of Mull Cheese Factory which is really the Reade family farm. We were given refreshments before having a tour of the farm by family members, and were all impressed by the self sufficient way they had built a thriving business from the ruin they moved into in the 1980s. Alan continued his talk in Tobermory following which there were optional visits to the Museum and the Tobermory Distillery, where a “wee dram” was enjoyed.

Sunday and we made an early start to catch the ferry and head for home, stopping once more at the Crown Hotel on our way. We had enjoyed a wonderful holiday in glorious Scotland and our grateful thanks go to Sue, Vickie, and our excellent driver, Steve.

Report by Roger Wyatt
Pictures by Ivor Jones

Click Camera image for more pictures in a slideshow

Next day, Tuesday, was a treat for the gardeners amongst us. First we visited Arduane Gardens run by the National Trust for Scotland. This is a coastal garden with a wonderful collection of plants from around the temperate world including rhododendrons, azaleas, magnolias and many more. At the centre was a tranquil water garden and there were many walks leading to viewpoints within the garden and out over the coast to the mountains beyond. It was a beautiful day, just ideal to enjoy a leisurely stroll around the garden paths. A welcome lunch was provided at the Loch Melfort Hotel before we moved on to the next destination on the Isle of Seil where we split the party into those visiting the gardens at An Cala and those walking around the nearby village of Ellenbeich.

WSNTA Arduaine Gardens NTS

I opted for the village walk which was of interest from its former role as a centre of slate mining in the 1800s. At its busiest ten steamers a week were moving slate away, and it was said that these were the islands that roofed the world. I was told that AN Cala garden surpassed even our morning visit to Arduaine with a 5 acre garden surrounding a charming house and having a stream flowing through the garden which was split into different colourful areas.

The next day was free of planned activities and many of the party explored the delights of the surrounding area. A group of twelve of us booked a private charter boat for a wild life cruise around the waters off Oban. We were fortunate in seeing white tailed eagles, common and grey seals and many seabirds. We were even more fortunate in having Cameron Smith as our skipper. He was friendly, interesting and informative, not only on the wildlife but on the surrounding features of the coast and country. On replying to our email of thanks after the trip he said that “It was always good to have a fun group on the boat”. Now we already knew that we were a fun group, but it was nice to have it acknowledged by someone else!!