In a drizzle of fine rain we arrived at the Queen’s Hotel, Oban, where our room enjoyed views of the bay. The big McBrayne Ferries sailed right past the dining room window, an ideal spot to share a drink with our fellow travellors.
Before breakfast Marjorie and I were out taking photos. There was mist across the bay but then the sun burst forth, highlighting the masses of tulips in pink, yellow,red and cream, and peach trees laden with bright pink blossoms.. We walked around to a distant headland and struggled up a narrow, slippery path, bordered with nodding bluebells. White tailed deer bobbed away at our approach, and a bumble bee buzzed for pollen. We were lured onward by the delightful song of thrushes in the woods. At the summit we found the ruins of a 7th Century Castle which belongs to the MacDonald Chief.
We sailed off for Iona,taking the huge ferry from the mouth of Loch Linnhe to Craignure, on the Isle of Mull. Morag told us to be sure to stock up on Duty Free. Marjorie and I set off to find the sales point. Once more the joke was on us.Marjorie said on her previous tour the Irish Guide had made lots of jokes – against herself. Is that the difference between the Scottish and Irish sense of humor???
Then everyone piled into a coach. The road was narrow, with numerous twists and turns. On the back seat it felt like sailing on a choppy sea and I needed a ginger capsule to settle a wobbly tummy. It was a limpid morning, drenched with sunshine. Pools of bluebells danced in the breeze, beside purple iris and yellow primroses.
Morag had warned it was never good to arrive behind a line of tourist vehicles and ours was the first to pull up at Fionnphort . We quickly transferred to a small ferry for the short sail to the tiny island of Iona. There, in 563AD, an Irish monk called St Columba, established the first Christian Monastery in the British Isles. It is said that in the small Cathedral he produced the Book of Kells, with its magnificent pages of illuminated manuscripts.
About midday we stepped ashore and the others adjourned to a hotel for lunch. Marjorie and I decided to visit the ancient Cathedral, before the hordes of tourists made pleasurable viewing impossible. We wandered around the almost deserted building,gazing at the ancient stones and tombs, medieval windows giving marvellous views of the ocean. A small flight of narrow stairs led into a small cell where monks used to sit and meditate, using the flame of a candle.
The Prayer Corner felt deeply spiritual and quiet. As if we were the only visitors to the island, we spent a special half hour there in meditation. Afterwards, browsing in the bookshop, the mood of peace and serenity was shattered by the noisy arrival of our friends from the bus. They later complained it had been impossible to appreciate the Prayer Corner or Cathedral. How glad we felt to have been there early.
We loved the Prayer of St Columba…That I may keep a door in Paradise; The furthest door, the darkest, coldest door, The door that is least used, the stiffest door…
We adored the ruins of the nunnery, covered with a profusion of pink creeper, the Celtic Crosses, and one more recent which paid tribute to the fallen of the Second World War. Walking along the deserted road we saw what, at a distance, seemed like a flock of sheep. Coming closer we realized they were seagulls sheltering from the gusty breeze.
Plans for an early night were abandoned when we heard a clairvoyant would be giving readings. Vince joked about the Witch and declared it was all a load of rubbish. When the woman entered the room I felt a sensation of tightness in my throat.Vince was the first victim selected. Her knowledge of personal details in his life proved so accurate, he sat in shock. Before she could reveal more Vince held up his hands. ‘Please, stop.’ Clearly, he didn’t want more details to emerge.
After the clairvoyant chose several people, I was disappointed when she said, ‘That’s all.’
Then she suddenly turned to me, said I’d be travelling a lot, including a trip to NZ (already planned), that I know something of four languages (True) Had three babies ( Thought she was wrong there but then recalled a miscarriage) would experience gastric problems (True.) and that I would sell my house (On the agenda)Marjorie said I should have had a private reading to hear more. I often wish I’d taken her advice.