great sunset as we approach the Isle of Mull

Scotland by land and by sea

In Scotland, you’re spoilt for choices

OK, so we have a clear blue sky and a full tank of fuel. Where shall we go explore today on our road trip of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland? After a great stopover in Lochmaben, it was time to push on.

bye bye Lochmaben, it’s been great
bye bye Lochmaben, it’s been great

The first thing we quickly realised was not just the scale of the country. When you start travelling around, pretty much everywhere is beautiful, staggeringly beautiful! To do it any kind of justice, we decided less was indeed more. We didn’t want to be ‘tick box travellers’ – a been there, done that, what’s next sort of approach. We wanted to spend a bit more time to explore things at our own pace. 

map detail of the Isle of Mull in the Highlands of Scotland
map detail of the Isle of Mull in the Highlands of Scotland

Even though we had a few weeks up here, it wouldn’t nearly be enough to try and do and see everything. We needed to pick and choose where and what we ideally wanted to explore. Initially, I had crazy grandiose ideas of trying to visit Arran, Mull, Skye, Harris and Lewis, Orkney, Shetland. Plus maybe even doing the North Coast 500 (NC500) too! Short of moving here for an extended period, that was never going to happen in the time we had! In the end, we opted to strip things way back. After all, this will most defiantly not be our last trip here that’s for sure!

A cunning plan

We decided we wanted to see the Isle of Mull. It then made sense to see the Isle of Iona as well whilst in the area. Being out of the main tourist season, it was a great opportunity to visit the Isle of Skye before it got really busy. On previous trips to Scotland, we both loved the stunning Glen Coe region. This needed to be in our itinerary somewhere as well. We had our single pre-booked, special experience to factor in as well. The only fixed date in the diary for the next few weeks!

plenty of great places to stop for a break on the journey
plenty of great places to stop for a break on the journey

In our minds, this all felt a feasible amount to do without becoming too much of a mission. If we felt we’d spent enough time in one area, we could always simply move on. Or conversely, if we loved a particular area, we could hang out there for a bit longer. That’s the joy of having a camper van I guess? You can explore at your own pace.

Are we there yet?

The first part of the journey was great. Unfortunately, once we got to the outskirts of Glasgow, things slowed right down. Unsurprisingly, a lot of other people had similar ideas to us. They also wanted to take advantage of the great bank holiday weather. Everyone seemed to be heading to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National park. 

Loch Lubnaig, part of the beautiful Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Loch Lubnaig, part of the beautiful Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

I had envisaged needing first and second gears maybe on steep mountain passes or inclines. Unfortunately, instead, it was here for a few miles of traffic queues! This area of Scotland seems to be rather popular right now!

Making our way to Mull

The easiest (not the only) way to to the Isle of Mull is via a ferry service from Oban. Some people book ferry crossings in advance, whilst others turn up and see what’s tickets are available. I think you can guess which type we were going to be!

the iconic and beautiful Highland cattle of Scotland
the iconic and beautiful Highland cattle of Scotland

It was the Easter weekend, so we were unsure how busy things might be? The CalMac ferry website indicated there might still be some spaces on one of the later crossings to Mull. All earlier ones were fully booked! It was a beautiful day. There was a fantastic road to drive. Let’s see if we can get to Oban in time and maybe catch a ferry over to Mull! 

Room for one more?

Being in a vintage VW camper, we are not usually speeding around at the best of times. So in reality, the slower traffic earlier on did not really affect things too badly for us. Plus the scenery en route was still amazing, so it was not exactly a big hardship. In the end, we actually made Oban in pretty good time. Now to see if we could get a ferry crossing ticket…

waiting hopefully in-line for the next available ferry at Oban for the Isle of Mull
waiting hopefully in-line for the next available ferry at Oban for the Isle of Mull

It seems like there was a night crossing around 10 pm that we could still get a space on. Once booked, we could wait in the standby queue for two earlier crossings. Sometimes there was space to get across a bit earlier? This was a bit of a gamble. Our final destination on Mull was fairly remote and required travelling on some ’interesting’ looking roads to get there! We had got this far OK, so we booked the night crossing to make sure we got across today. Inside, we were hoping that we might get on an earlier crossing if space came up.

even room on-board for a double-decker bus!
even room on-board for a double-decker bus!

When the first earlier ferry docked, we watched with a vested interest the different cars and trucks roll on board. Then the line of cars we were in got waved forward. Result! We managed to get on board the earlier 8 pm crossing! I was amazed at the size of the vehicles these comparatively small ferries could accommodate. There was even a double-decker bus on our crossing!

leaving the ferry port of Oban… next stop the Isle of Mull
leaving the ferry port of Oban… next stop the Isle of Mull

Time to go explore

It was a comparatively short crossing, 45-ish minutes, but as with our road travels, the journey and views were still amazing! Lorna enjoyed the opportunity just to chill out and catch-up with a few things online. I, on the other hand, stretched my legs with a walk around the deck of the ship. 

Lorna catching-up with what’s going on in the world
Lorna catching-up with what’s going on in the world

As we approached Mull, the sun began to slowly sink behind the hills. It was all getting a bit picture postcard perfect! 🙂 We got treated to a beautiful Scottish sunset as we approached the docking point of Craignure on the Isle of Mull. It was both beautiful and exciting. Really looking forward to exploring Mull.

great sunset as we approach the Isle of Mull
great sunset as we approach the Isle of Mull

Once we arrived in Craignure, all we had to do was find somewhere to stay for the night, plus of course get there before it was dark!

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