Sunday, 26 January 2014

Oban and Isle of Seil

It was time for the first Isoc (International Society) trip of the year, and I, idiot that I am, had forgotten to buy a ticket. You buy tickets the tuesday before the trip and last tuesday I totally forgot to buy a ticket. I emailed the society, hoping against odds that they had some tickets left. They didn't, but the amazing Hojjat did some magic and conjured forth a ticket for me anyway. I am forever grateful!

So yesterday I found myself on board one of five busses headed for Oban. We stopped at Luss first, a cute little village on the banks of Loch Lomund. I've stopped by before, on the Isle of Skye trip.

I didn't tell you about the song last time though. There is a song called The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond, that plays regularly in the couch when we travel. One of the stories behind the song is that two Scottish friends were captured by the English in the Jacobite rising of 1745. One was to be executed and the other was sent home. The one who was about to die wrote this song. The refrain talks about the high road and the low road, and the friend who lived got to take the high road, the road of the living. He who was to die would take the low road, where the fairies of Scottish folklore would carry his soul along, and thus be in Scotland before his friend.

I got a picture of this Island that I didn't capture last time:
This is the Honeymoon Isle. Couples were encouraged to spend a week on this island, and you would really find out if you could live with the other person for the rest of your life.

After Loch Lomund we arrived in Oban. Oban is a town on the west coast of Scotland, informally known as the Gateway to the Isles.
Oban features a Colosseum look-alike, McCaig's Tower. John Stuart McCaig was a rich banker who in 1897 wanted to build a monument dedicated to his family. He was inspired by greek mythology, that is why the tower looks like the Colosseum. He planned a museum inside the tower with marble busts of his family members and stuff, but only the outer ring was finished before his death. Today it is a public garden.
View from the tower:
On the way down from the tower I came across a beautiful garden filled with mosaics.

There were also these wonderful petrol pumps.
Oban also has castle ruins so instead of trying out one of the many seafood places I went to find the castle.
This is not the castle, it is the St Columba's Cathedral on the way to the castle.
On the way to the Castle, which by the way is called Dunollie Castle, I came across Fingal's Dogstone.
From the information plaque: "Legend has it that this rock is where the ancient heroic warrior of Celtic mythology Fingal would tie his mighty dog, Bran. As Bran circled and struggled, fastened there by a great chain, the base of the stone would be worn down."

I was wondering if this had something to do with the giant Finn McCool that built the Giant's Causeway in North Ireland. Wikipedia tells me that Fingal is indeed the same figure as the giant Finn McCool. So below is me on the Giant's Causeway, his bridge to Scotland so he could step across without getting his feet wet, and the Dogstone, where he chained his dog while in Scotland.

Onwards towards Dunollie, I could see that spring is already well on its way in Scotland
Speaking of plants, look at this crazy lichen. It looks like salad. And this root. Nature is beautiful.
The castle itself was closed to visitors, but it looked quite charming. The view was great too.

The weather during the day had been unpredictable and very Norway-like actually. We had some rain, some wind and patches of blue sky. On the way down from the castle it started to hail. A good, proper hail squall. It got so bad I ran of the path and hid in a cave. Well not a cave perhaps, but it provided shelter.
The 'Cave'
The Hail
The squall passed, and it was once again safe to move in open terrain. I walked back to the bus stop as we were about to leave Oban and continue our trip. This is by the way what it looks like when Isoc is out and about:

Next stop was the Atlantic Bridge, crossing over to the Isle of Seil. It is supposed to bring luck walking across it.
On the parking lot there was this cute little self service kiosk where you could by post cards. I didn't buy any because I didn't think they were pretty, but I like the concept.
Next to the bridge there was an inn, the Trish-an-Truish Inn, house of the trousers. This is were the islanders would change from kilts to trousers before crossing the bridge after the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745 when kilts were banned in Scotland.
On the Isle of Seil proper we stopped beside the Highlands Art Exhibition. There were also great hiking opportunities close by.
I went inside first to warm myself. When I stepped outside, ready to take pictures and climb up hills it started to hail again. I had spotted a post box and ran to it to post my customary postcard to my parents. Because I was in such a hurry to get back inside I forgot to put a stamp on the card. So yeah, parents, you probably won't get that card. Sorry.

When the hail squall was over there wasn't time to climb any hills, but I did take some pictures.

That concludes the trip to Oban and the Isle of Seil. For next weekend's adventure I will definitely remember to buy a ticket at the appropriate time.

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