Saturday, 24 September 2016

A Family Camping Trip to Mull & Iona

This past weekend myself and a fellow 12 members of my family - yes, BIG family holiday! - headed to the Isle of Mull for a family camping weekend, with the main reason for the trip being to spread the ashes of my beloved Gran and Papa on the Isle of Iona. Though it may not sound like the most cheery trip in the world, it was actually a beautiful weekend with my wonderful family in some of the most stunning areas of Scotland. 

Paddling in Iona's waters (Iona paddling in Iona!!!)

We ferried from Oban over to the Isle of Mull on Friday evening, which is roughly a 45 minute voyage. Though the wind was beltering, the sunset from the ferry was a gorgeous scene. We arrived just after dark, but thankfully the campsite we were staying at is just next to the ferry port (see campsite review at the end). I was gutted to not have seen any wildlife on the ferry over, but if you're ever on a ferry in this area, keep an eye out for marine life, including basking sharks!

Sunset on the ferry. Photos don't do it justice!
The Isle of Mull is one of the larger isles in the Inner Hebrides, so we definitely didn't manage to explore the whole island. Craignure, where we camped, is a quiet village that holds the main ferry port. Both nights we visited The Craignure Inn for a drink and some food. It's the perfect place to grab some grub, and the pub has a great atmosphere in the evening, with a mix of locals and visitors alike. The owner and staff are extremely friendly and accommodating too. On Sunday, we visited the famous Tobermory town, where the childrens' show Balamory was filmed. A colourful, seaside town, the streets are lined with pink, yellow, red and blue houses, and plenty of fishing and nic-nac stores. The Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust are worth checking out for some information on the wildlife, including tours. I had never heard of them before, and I am now looking at helping them out in some way! For a spot of lunch, I can highly recommend The Pier Cafe. They serve everything from fresh fish and chips to haggis-topped macaroni cheese!

Saturday was our one and only full day, where we made the trip to the Isle of Iona. The drive from Craignure to Fionnport is just over an hour, and takes you through the more remote parts of Mull. The flora and fauna is very typically Scottish, with winding roads and plenty of opportunities to look out for wildlife. Shove on some traditional Scottish music on the strereo and really embrace the landscape while you drive!

The Isle of Iona itself is somewhere I have never been before, despite being named after it, and it was, as expected, stunning. If it wasn't for the wind, you could easily think you were in the Caribbean, with its white-sand beaches and clear blue water. We were lucky enough to have a sunny and fairly warm day, though a tad windy. We found a secluded, quiet spot on a beach to spread my grandparents ashes. It was a very emotional day, but we couldn't have chosen a more perfect resting place of them. We of course visited the famous Abbey, which is peaceful place with such a rich history. I really did not want to leave this peaceful island - and I'm not sure if it was the emotional trip, the beaches or a mix of everything, but it's somewhere that has really struck a chord with me. I hope to visit it again as soon as possible, possibly to walk right around the island, or maybe even just to sit on the beach and relax for a day!

Beautiful low Autumn sun on the beaches of Iona
The famous Iona Abbey
I have to do a shout-out to the Shieling Holidays campsite in Craignure where we stayed. Now, I am a firm believer in both campsite camping and wild camping, however I will not lie, on this trip I was hoping for some wild camping. We decided to book a campsite considering we were such a large group which included two children, and this campsite exceeded my expectations. Upon booking, we were given the option of having the car near the tent, or parking the car slightly away from the tent but getting a good view. Of course, I chose the view, and it was completely worth it. In return for having the car an extra few feet away from the tent, we were rewarded with a panoramic water view, where we could watch the ferries pass by from the comfort of our tents. The staff at Shieling Holidays accommodated our large group with absolutely no bother what-so-ever, and even though we stayed up a little after curfew on the first night (bit too much excitement getting the family together!) they were perfectly polite in letting us know the bedtime rules, and were a pleasure to deal with from start to finish. There is a communal fire pit, so even though you are in a campsite you do not have to live without a traditional campfire, and it's a great opportunity to meet fellow campers. The facilities are well equipped with toilets, showers and a communal kitchen, all in large tents, which meet the campsite facilities you would expect without being too like a hotel (which is my pet peeve in some campstes!). If you're not the biggest camping fan yourself, you can always book yourself a Sheiling tent with campbeds provided too!

Early on the Sunday morning I woke up and realised we had left our tent door unzipped. As I went to zip it up, I witnessed an absolutely breathtaking sunrise. It was just that stunning that, despite having a late night, I got up and charged my dead phone battery in the common area, just so that I could take a couple of photographs. Of course, the photographs don't do it justice, but I'm hoping you get the idea of just how beautiful this place is!

There are probably a hundred different things we did not do in Mull and Iona, but as mentioned previously, the aim of the trip was for a relaxing family getaway in memory of my grandparents, and that aim was easily met. The entire weekend was so peaceful, and felt very Scottish, reminding me of how fantastic our country is! I would say the scenery in itself is worth the travelling to both Mull and Iona, and the additional tourist opportunities of the Iona Abbey and Tobermory were just added benefits. I can honestly say I was gutted to leave. If you're looking for a relaxing escape to nature with some breathtaking views, then Mull and Iona need to be on your list.

Looking out to the Isle of Iona from Mull
Have you been to Iona or Mull? Let me know how you found the trip! If you enjoyed this post, share with your friends, and don't forget to subscribe by email! :)

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