Reflections on a long weekend up north
At the Good Food Show Birmingham last year we wandered past a stall advertising a weekend stay by Loch Awe for a bargain price, having not been to Scotland for anything but the briefest of stopovers it seemed like a worthwhile venture and a way of exploring without the hassle of airports and prescriptive luggage allowances.
In what has been a bumper year of travel for us both we have tried to cram in as many experiences into the first half of this year as possible so by August, we really needed a rest. At no point did I ever consider that getting to Scotland actually takes longer than most of our trips and involves sitting in the car for 7 hours eating Moam sweets grumbling about bad drivers, traffic and the weather like the true Brits we are. The journey was somewhat eased by stopping off at Tebay services Farm Shop, which whilst it isn’t as good as Gloucester- is always worth a visit for fresh Scotch eggs, pies and baked goods- a much more enjoyable option than the overpriced burgers or sandwiches found elsewhere.
We stayed in the Portsonachan Hotel and opted for the upgrade to a Loch View apartment that gave us a bit more space and a patio area with an excellent view, whilst the location is somewhat remote it was the perfect switch off we needed even with the fluctuating weather conditions. It’s fair to say that much of our visit consisted of eating,drinking and sightseeing but at a dramatically reduced pace than our normal adventures. It made a refreshing change from our normal approach to holidaying and gave us the opportunity to recharge a little whilst still feeling like we had experienced something new.
A brief excursion on our first night saw us visit Samphire Seafood and get our bearings on our location
Our first full day, and the highlight of our visit was a trip to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. We arose early and dived into breakfasts of fresh, local kippers with poached eggs and a traditional Scottish breakfast including haggis to fuel us for the day. A scenic drive to Oban and an easy ferry ride gave us time to watch the world pass by and (attempt to) spot some of the wild animals known to reside in the area. As the day brightened up we wandered around the picture perfect location, snapping away with the camera to capture the stark contrast of bright bold buildings against stacks of lobster pots and old fishing vessels. Whilst I still have never seen an episode of Balamory that made this area so famous its not hard to see its appeal- from the bakery selling out of the incredible fresh baked loaves and indulgent cakes as people crammed through the door to the tiny tea rooms and craft stores lining the seafront its the kind of place with a lot to see but little to do but amble. Notable was the attitude of the locals who took no umbridge at the flurry of tourists who arrive day by day via ferry but instead stopped to share a greeting, such is the difference in environment that when a young boy who approached us to talk with such enthusiasm about the crabs he had caught that day we were quite taken aback at his boldness but also that he lacked any apprehension of strangers as the elder two generations of his family watched on as he excitedly pointed out crabs concealed beneath the water and shared stories about his greatest catch and choice of bait. Chatting with his family we discovered that the smaller crabs caught were to be taken to the Mull Aquarium which operates a ‘Catch and Release’ policy meaning that all of their exhibits are only held for a period no greater than 4 weeks.
As with any great adventure, food us not just fuel for our travels but part of the experience, Tripadvisor served us well once again as visit to Cafe Fish provided a bumper lunch of the freshest seafood we have possibly ever had (it was being delivered by a fisherman as we ate) in a serene setting that looked out onto the bay. It was worth our visit just to come and eat here even if the temperature dropped as soon as we took to a table outside.
Whilst we only made the briefest of stops elsewhere on the island, a pleasant drive through the winding roads back from Tobermory provided plenty of beauty spots for us to cast an eye over before catching the Ferry back to Oban for the evening, we’ve already said that a longer trip would be worth doing so that we can expolore the islands further and head out to some of the more remote spots- not just because I desperately want to see a Puffin.
Despite our incredible lunchtime feast we stopped at Coast for an average dinner before heading back to our quiet retreat for a couple of local gins at the hotel bar and an quiet night after having such an early start to the day