“Is that the boat for Staffa?” I screamed at the shaggy haired man who trundled towards me up the stone jetty at Fionnphort.
“Yes, it is.” He answered. I watched with dismay as the tiny passenger boat turned around and started to pootle away from us.
“Come back…” I felt as useless as Rose in Titanic.
“OI, MATE, COME BACK.” The shaggy haired chap clearly had more powerful lungs than I. The little boat turned around and came back for me and my boyfriend who’d made into the jetty after a necessary trip to the loo. Thank you, shaggy haired man.
Later that day, standing on the top of Staffa with my favourite bit of man stuff and the salty sea air whipping at my back, I was really glad the boat had turned around. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
The approach was a delicious appetiser of choppy waves, seal spotting and tales from the sea courtesy of our friendly boat master. The clouds that had dulled the mainland were left far behind and perfectly blue skies stretched ahead of us to Staffa.
Named by the Vikings, Staffa means stave or pillar island. The basalt rock of the island stood uniform like the keys of a piano reaching from the furious navy sea, the tiny boat cave in its side like a deep dark belly button leading into the mysterious darkness of the past.
Once the boat had dropped us off we explored the island on foot. My favourite part was edging into Fingal’s Cave, where the turquoise sea lashed the rocks and flecks of foam danced through the air in the ancient cathedral-like hollow.
The rest of the West
Scotland’s west coast really is quite special. It’s the first place I’d take visitors to show them the ‘real’ Scotland – rugged, wild and at times jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Our little adventure kicked off on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, with a night at Sallochy campsite. Stunning as the location was, I merely confirmed to myself that I am simply not made for the outdoors – particularly, not camping (unless there’s plenty of beer involved). Still, there was something quite special about enjoying a warm cup of coffee on the pebbled beach…after surviving a night of camping. Coffee had never tasted so good.
The next day we ventured further west, to our cosy little guesthouse in Inveraray. Brambles is my absolute favourite, and we were lucky enough to be in the room that had a brand new roll top bath AND monsoon shower. Needless to say I was very clean by the time we left for dinner two hours later.
It’s been on my bucket list to try the seafood platter at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and, oh my, it was all I could have wished for and more! Scallops, mussels, oysters, cockles, crab…basically the finest fruits of the sea Loch Fyne had to offer. The waiting staff were so lovely and we were pleased to find some locally brewed Fyne Ales on the drinks menu too – the perfect match for seafood.
The following day we took a speedy trip to Mull for our Staffa boat trip. Mull was far more enchanting than I’d remembered (I’d visited for work before, and I was quite ill at the time so probably didn’t fully appreciate the place). I love the relaxed pace of life on the island, cars saunter along the singletrack roads at 20mph and sheep lazily graze by the roadside.
At this point we’d made the ferry from Oban by a hair’s breadth, and, of course, barely made the Staffa boat on time. So we were feeling rather lucky. Perhaps a little too lucky. In our unbridled glee, I forgot to get my sensible head on to check the ferry timetable. So we got stuck on Mull.
My sorrow at missing a second precious night at Brambles was soon washed away by the colourful harbour and cosy pubs of Tobermory. Cue an evening spent drinking more wonderful Fyne Ales by a roaring log fire and playing cards with some of the locals. Perhaps we were quite lucky after all…