Wed 4 Sep - Oban, Scotland

Hiking Kerrera Island just off Oban...

The smallish island just across Oban Bay and between Oban and Isle of Mull is called Kerrera Island. Di found out about a nice hike around its southern half that we decided to do, see the trail in red below.

And this is how Runkeeper presented it. 12.2 km over a 4 hour period as we stopped and took photos a bit more often than the sign above would consider.

First though, to get across Oban Bay to Kerrera Island, one needs to take the punt. Not much space, 1 car and max 12 passengers.

All on board. Very rustic and informal and none of the overly safety measures that you would find in some countries. The front loading ramp was not even closed up for our journey across.

The bay crossing takes only 5 minutes or so and a return ticket cost £4.50. We targeted the 8.40am service, but ended up on an earlier non published service, which appeared to take garbage containers over from the island to the mainland presumably for collection.

Bye bye punt. We are stuck on Kerrera Island.

Di was checking out the map to see where we are going. Note the sign in the grass to the right which says "Path to house only". We giggled. They probably have had enough of lost hikers who can not even find the start of the trail.

All along the trail were signs like this one. Very informally hand painted.

Hans on the trail, predominantly made up of the only roads on the island. We only ever saw a car at the punt, not on the road we walked.

This was a surprise to find in a place like Kerrera Island, Scotland, a parrot rescue site.

This was the first we saw. Sponsor a bird, and there were only pictures of parrots, and in the aviary behind were some exotic varieties like Macaw parrots.

Apparently, the owner had once been asked to look after a parrot for somebody who went away for a while, and that then grew to accommodation of mistreated parrots including due to ignorance on nutrition, parrots whose owner had passed away and preloved parrots. According to a note, the parrots never leave from here (well, not alive anyway), but it seemed a bit wrong to keep parrots in such an unnatural environment for them as chilly Scotland. Still, it would be better than dying a painful death in an apartment somewhere.

As is apparent from the picture below, the parrot rescue operation was an ad hoc set of sheds and cages.

This fellow must have heard us as he peeked out at us from between this cage.

We continued on and suddenly, a dunny in the middle of nowhere, and also a sign directing us to Gylen Castle heading the same way. Di made use of the facilities. Very handy.

For a little while, we thought that the dunny was a Scottish joke for castle. There was a sign just before the dunny which pointed in its direction with the word "Castle", but around the corner all was revealed. Gylen Castle appeared up the hill.

And sheep, sheep, sheep were everywhere to be seen. Run, sheep, run...

We climbed up the hill and checked out the Gylen Castle, or what was left of it. The surrounding scenery is stunning and Hans looked OK too.

We ventured inside where you could take stairs to a first floor, but not beyond (stairs gone).

And since we were on the topic of dunnies a little while ago, this was how they took care of business in the old castle days...

We had a break outside the Gylen Castle where sat down for a morning snack of fruit. Unfortunately, Di got was careless with her hand and got stung by the nettles and developed a redness, some pain, with itching for an hour or so. She was not that impressed.

As we left the castle, we sighted these two people, mountain bikers, who came the other way. If there is a trail in Scotland, it seems that there is bound to be a mountain biker there somewhere.

Interesting environment here. These trees(?) were growing into and up the cliff faces, presumably to avoid the harsh winds and for protection.

Yes, Kerrera Island was beautiful and the trail was following the water's edge for a lot of the time when it was not up a hill with distant water views instead. Little bays with rock "beaches" like this were to be found in a few places.

The trail had a bog factor of 3 out of a maximum of 5 (according to the WalkHighlands website) and here is Di negotiating her way through some of it. There was a bit of bog in places, but not too much of it.

We definitely will avoid walks with bog factor 5... We did not bring snorkels on our trip... (Picture lifted from WalkHighlands website).

There was mostly sheep on Kerrera Island, but cattle was kept in a few places and can be seen sitting down in a paddock behind and down from Di in this picture.

Isle of Mull in the distance with the large ferry going to there from Oban harbour.

At this point in our walk (about 9km in), we had only seen the 2 mountain bikers and 2 other people (at a distance). We pretty much had the place to ourselves so Hans selected some nice Celtic music on the iPhone and it played as we walked - for less than 5 minutes! For some reason every time we decide to have music, we soon meet another hiker and feel we need to turn it off. It happened often in USA and again just the other day on West Highland Way - this time it was an older single lady from Wollongong, Australia.

We were on our own again soon after, but... we got a feeling... somebody's watching me...

The impasse did not last long, the sheep here are not accustomed to humans so they run off the edge even when you are quite some distance away.

We passed this old horse trailer which looked like somebody had been sleeping / staying in there. The "door" is on the ground.

We finished off the hike and liked it and the island very much. We arrived back at the punt landing not long after the 12.30pm service had left, with the next service not scheduled until 2pm (they close down the service for lunch). That's what we had too. We found a bench overlooking the landing and ate our sandwiches, and chatted, while basking in a rare Scottish sun. A couple from an adventure group of some sort providing sea kayak tours were unloading and reloading sea kayaks.

This was the view from the bench. Oban town in the distance.

Sad. So sad. Hans' hiking boots have met their maker. They leak. Further examination revealed holes in the rubber underneath. Hans liked them a lot, bought in Roanoke, VA, USA at Wal-Mart for the mighty price of U$35 or so. Yes, cheap as chips and they were very comfortable but they were not up to Hans the Hiker's challenges. Bin! RIP!

The town of Oban as seen across Oban Bay from the punt landing on Kerrera Island.

The punt arrived from the mainland ahead of schedule, but the lone skipper anchored it and then disappeared inlands, perhaps to do business.

The scheduled 2pm service was for only us and another couple with push bikes.

We picked up our car at the ferry parking and swung by Aldi for "provisions" (read predominantly chocolate, wine and beer) and then drove back to the hostel. Di had a short nap, then into the kitchen, while Hans went back to Oban Chocolate Company for a strong latte and blogging. Hey, when you're on to a good thing... And yes, the coffee was again as good as yesterday.

Hans had requested Moroccan food for dinner and Di created a Moroccan Chicken Casserole with a mix of about 6 spices, chicken, tomatoes, a mix of veggies and chickpeas. Sure easy(?) but it takes time to simmer slowly. This mix had about 2 hours on low heat and came together well. Good to know that Di has not lost her touch in the long months of no cooking.

A Moroccan meal in a bowl - Hans was ready to tuck in... then go back for seconds and thirds...

Washed down nicely with a glass of wine and followed with an Aldi chocolate mousse (6 for 69p) which was also amazingly good. A lovely dinner. Of course there was again a full meal leftover (no surprise) so Di put it in a covered bowl in the fridge with a note for the Polish worker we chatted to yesterday, Wojtek.

Back to our room for blogging and some planning for tomorrow. We discarded Isle of Mull as internet research showed it would be hard too travel on the island without a car and the cost of a return ferry trip for a car and us on the ferry is about £80! We decided instead to spend more time in and around Oban.

For now though, good night.

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