Canna beat it

We left the last blog in Belfast on the first night of two we we had planned to stay. We’d just parted from Ian and Lynn after a fantastic nights craic, however on the short walk back to our little hotel room we had dreams of the highlands and decided we would change our schedule and leave for Scotland in the morning, a day earlier than originally planned.

Jenni on our last night in Belfast outside the City Hall on our walk back to the hotel. If you do decide to visit Belfast the city hall is worth a look. Belfast City Hall opened its doors on 1st August 1906. Tours of the City Hall were free as the Council decided that the citizens of Belfast had already paid for it once and it would not be fair to charge them again. They are still free to this day.

Although we had a few drinks we stayed up and changed the ferry departure date, found and booked a hotel in Scotland and worked out our new route and let our friends and family know of our new plans. We checked out early in the morning and set off for Scotland.

Crossbasket Castle

The ferry crossing was uneventful, didn’t even take one picture. Our next hotel on the other hand is another matter. As a pseudo birthday treat to ourselves we decided to stay in a castle in Scotland. Crossbasket Castle in fact, just outside Glasgow. It turned out to be more than we had hoped for.

In case you forgot
Jenni outside Crossbasket Castle

There was a wedding on the weekend we were staying there was only one room available, it was called a “medium sized room” It was huge.

Our medium sized castle hotel room. My TassieTux puffer jacket hanging over the end of the bed spoiling the scene a little.

The view from the room wasn’t too shabby either.

His and Hers embroidered bath robes, classy
The view from the hotel bedroom

The restaurant, originally opened and run by culinary royalty Albert Roux is now run by his son Michelle Roux Jr. We booked a table for dinner on the way there and shortly fater arriving we got dressed up and headed down to the restaurant. It turned out to be a set menu of about 8 courses each. Now, if we go out we usually share a chicken parmy between us. It was going to be too much food so we cancelled our booking and had a bar snack each. I got a soup and a ham sandwich. The sandwich came with crisps so of course I put them in the sandwich too. You can take the lad away from the farm….

So, instead of Pan Seared Orkney Scallop, Squid Ink Risotto with Lemon and Crème Fraiche I had a crisp sandwich.

The bar guy was great, in fact all the staff were great.

The hotel bar.

During our Ireland trip Sandee had got us interested in Bailey’s Irish Cream. We searched all 12 volumes of the drinks menu but couldn’t see it. Jenni asked the nice bar man if they could rustle one up for us , he replied “Of course we can, we make them .” and he did, and it was delicious.

He did have a good selection of whiskeys to chose from.

Morning came and we dressed and descended the stairs for breakfast. It was as grand as we had expected.

Jenni had the house made youghurt and fruit plate, I of course had the full Scottish with black pudding. T’was brillig.

Oban

We left Crossbasket Castle and onward to our next overnight in Oban. We arrived at lunchtime and set forth looking for a place to eat. We spied the Oban Inn right across the harbour and and walked there.

The Oban Inn was opened in 1790 according the sign outside.
In case you missed the date on the front of the building they had reminders on the seats inside

Turned out it was a very homely pub with home made pies and great beer. We were very happy. We had pie and few beers, explored Oban a little and went back to the hotel (via the bottle shop/ carry out) and retired for the night.

Really liked this place, worth a visit if you are ever in Oban.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn to drive to Mallaig to meet friends Andy and Jenny who were going to take us out on their fantastic boat for the weekend.

The drive from Oban to Mallaig was spectacular. Vast rolling green glens, magestic granite mountains, tall raging waterfalls and picture perfect postcard villages and stuff like that. Basically just Scotland. On the way we saw a sign for the Falls of Dochart only a short detour away. We turned off. We were not dissappointed.

The lovely Falls of Dochart
Obligatory selfie

We stopped to get some breakfast on the way at a hotel with a big sign on the road side advertising “Food served all day”. After stopping, parking and walking into the hotel we were reasonably surprised to be told by the young person on reception, “Nope! Restaurant is open to residents only.” Maybe they should redo the sign. The view from the hotel was nice though.

The view was very nice

We did find sustenance at Fort William, we also found a bottle shop/ carry out and stocked up on some beer and wine and stuff for the boat trip. Mallaig next trip. We hit some road works that delayed our arrival at Mallaig and arrived an hour later than scheduled but still found Andy and Jenny waiting for us on the dock. We quickly moved our stuff from the car to the boat and with set off for the Island of Canna in the Inner Hebrides.

Canna

This is Andy, expertly steering Good Feath out of Mallaig harbour
This is Jenni (with an “i”) and Jenny (with two eyes – in joke) on the way to the isle of Canna. On board with us was Andy’s brother Robin and partner Sue.
Andy handed over the helm to Jenni for a good part of the way to Canna. Sue kept and eye out for Porpoises and Basking Sharks.
Andy and me relaxing and enjoying the scenery while Jenni drove. It was a beautiful day.
On the way to Canna we passed the more well known Isle of Skye. It was putting on a show for sure. Getting a decent pic from miles away on a rolling boat was a challange but as I am such an accomplished photographer I managed it of course.
Although it was almost 4 hours in no time it seemed we arrived in Canna, moored up Good Feath and rode the RIB to the shore.
Andy, Jenny and Jenni on their way to shore.
Our destination this day was the Canna Cafe, on the way we passed this interesting meditation circle made from stones and old tractor seats.
Also the Cann Rhu Church, less tractor seats in this one
Worth a look inside though
Well preserved

A few metres farther on was the Canna cafe

We tried to book for dinner but they were fully booked. They only have 12 seats. We settled for some Skye craft beer instead.
In my really not very humble opinion our table had one of the best views of any table, of any bar, anywhere. We had a couple of Skye Red’s and Skye Black’s then returned to Good Feath for a few nightcaps and some sustenence.
Night descended ove Canna

To the Puffins

Waking up in the harbour in Canna was something else. So beautiful

We were greeted by a big sea lion warming itself in the early sun

This day we had planned to walk to the other side of Canna to see the Puffins. There was a massive colony on a rock promontory about a hour or so away. We’d never seen puffins so this was going to be one of the (many) highlights of the Canna trip.

The start of the big Puffin adventure
A small museum appeared on the route. Special bonus point for spoting the pink cat statue. More on this later.
Oh look a chair
A very old chair as it turned out

Leaving the small museum we crossed a bridge and meandered across some more fields.

At the other end of the bridge there was a small shrine (and another cat)
It was a fine day and we paused occassionally to take in the views L-R Jenny, Jenni, Andy, Sue and Robin with the Bonxie defence stick. Explanations later.
The views on all parts of this walk were spectacular, soon we topped a hill and were at the wind farm.
The island has solar and wind power but not enough to provide all its needs so there is also a diesel generator keeping all 18-20 permanent residents with power.
As this is Scotland it started to rain and of course we had to cross a bog or two but very soon after this we were at the puffins. At this point it should be pointed out we may have veered off track a little.

Before we got to the Puffins we had to run the gauntlet of the Bonxie, or Great Skua.

Territorial Bonxie watching us from the hill.

The Great Skua or Bonxie in local lingo is a very territorial bird. It HATES visitors and swoops and dives and tries really hard to get them to feck off somewhere else. The rest of the team were attacked on a previous trip so Robin carried a Bonxie Defense stick. Turns out we didn’t need it on the way out or way back. On the way out it was probably because we were off track and away from their territory. On the way back some other poor souls got the treatment and they left us alone.

Puffins

There were thousands of Puffins. I took many pictures, here is one more
It was a fantastic sight and an amazing experience.

Thank you Andy and Jenny for enabling this adventure. You set a very high bar for experiences. We’ll try and match it when you come see us in Tasmania.

Of course the walk back to the boat was as spectacular as the way out
Although this may be disputed amongst our fellow travellers we spotted these signs on the way back that marked the path to the Puffins that avoided some of the bogs. Impossible to avoid all of them of course. Also took you through prime Bonxie territory.
Canna is a seriously beautiful place. A photographers dream location.
Good Feath waiting for us in the harbour to return

Another fabulous night on the boat meant tomorrow we had to leave. Before we departed however Jenny and Jenni went for a swim.

In the words of Beyonce, “You’re looking so crazy right now”

It was cold, oh so cold, and the girls did a lap of the boat. Jenni kept her hat on and feet out of the water when possible it was so cold. Kudos to both of you.

The Cats of Canna

I promised an explanation of the cats in the pictures

Based on a poem by John Lorne Campbell of Canna to his beloved Siamese cat, Pooni, who died at the ripe old age of 18 the Cats Gu Leor (Gaelic for Plenty of Cats)  ‘Trail’  was created. During a two week artist residency, devised by Archivist for the National Trust for Scotland on Canna,  Fiona J Mackenzie and delivered by artist Yvonne Lyon and Raine Clarke of Glasgow installed 12 cats around the island. They are called Sir Pooji Boyte, Kinkipoo, Mrs Pink, Wicked Willie,  Pinxtu, Pepa, Magnus, Carola, Reuben, Piccola, Tom Beattie and of course Pooni after the original inspiration. Here is the article of the story. https://pethistories.wordpress.com/2019/02/28/canna-the-island-kingdom-of-cats/

Here is the poem that started it all;

Pooni! Now you have gain’d Elysian fields, where perennial catnip carpets every glade.
And every limpid fountain rich cream yields, while foolish rabbits scamper in the shade:
Now you have wow’d your last wow, roll’d your last roll, hook’d your last piece of cheese, and broken your last plate,
Raided the larder once for all, taken your ease, upon the warmest lap, enthroned in state;
What will endure for us in memory, of friendship, playful elegance, and grace
And so we bid you, adieus, farewell. No other cat could take your place.

Leaving Canna

Leaving Canna, driving back to Ireland

The drive from Canna through Glencoe to the ferry back to Ireland was eye wateringly spectacular. We took no pictures and I have not the wordsmith capability to describe how much awe it inspires. The Scottish highlands are a place that fills the human soul with wonder. Even if we had taken pictures nothing can capture the entire majesty of the region. I suggest, if you ever have the opportunity, go there.

Next and last blog (possibly a shorter one you’ll be glad to hear) is about our final days in Carrickfergus and out trip back to Autralia.

Till next time

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