Tobermory – Iona – Duart Castle – Oban

Jun 21, 2018 - Lord of the Glens

The rumble of the Lord of the Glens’ engine provided our wake-up call this morning. During breakfast, we sailed from Tobermory to Craignure, with sunshine lighting the way. A bus ride across the Isle of Mull, with its green slopes and rugged terrain, kicked off the day’s activities, with a lively, joke-filled commentary from our bus driver. Mull is one of the large islands of the Inner Hebrides, with a population of just over 3,000. On the far side of Mull, we left the bus to take a short ferry ride over to Iona.

The tiny island of Iona has been a sacred site since St. Columba established a monastery there in 563 A.D. From Iona, St. Columba and others spread Celtic Christianity across the Pictish lands, pagan country that we know now as Scotland. Today, the island holds the ruins of a nunnery and a restored Benedictine abbey that was established around 1200 A.D. by the sons of Somerled, the ‘King of the Isles.’ Adjacent to the abbey is the king’s graveyard, where Scottish, Irish, and Norwegian kings have been buried over the centuries, including Duncan, MacAlpine and MacBeth. We spent most of the day on the island, with lunch at St. Columba Hotel, giving us time to walk the peaceful grounds of the nunnery or explore outwards from the abbey. While walking the island, a few of the relatively rare (for Scotland) corncrakes were heard in the fields, with their odd call that sounds like the noise made by running a finger over a comb.

We left Iona at midafternoon, heading back by bus to Craignure and our ship, with a stop at Duart Castle along the way. This seat of Clan Maclean is a big block of a building set on the coastline, with stone walls rising from the rocky cliffs. Originally constructed in the mid-13th century, the castle fell to ruins after the first Jacobite uprisings of the 17th century, when the Macleans lost it. Restored in the early 1900s, the castle now functions as a residence and a museum, with exhibits and displays for visitors. We wandered up and down spiraling staircases and through the restored rooms, refurbished and decorated to recreate the atmosphere of an old clan castle, complete with “lobster” in the kitchen pots and a Spaniard in the dungeon.

Then it was back on the Lord of the Glens, with a beautiful crossing over to the mainland. The sun continued to shine, lighting up Duart Castle and a picturesque Stevenson lighthouse. The ship put in at Oban, a bustling town of around 20,000 people─quite a large-sized community compared to where we’ve been. We will berth here tonight and have time to explore this town in the morning.

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About the Author

Robin Patten


The natural world has always been central to Robin’s life. At an early age, she was out exploring the Montana backcountry, learning natural history through experience. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in landscape ecology from Colorado State University, followed by an M.S. in Environmental Writing from the University of Montana and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Scotland’s Centre for Mountain Studies. Her studies included environmental history and cultural geography, and her work often focuses on the interactions between cultures and landscapes. Robin still lives in Montana, writing and working from a small cabin near Yellowstone National Park.

About the Photographer

Stewart Aitchison

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Trained as zoologist and geologist, Stewart 's passion is the natural world. He has been exploring, photographing, teaching, and writing about biodiversity, geology, and the American Southwest for forty years and has worked with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic since 1981.  Stewart also spent ten years as a field biologist for the Museum of Northern Arizona, a nonprofit institution dedicated to preserving the Colorado Plateau's natural and cultural heritage.

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