The idea was to pop over to Staffa today to see Fingal’s Cave. But it was so horribly yesterday, the boat is open and we might be sitting for 45 minutes in cold wind or even rain to get there and again on the return trip. Given that it is not a cheap trip we decide to duck out. Of course, it would help if we had internet access and an up to date weather forecast.
So, in nice sunshine (don’t it always go?) we set off across the island on the A road we’ve only part travelled. First stop Bunessan, but it’s only 11:30 – the newspapers aren’t in yet so no crossword today possibly. In Bunessan we find a charity shop – apparently there are a chain of 3 across the island and each month funds get allocated to local charities that need it rather than just one organisation benefiting. Behind the formal charity shop is a second – the book shed which is open 24*7 and has an honesty box. We find nothing in either and press on to Ardlanish Weavers. This is a local weaving studio using professional 60” mechanical looms to make cloth from undyed local wools. Finding it is the hard bit – basically its a farm building in the middle of a working farm at the end of a road that only leads to the farm and was never designed or tourist traffic. It’s only a couple of miles down but feels three times as far. Still we get given a tour and because I professed to craft weaving we got a much more technical explanation than I expect the normal Joe Public does. As they owner said its about 2 steps up from the craft weaving I do with serious (albeit fairly vintage) looms. Still the process is exactly the same, it’s just they can make wider cloth, with more consistent tension and much faster than I can. Although I must admit, looking at their Colour And Weave sampler wallhanging I would probably have done pretty much as well on a smaller scale and my waistcoat uses a very similar technique. The single variety wool was expensive compared to cheap shop wool but reasonably priced for what it was so I went with some black Hebridean for another hat and Liz went with Manx for some gloves. It was nice to see the waste loom cloth ends were sold as scraps, bookmarks etc and the offcuts from tailored garments sold as fat quaters for quilters – so Liz bought some. Talking to the owners, the idea came about because they were just burning fleeces – sheep need to be shorn regularly and the cost of shipping a fleece to the mainland cost more than it would sell for. So they found a spinner in Yorkshire and acquired fleeces from elsewhere and made high value woven goods to make the transportation worthwhile. A good business model.
The drive across to Cragnure was, as most drives on Mull are, stunning. Driving through a deep glen with waterfalls cascading down the craggy hills and a fast flowing burn alongside. No wonder there were, “Careful of Otters” signs – although we failed to see any of these elusive, shy creatures. Pictures of course, don’t do landscapes any justice at all.
From Cragnure into Tobermory for a mooch around the shops. Some basic food shopping; the Co-op, the newspapers were now in but The I had already sold out. And the last Times went whilst we were in there too – no crossword or sudoku today. Now there are 3 really interesting shops in Tobermory (4 if you include the distillery shop). The first we encountered was what looked like the usual gift shop stuff but had antler and horn products. On closer inspect, much of the shop is given over to walking stick manufacturing parts. You could buy all the impedimenta needed to make a thumbstick or shepherd’s crook. There’s some really specialised stuff, such as ferrules, crook head blanks, brass collars, double screw jointing pieces etc. Wonderful stuff and I might have been sorely tempting to buy some had I had packed my book on stickmaking which is gracing the shelves back home. But not knowing exactly what I might need it was best left.
The second shop was even more esoteric – Brown’s the Ironmongers and Off Licence. You may remember me writing that we’d seen the local whisky cheaper than than the distillery itself sold it. That was Brown’s – whose shelves also sported, microscopes, electric guitars, an air brush set, chopsticks, hunting knives, kitchenware, toys & games (including Carcassonne), sewing bits, car bits, DIY and electrics, and even a ukulele! We decided against whisky, we might just have enough after next week’s Islay visit but I did get myself a decent Opinel pocket knife along with a sharpening stone and Liz has been looking for ages for the pot lifter (basically a handle for saucepans etc that don’t have a handle – one of which we have in the van).
The final shop was a combination of gift shop, camping shop and yacht chandlers. Some very interesting bits’n’bobs but a couple of plastic locking toggles for our drawstring bags were all we bought.
The amazing thing was these shops all had very competitive prices compared to the mainland. I did manage to get a quick bit of internet and looked up my Opinel sharpener on Amazon which was actually more than the price I paid at Browns.
Tonight we are staying at the campsite just 1.5 miles above (yes, above) Tobermory so we can walk down for the football but given the steepness of the return journey Liz decides that she would prefer driving. The campsite was pretty much like the football – something we would want to forget! Still the Mishnish pub was nice enough, although it did get a bit busy. I was hoping to post the blog entries but despite our Android phones connecting to the internet, this Windows 10 laptop connected and then took a while “Checking Network Requirements” before deciding that it could connect to the pub’s router but not the internet itself. Doh!
Remember Tuesday when it rained all day. That was the dress rehearsal for Thursday Not quite true, there were a few periods of lighter rain on Thursday but as I write this now at 8:20pm it is still drizzling which is the best it’s been all day. Still we want to take a look at the little museum in Tobermory (there’s nothing better to do) so don raincoats. The museum really does have to be commended for cramming so much into such a small, single room venue. It’s eclectic but very interesting and more museums should follow the model of trying to squeeze as much in as possible. The one sad story – one of the displays was a Spanish wreck and a case displaying recovered material. A few year’s ago the 2 Spanish Reals (Pieces Of Eight) were stolen. Sad innit?
Next we decide a drive around the top of the island to Calgary and past Ulva island. There have been sighting of both Golden and White Tailed Sea Eagles here this week. Today’s rain probably didn’t help. Roads were horrible, single track of course, but much of the surface was broken and potholed. On one of the rare straights a car pulled in to a passing place at the end so I accelerated to probably 30mph as an act of courtesy to reduce its waiting time. I don’t know what I hit, I didn’t see the pothole or rock in the road but it was one hell of a bump. I’m hoping no long term damage has been done. Trying to drive hands off to check the tracking is hard when the road is so windy and when cambers are somewhat varied to say the least. I was only about 45 miles but took well over 2 hours, speeds rarely exceeded 30mph, and quite often didn’t get much above 20, 2nd gear was the gear of choice with 1st and 3rd playing an important role occasionally. It is very tiring driving. And I was glad to get round to Salen and on the main 2 lane A road to drive down to Craignure for tonight’s campsite. It’s expensive but the best facilities on the island and just a 2 minute drive to the ferry tomorrow as well as an easy walk to the pub or hotel tonight. That is if the rain stays off. We had to just park up quickly when we got o the campsite, it was raining too heavily to even make it worthwhile sorting out the power lead to put the kettle on.
So here’s some wildlife in the wet from today’s sodden travels