28 July 2008

The Long Road to Oban

Yesterday Jemma and I had the day off and on Friday night we couldn't think of anything to do. I had the urge to visit Oban, which I've visited before on a family holiday to Loch Awe two years ago. Oban is a hundred miles west from Dalguise, where we work so it was a fair way to go just to visit so a road trip was in order. I wanted to visit Kilchurn Castle at the tip of Loch Awe on the way and I guessed there would be some other touristy places en-route. I followed up this brainwave by not actually telling Jemma I had our day off planned, but instead just said it was all sorted and left it as a surprise.

We left on Sunday just after half-eight. I had the route to Oban planned and just worked on the basis that if I saw a nice sounding brown sign - they're the touristy ones - and it wasn't to big a detour off our route we'd pay it a visit. The first sign of interest we came to was for the yew tree at Fortingall. This yew tree is the oldest known tree in Europe with guesses at it being over 2000 years old. On from here we hit Killin and the Falls of Dochart. Being a kayaker I had to give this a scout and through this stumbled on the burial place of the MacNab Clan chiefs on a large island in the middle of the river. On we headed, Oban getting ever closer, still Jemma didn't know our final destination. Our next stop was Loch Iubhair, which is just outside Crianlarich. This loch was absolutely perfect and we had a break from travelling with some stone skimming across the loch.

Jemma at Loch Iubhair.

On we went, passing Loch Awe and with it no sign of the castle at Kilchurn. From reading pages on the Internet I presumed there would be one of them handy brown signs to follow, and therefore the castle would be easy to find. How wrong was I. We did however stop at Dumstaffnage Castle, which is on the west side of the Connel Bridge and just outside Oban. This was the only tourist attraction we had to pay for all day and we spent a good forty-five minutes looking around the castle and chapel before moving on to our final destination.

Looking out on Dunstaffnage Castle.

Oban was just as nice as I remembered it. We spent a good few hours just pottering around the busy streets enjoying the clear blue skies, hot weather and the stiff sea breeze. We had dinner from one of the many local fish stores besides the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry terminal before we eventually headed up to McCaig's Tower to enjoy wonderful views out over the Sound of Mull and the surrounding islands.

McCaig's Tower with the Oban Distillery in the foreground.

Looking out over the sea to Mull from the tower.

We eventually headed back on our journey. On passing the Connel Bridge on the way into Oban Jemma had expressed a wish to cross it. So we did on our return journey. I was just going to head back over the bridge once we had crossed it and make headway back home. However, another little brown sign popped up for Ardchattan Priory so we followed this, had a look around, and then carried on our way. Kilchurn Castle was still on my list and so on seeing it from the road I started looking for signs to the castle. Again there were none, I stopped once or twice, but started to give up hope. When we reached Dalmally I turned off the main road in the hope of a sign. There was still no sign. I started to drive in the general direction of the castle and gave up hope on this single track road out of Dalmally into the middle of no where. However, on cresting a hill, the road stopped and to the left of us was a monument in memoriam to Duncan Ban MacIntyre, a famous Scottish poet. This was a great find.

Looking down Loch Awe from the memorial tower.

After exploring this we got straight back on the road, briefly stopped at the Green Welly Stop - it was shut - and carried on through the late afternoon only stopping once more in Grandtully for some pizza at a lovely little bar. We arrived soon back at Dalguise just before half eight. It had been a full twelve hours since we'd left site, we had explored a lot of historic Scotland on the way to Oban, we had a fairly cheap day out and thourghly enjoyed ourselves, I had driven 199 miles, but we still didn't get to Kilchurn Castle.
An t-urram thar gach beinn
Aig Beinn Dòbhrain;
De na chunnaic mi fon ghrèin,
'S i bu bhòidhche leam…

Honour beyond each ben
for Ben Doran;
Of all I have seen beneath the sun,
the most glorious…
-
Moladh Beinn Dòbhrainn (Praise of Ben Doran), Duncan Ban MacIntyre

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...
Iain

1 comment:

Terry said...

Sounds like a Grand Day Out. So you do do stuff other than boatin'.