Sunday, 1 November 2009
Adventures in Scotland
When you’ve been called mad by Iain Banks, you know you’re in for an interesting holiday.
And after a week of – well, weather – on the Isle of Mull, I’m beginning to think Banksy had the right of it.
Mull is beautiful – glacier-carved rocky severity shrugging its way out of blankets of rich autumnal colour. Cloud lifts in wisps from the mountaintops – they look as through they are on fire – and they layer back into the mist as far as you care to see. You want to call it ‘rugged’, ‘desolate’, ‘bleak’, craggy’ – but no world suits the Isle more than this one: -
We’ve walked in it and we’ve cycled in it. We’ve got drenched so many times that my abiding holiday memories are not the Martian Red Weed that decorated the grey loch shore, the golden beach at Calgary or the blissed-out religious types on their pilgrimage to Iona… no, it’s playing constant Tetris with endlessly sopping clothes and realising just WHY the Scots love their whisky as much as they do.
It goes with the climate.
One day of blue skies had us leaving the cabin with the sunrise, testing our endurance to the limit with 45 miles around the north of the Island. The beauty was overwhelming; maybe it was sheer physical effort in getting bikes up those hills, but eventually we became completely blasé.
“Heron.” “Yep.” “Waterfall.” “Yep.” “Standing stone.” “Yep.” “Ruined castle.” “Yep.” “Oh look, it’s another fucking great hill.”
We found ourselves in Tobermory at conveniently lunchtime – and went looking for Archie the Inventor… a quest foiled by my smashing both knees as I fell off the pavement (Archie, it seems knew we were coming). A long ride home brought us to our friendly field of radioactive (yes) sheep at sunset, worn down after a long day.
Devin tackled all 3100ft of Ben More – a pleasure I wussed out of due to the hail, gale and bog that awaited me. I tackled the laptop, instead, and watched the lunatic antics of the local chaffinches, auditioning for parts in a certain Hitchcock movie.
A couple of pitch (and I mean) pitch dark treks through the pass to beer and the nearest civilisation didn’t turn up the Headless Horseman… but we did rather feel like we were going for a pint in the Slaughtered Lamb and spent much of the walk discussing how we could off the Wereworf with a couple of mag-lites and a leatherman.
Our local guru Steve, owner of the cabin we stayed in, commented that people had ‘seen us round the island’ – but he also told us that the weather would be good and there was ‘one hill’ coming out of Tobermory… so much for that.
We’ve ended our holiday – and celebrated our new engagement (yes, the diamond ring variety, scary huh?) – with a proto-honeymoon Samhein night in the scariest hotel in Scotland. Bonus points for the king size four-poster and colossal orgy bath… but bleak dark stone and an isolated location are further spooked out by ghastly floral décor, stags heads on the walls and a memory palace of nik-naks creepy enough for a Roald Dahl story.
And why is there a large abandoned building in the hotel’s gardens that’s just full of discarded junk?
It’s all gone a bit Rosemary’s Baby… thank the Gods we’ll be in Glasgow tomorrow…