I’m making good progress in deciding on my itinerary. Thelma’s birthday is the first of May, so I will be leaving the next day. I’m not by any means a natural driver, and with the radio offering me little more than speech- or music-flavoured noise, I drive in silence. When I have long distances to drive in the van I usually set off at or before 6:00, do an hour’s driving and then stop for breakfast. By breaking up the day into roughly two hour shifts I can manage 400 miles, but it’s much better to stop at an interesting place en-route. Before I began writing today, the plan was to drive 200 miles to an area we have visited frequently in the last few years: Lancaster, and more specifically the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss where I took this picture last winter:
Then as I was looking at the map I realised I could just as easily get to another wetland bird sanctuary: Caerlaverock near Glasgow. The itinerary is now updated, and I will have an easy 195 miles to do the next day to a place I visited when Thelma and I stayed in Oban for a week in 2014. We were looking for interesting places we could get to by bus, and chanced on the slate museum at Easdale. This is a tiny island off the tip of the larger island of Seil. It did not look as if the bus stopped there, but it clearly did stop at the ancient bridge from the mainland to Seil which has the grand name of The Atlantic Bridge, because the narrow gap opens into the ocean. The bus travelled over the bridge and stopped. We got out, and the bus, instead of turning round as we expected, simply went off down the only road. My online map showed Easdale a good 5 miles down that road, but it was a fine day so we set off to walk. Within half an hour the bus passed us in the opposite direction. Two hours later we got to Ellenabeich, the village where the bus terminates and where a little ferry takes visitors to Easdale, the slate island. By now Thelma was exhausted and had altogether lost interest in any kind of museum. The next bus was due in a few minutes so she decided to go back and I stayed, taking a later bus back.
It’s a delightful place. This is the ferryman’s hut, which features in my story (se below).
There is something about the combination of factors – the little ferry, the slate workings, the Arts Centre (yes) the beauty of the surroundings.
This heady combination stuck in my memory and a year or so later I began writing a story, using it as one of the main locations. It was an ambitious plan, set in a future “Caledonia”, and so difficult was the plot line I had set myself that I abandoned it in 2016. However, Easdale was not lightly to be sent to the archives, and I am now again working on the idea and have some 25000 words written, so I didn’t need much excuse to make it my next destination. Here the birds will take third place. I plan to walk around, talk to people, find out more about the main island, and, of course, take a few pictures.
When we stayed at Oban in 2014 we visited Mull on a day trip as foot passengers. It was a guided nature trip where we were pretty much guaranteed a tick list of the main attractions. Sure enough, we did see an otter, but in the far distance. The sea eagle too was not much more than a blob at the top of a tree. We had a better view of a Golden Eagle, and it was an interesting day, but I’ve still little idea where we went. I did a second trip with the Brompton bike, and got a closer view of a golden eagle towards the end of a 36 -mile bike ride which left me totally exhausted.
This time I plan to take the van over on the ferry and spend several days searching out some of the eagle’s nest locations I have recorded. Mull is a very popular tourist destination, so my love of solitude in wild places might have to take a back seat. However, the following week will be spent in a very different way. I plan to leave the van in Mallaig and take the ferry, first to Eigg where I have booked 3 nights in a “pod” and then to Rum where I will be in a hostel. For both trips I’ll take the bike, and am really looking forward to finding out what life is like in these tiny communities surrounded by stunning natural landscape.
The second half of my trip deserves a separate entry, so more of that later. Meanwhile here is a map of Eigg: