Family outing
Family outing

After all the agonising about what to do and where to stay, I didn’t sleep too well, not helped by noise filtering in through the window. So I rose early and prepared the picnic lunch, then we breakfasted, called in on Tesco and still only just managed to catch the 09:50 ferry to Craignure. We grabbed a coffee and sat down for the 45 minute crossing.

It was another warm sunny day so we applied our suntan lotion while the coaches set off for Iona with foot passengers off the boat, a very popular package for people staying in Oban. Then we toiled up the hill from the port and through Glen More, stopping to talk to motorists parked by the road and looking excitedly through binoculars. They’d spotted an eagle and kindly allowed us a look. Mull is very popular with birdwatchers, and consequently considerably busier than on our last visit, though still fine for cycling. We turned off on the B8035 along Loch Scridain, seeing otters (or possibly seals) while we picnicked.

The road took us inland across the hilly peninsula, then the sea views were with us again as we rode along Loch Na Keal through Gruline. Here we started looking for accommodation but there wasn’t much around and they were all full. Rowan had wanted to ride the coastal B8073 through Calgary but passing Dutch cyclists on a tandem remarked that it was very hilly so this deterred him! We couldn’t get a mobile signal, and the BT phone box at the junction was out of order, as was every rural phone box we tried on the islands. Have BT stopped maintaining them? We headed towards Salen where no accommodation was to be found but we were able to get a signal so phoned Arle Lodge, four miles north, and booked rooms. The £24 per person included breakfast and a self-catering kitchen where we could cook dinner.

Arle Lodge is like a B&B but you help yourself to breakfast (fruit juice, cereal and bread/toast). Christine was annoyed when she spotted a campsite on the other road from Salen marked on Arle’s newer map. We booked accommodation at Strontian for Thursday so that’s every night accounted for, and I’ll have dragged the tent round for just the one night on Jura. However, it gave us peace of mind as we knew we’d never be stranded without anywhere to stay, and Rowan was happy as he hates camping. I’m not keen on it either, but concede that it’s cheap. Christine wanted to book a “Wildlife Adventure” trip from Tobermory for Wednesday but Rowan and I didn’t fancy paying £35 each to clatter around in a landrover, occasionally spilling out to gaze with binoculars in the hope of seeing something.