The little Big Red Bus tour

July 18, 2016 - Oban, United Kingdom

When we woke on Monday morning we couldn't even see Kerrera Island. We had made a special effort to get up early and to go down at 7:30am; the earliest possible time for a hot breakfast. We then intended to walk up to the Staffa Tours office and get tickets for the Mull and Iona tour that leaves with the 10am ferry.

Well so much for that idea on a rainy day. We took a more leisurely breakfast instead but still made it down to the tour office to get tickets for the Iona tour on Thursday and for todays sightseeing bus. Oban has a single deck version of the usual Big Red Bus that is such a useful way to get a look around a new area. Whoops try the office next door for the Iona tickets and the pay the driver for the sightseeing tour. One office sells bus tickets for West Coast Motors bus services and the other sells tickets for the tours run by West Coast Motors. And I guess the driver sells the tickets on the sightseeing bus run by ... yes, you guessed it, West Coast Motors. At least the woman behind the counter was understanding and didn't treat us as if we should know and she even told us where to catch the sightseeing bus.

We decided it was too close to the 10am departure of the Red Bus to faff about buying tickets for Iona today so we walked over to the Railway Station and then around to Bus Stance 1 (outside Costa Coffee). 10am came and went with no sign of the bus and we regretted not having spent the time organising the Iona trip. Other possible bus passengers gathered at others of the four bus stances and had us worrying about our instructions but we were in THE prime position to see the bus arrive.

Right on the dot of ten or so minutes after tennish our little BIG RED Bus arrived and we climbed on and bought our £5 tickets (for old folks) and asked whether we could get off the bus at Dunstaffnage Castle and pick it up on the next time around. We were followed aboard by one other passenger, an American guy with a few hours to see Oban before he caught the bus to Luss to do some walking near Loch Lomond.

The three of us got the full tour patter as we drove out of Oban to Connel Bridge and North Connel; keeping an eye out for the wild haggis as it is mating season. At North Connel the bus turns at the airport and retraces the route across the Connel Bridge. It is a steel cantilever bridge like the Forth Rail Bridge but with fewer spans and was built as a rail bridge carrying a single line. With the increase in road traffic in the early 1920's the vehicles shared the roadbed with trains. Not at the same time silly! The rail line has closed now and it only serves road traffic. It is only single lane with traffic lights to share the time in each direction. As we crossed the bridge we could look down on Loch Etive and the Lora Falls, a tidal race that was surging right at this moment.

At Dunbeg we turned off the main road and drove out through the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences to the parking area for Dunstaffnage Castle where our driver assured us we would find plenty to keep us occupied until he returned in two hours. The path to the castle led us along the side of Loch Lorn and beside an oak and beech forest deeply carpeted in moss before heading up the hill toward the obvious old stone building standing on a large outcrop of rock. Even without a sign I could tell that was a castle.

We went in to the gift shop to pay for our tickets and had a bit of a look around. Looks like you missed out this time Rosie. There were highland cattle toys everywhere! From stuffed toys, to pyjama bags, to slippers and even a hat with ear flaps, all like highland cattle. Upstairs from the gift shop there was a room explaining the history of the castle and phases of it's constuction.

We then walked up to the castle itself and ambled through all the areas of public access despite the constant buffetting from the wind and the fine misty rain that has continued to plague us for several days. The views from the parapets just showed more of the same rain with foggy glimpses of the loch and the marina.

After spending more than an hour at the castle we then went to the ruins of the old chapel which was some distance off through the forest.

We filled in our remaining time by walking down to the remains of the old pier that was used for loading the flying boats that were based here during WWII. Dougal, or Hamish, or whatever (I didn't catch his name if he told us) then came rolling in with the little BIG RED Bus and we returned to Oban and visited Ganavan Beach. We had been there before under our own steam but this time it wasn't raining. The weather seemed to have lifted a little while we were away and improved steadily through the afternoon.

When we were on our way back from the bus stop we called in at Staffa Tours and booked tickets for Iona on Thursday and then stopped at Coast Restaurant to book a table for tonight. When you are on a good thing ...

When we headed out for dinner just after 6pm the sun was shining and warm on our backs. For the first time since we arrived we carried our raincoats rather than wore them and took some photos with blue or partly blue sky. Tonight we stuffed ourselves from the 'light' menu. Three courses for £17.50. Maybe just two courses would have been sufficient. I had Culleen Skink (potato and leek soup with shredded pieces of smoked Arbroath fish - absolutely delicious) and Margaret had a mushroom soup. Then it was fish and chips for me and grilled salmon for Margaret - both just very good, followed by Citrus Sponge with creme fraiche. Oh goodness, we should have run home to burn some of it off.


Dunstaffnage Castle
Inside Dunstaffnage Castle
Looking toward Ardmucknish Bay
Photos from the gallery
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