Subject: Re: Northern Scotland - the Hebrides
Hi Tom,

Scotland is my favorite place (been there 6 times with my 7th trip planned for June/July 2003). I highly recommend the west coast and Hebridean Islands.

My favorite place is Iona and if you're going as far as Mull, please do visit Iona.

Oban of course, is the starting place to reach the islands. It's a quaint Victorian town with the best seafood takeaway stand by the ferry port. Be sure to try some of the best smoked salmon you've ever had. I've stayed at Kilchrenan House in Oban (a nice guesthouse) overlooking the water. The owners, Alison and Kenny are very friendly and I highly recommend staying there. I will be staying there again on this next visit. Their web site is at: http://www.videohighland.demon.co.uk/kilchrenan.html

Oban has a whiskey distillery which is open for tours and a visit to McCaig's Tower overlooking the town is a must. Oban is small and one day will do it.

I can also recommend a great seafood restaurant: The Fish Cafe.

I believe someone already gave you a link to the ferry company, Caledonian MacBrayne, but here it is again: http://www.calmac.co.uk If you're in a car, you have to book ahead.

Mull is a beautiful island, parts of which look like Hawaii to me. It is stepped from volcanic action in the distant past. The ferry from Oban will take you to Craignure where you can visit Duart Castle (the castle from the Sean Connery/Catherine Zeta-Jones movie Entrapment) and/or Torosay Castle and Gardens. (It's not really a castle, more a stately home, but the gardens are very nice).

Tobermory is the larger town on Mull and is very picturesque with colorful buildings reflected in the sheltered water of the harbor. You can go whale watching if you're interested and there is a very old whiskey distillery there also, which has tours available. I stayed at the Tobermory Hotel right off the water and thought it was nice with friendly owners.

Check out the Holiday Mull website: http://www.isle.of.mull.com/ (There's a nice interactive map of Mull on the main page)

Like I said earlier, if you're going to Mull, take the single-track road to Fionnphort, then the 5-minute ferry crossing to Iona. You have to leave your car in Fionnphort, but the parking is free.

Iona is only 1 1/2 miles by 3 1/2 miles in size and has under 100 permanent residents. It's really getting away from it all. I recommend the St. Columba Hotel http://www.stcolumba-hotel.co.uk/ which is located right next to the main attraction on Iona -- the Abbey.

There is hiking aplenty, bird watching, a variety of beaches (while sand, tumbled stones, a combination of both, or white sand with large basalt boulders).

You can take a side trip to the Isle of Staffa (home of Fingals Cave) and colorful birds--Puffins (I'm not sure if the Puffins are there in September). Staffa is made up of octagonal basalt columns which form natural steps. It's like the Giant's Causeway in Ireland. You can take boats from Iona, Mull or Oban.

Feel free to e-mail me directly if you have any questions. Have fun!

Cheerleader Barbie (Pam)