|Subject: : Scotland Travelogue Part 3|
This day we planned to drive to Fionnphort & take the walkon
ferry to Iona for the day.
We had booked accommodation at the Seaview B & B, right next to the shop at Fionnphort. It's a charmer & we could leave car & luggage there & not have to pay the stiff fee at the carpark. Host John Noddings was there to meet us & schlep our bags up the room with a view of the pink-sand harbor & ferry slip. We scampered aboard the ferry for the 15-minute transit of the Sound.
I had expected again hordes of tourists, as I've heard that Iona can be inundated with day trippers, but it was just fine. We had lunch at the St Columba Hotel, pretending that we could afford to stay there, but enjoying a good lunch anyway. We wandered the Abbey & grounds. The Iona Community has backed off on their presence on the island & the Abbey is in the care of Historic Scotland. The Visitors Center is actually at Fionnphort, not on Iona. The Abbey is built on the site of St Columba's original settlement. Fleeing Ireland, Columba came to Iona in the 600's & is generally credited with bringing Celtic Christianity to Scotland. As the Vikings plundered the area & the whole of Britain surrendered to the brutality of the Dark Ages, communities such as St Columba's on Iona & Venerable Bede's at Lindisfarne kept alive the traditions of learning by collecting & copying books. The monks at Iona worked on the magnificent illuminated manuscript that survives today as The Book of Kells.
Back at Fionnphort, we stopped in at the Visitors Center where there's a nice display about Columba & his times. Nearby is a tin-sided garage full of books, unstaffed; you can leave unwanted books or buy some used ones, all on the honor system, & as a benefit for the Life Boat Society charity.
Downing a supper of oaties, the wonderful Scottish oakcakes to which I'm seriously addicted, apples & cheese, we snuggled under our duvets for a sound sleep.
Breakfast the next morning was a tummy filler, taken in the breakfast nook with views over the sound. Our fellow guests were a couple from England, an advertising salesman from Inverness & a couple from Texas, so table conversation was pleasant & easy.
The drive on the single-track road from Fionnphort to Craignure takes about 1.5 hours, depending on traffic (traffic? This side of the island has maybe 800 inhabitants!) & weather. We were booked for the 11am ferry & made it in good time, & met Allison the artist from Arran at the ferry office. She had been misbooked on the ferry for the previous day so was in the standby queue for this hour's departure, for which she did get a booking finally. She was off to Edinburgh for a two-month locum as artist-in-residence at the University there.
It's always hard to leave these lovely islands, as I'm never sure when I'll be able to return.
But the day's journey will take us to Dunkeld & the Taybank Hotel, Scotland's Musical Meeting Place & Dougie MacLean's home turf.
As we flew through the Trossachs, we got caught in one of those freaky hailstorms that make me want to hunker down under a tree & watch the weather front blow through.
At Drochart Falls, we stopped at the Bredalbane Folklore Center, well signed on the main road, but after that, as usual, we were on our own. Donna's the seventh-generation descendant of the first Marquis of Bredalbane, but she'd need more information on the family tree to really do some good ancestor hunting. Certainly nothing at the Bredalbane Center shed any light on the family details, even to where the Marquis might have had his home! So we pushed on to Kenmore, for a quick look at Taymouth Castle. Now falling down around the ears of whoever might still live there, the castle is on the grounds of the Taymouth Golf Club. It is in desperate need of repair, & it sure looks like a money pit to me.
We arrived at Dunkeld about 5pm in a brisk but sunny afternoon. Dunkeld is an old town, on the banks of the Tay & across the river from Birnam Wood of Shakespeare's MacBeth. The ruined cathedral is drenched in Templar lore & is supposedly the resting place of St Columba's bones. The Taybank Hotel attracts musicians from all over the world, especially on Friday nights when an upstairs room is the gathering place for acoustic musicians. By 8pm the bar is already smoky & noisy beyond imagining & I was relieved when folks started trooping upstairs for the ceildh.
On our last visit to the Taybank, the ceildh was centered around American standards such as Porgy & Bess. This time, it was strictly acoustic music, from Sting, the Beatles, Clapton & Dougie, plus a Civil War melody. At one point, a group of youngsters complete with piercings, shaved heads, tattoos & bare midriffs slid into the almost-overcrowded room; one of them requested music to dance to. A stunned silence met this request: first, there was no room to dance, & second, the musicians weren't sure what kind of dancing the youngsters had in mind! Scottish country dancing? Reels? Rock? Techno? So, after an extended silence, they simply carried on with their favorite folk selections & the younguns drifted away. It turns out one of the musician couples was from Corvallis OR, 45 minutes away from my home; they did a nice duet to a South African folk song & played a banjo tune. Several of the participants came from out of town & booked in at the Taybank just for the chance to play with this group of fine musicians. It was a rare treat.
I couldn't bear the thought of driving anywhere the next day, so I announced a down day. Donna mailed home some of her heavy stuff, books, maps, etc., as it became obvious that all of it wouldn't fit in her bag with the addition of her purchases.
There was a floral display at the cathedral sponsored by the local garden club, themed Scots in History. It was quite inventive, with clever arrangements in honor of Scots such as Sir Sean Connery, Mary Queen of Scots (yes, she was held captive here too), John McAdam & more. I think my favorite was the one in honor of Rhona Martin, 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist in Curling, with a curling stone & wee curling brooms stuck in the display. Alexander Graham Bell's tribute featured cell phones.
Later there was a musical performance at the cathedral by the local Strathtay & Reel Society, who scratched away in great earnest on their fiddles through a series of reels, waltzes & strathspeys.
That afternoon I was able to make a dream come true: watch the Scotland Cup Soccer Match in a Scottish pub. Celtic played Dunfermline, & as I'm a Celtic fan, I was lucky that everyone else in the pub was as well. What fun! Although John Hartson was out on injury, Henrik Larsson scored two grand goals for his last appearance with Celtic & Celtic took the Cup 3-1. The Taybank has no TV (it's for music, after all), but I was happy to find a pub around the corner for my viewing excitement. Soccer is serious business in Scotland.
The Taybank on Saturday night is not so organized, but there was some fine guitar playing accompanied by whistles.