A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland Slowly, Day 4


Greetings Friends!

It’s mid-afternoon and it’s already been an epic day. The Ocean Endeavor anchored off of Mingulay, which in Old Norse means “big island.” Instead of disembarking by color group, as we have been doing most of the time, we disembarked by interest. Joe and I disembarked with the “advanced hiking” group and that meant we were among the first on the Zodiacs.

Once we got to the beach on Mingulay, we organized ourselves into our group and started off. Our goal was to get to the highest point of the island, visit ruins (from when the island was inhabited, which struck us as a clear display of insanity) and not get dive-bombed by a certain kind of aggressive bird that doesn’t like visitors (who can blame them really?). Luckily for us, the rain held off until the last segment of the hike.

Now we are back on board the OE. We’ve had lunch and are looking forward to a little downtime for the rest of the afternoon, as we travel to the next destination. The travel may involve some weather. We’ll try to get this up before we head to naptime.

Here are a few photos of the epic quest:


Posted by ORWAT 05:41 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland slowly mingulay Comments (0)

Scotland Slowly, Day 3, Part 2

Iona-- Whatever Happened to St. Columba's Bones?

View Joe and Susan's 25th on ORWAT's travel map.

Greetings from Somewhere Off the Coast of Scotland!

Joseph and I had a glorious afternoon on Iona. The weather was absolutely perfect. We managed to get into the first boat over to Iona and then in one of the last boats to depart.

We decided early that we should ditch our tour group ASAP (with permission, of course), in order to roam around as we wished. We spent a great deal of time at the Iona Abbey. This was as close as we were going to get to Sunday worship, but it was disappointing that there was no service for us to attend. There is an afternoon peace and justice prayer service every single day of the week, except for Sunday. I was disappointed. Still, we sat in the Abbey’s large sanctuary for a time. I looked through the worship book and then spent time in the quiet area.

The big mystery of the day is: what happened to the bones of St. Columba? St. Columba brought Christianity to Scotland from Ireland in 563. Many years after his death and burial, his bones were exhumed and the bones placed in several reliquaries. Once the Vikings started to invade the area, they learned of the significance of the local saint. On one raid, the Vikings demanded the bones of St. Columba, but the monks would not hand them over. The Vikings killed them.

But, what about the bones? Did the Vikings take them? Who knows? The Abbey Museum does not share this information.


Joseph and I then wandered around the island (which looks a lot like the Maine coast, I might add). We saw a lot of sheep and tried to make friends with a cow. The cow was not impressed:

Then it was time to get a quick snack and don the rain pants and return to the Ocean Endeavor, where we had a delightful dinner with a group in the dining room.

Tomorrow’s weather sounds not so good, but we are hoping to go on a good hike on Mingulay.


p.s. There’s a rather famous author on board the ship. Since she’s not part of the talent, I won’t reveal her name here, but Joseph and I have been wondering since the first day if this is who I thought it was. Today, she came into the daily briefing with her nametag on, and it is indeed who I thought it was. Ask me all about it when I’m home.

Posted by ORWAT 13:46 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland ocean iona slowly endeavor Comments (0)

Scotland Slowly, Day 3

Birds, Seals and Cake, Oh My

View Joe and Susan's 25th on ORWAT's travel map.

Greetings from Scotland, just off of Staffa!

Let’s begin today’s wee tale with last night. At dinner, Joe and I were presented with a small cake, in celebration of our anniversary. Our actual anniversary isn’t until August, but this voyage is how we are celebrating. It was a very nice gesture, and we enjoyed the cake, and sharing it with our dinner companions for the evening. Unfortunately, we didn't think to take a photo until after we had started eating:

Here’s a nice photo of the sunset that we enjoyed, while also watching some seals (unfortunately, no good seal photos):

We then went to the first part of the evening’s entertainment, to finish our wine and to listen to the performer of the evening, a Scottish singer. And, then off to bed, since we had learned that it was going to be an early morning.

Sunday, June 23

Wake up call was at 0630! Yikes, although not much different from when I normally get up on Sunday mornings.

Since Joe and I were in the color group that would be second to board the Zodiacs to be transported to Staffa, we got up before the wake up call, at 6:00, and went to the area of the ship where they offer continental breakfast for early risers, or those who are forced to arise early. We had a cup of coffee and delicious, and still warm, croissants.

Then it was time to arrange ourselves for our journey—about an hour in a Zodiac exploring around Staffa. We were not allowed to get out of the Zodiac. Rain pants, rain jacket, boots, fleece, etc. And camera.

By Zodiac, we were able to view the stunning volcanic formation of Staffa, along with Fingal’s cave, and the cave next door, which was dubbed “Mrs. Fingal’s Cave" by those who were in our boat We also watched various water fowl, like ducks and puffins.

Here’s a shot from inside the cave:

The weather was just about ideal. Not cold and not windy. Overcast, but not raining.

Now we back onboard the Ocean Endeavor, heading to Iona. Joe and I are in the first group to disembark, and that should happen around 1:00 this afternoon. We are hoping to have a great afternoon on Iona.

Since the rest of today is likely to be busy, we probably won’t post again until tomorrow. But, we’ll see. It all depends on the amount of downtime we end up having, along with our ability to connect with the temperamental wifi.


Posted by ORWAT 02:37 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland ocean cave staffa slowly endeavor fingal's Comments (1)

Scotland Slowly, Day 2

A Few Wee Drams on Islay

Hello friends!

Joe and I are in our comfy cabin after a very full day, and it’s not even dinnertime yet.

We began the day with the Wake Up Call at 0700. And, yes there is a Wake Up Call over the loud speaker, in every public and private spot onboard the ship (it cannot be turned off). Granted, we were warned, but still it’s a little unsettling for a voice to just show up in your room.

We got up, put on some workout clothes and went up to the gym for a very quick workout (a healthy back requires planks every other day, at least). Then, a very quick breakfast, because breakfast ends at 8:00. No lazy people allowed, unless they want to be hungry lazy people.

Back to the cabin to shower, dress and get our things together. The normal tours started loading up at 8:00, but Joseph and I had signed up for the whisky tour of Islay (pronounced EYElah). Our tour group was not slated for leaving the Ocean Endeavor until 8:45.

Since the announcement regarding weather told us that the passage from the ship to land would be a bit choppy, we found our wet gear—wet bags for storing our stuff and rain pants. Rain pants are the only required clothing on an Adventure Canada cruise (they distributed rain jackets and rain boots when we boarded).

We learned on our first Zodiac trip why those rain pants are required. Without them, we would have been soaked to the skin. It was quite choppy with a lot of water coming over the edge. But, at least it wasn’t raining as well.

Our group, about 24 people total, got organized into vans and off we went to our first distillery, Bowmore. Why not a wee dram at 10:00 in the morning??? Just the thing to get the day started.

Then, it was off to Ardbeg, where we were treated to an excellent tour, learning all about the whisky making process. The tour ended with an opportunity to try FIVE different whiskys. Here’s part of our group and a few of the bottles:

After Ardbeg, we traveled to Lagavulin, where we enjoyed another lovely and informative tour. After the tour, we were able to try three different Lagavulins, including one that is available only at the distillery. Here is one of the rooms at the Lagavulin distillery:

So far, so good. The weather was beautiful today, clear and sunny.

I can’t say that I’ve been convinced to become a champion of Islay whiskys, which are generally smoky and peaty, but there were a couple of the Ardbegs that were very nice, with mellower peatiness.

A couple of random thoughts on the good side:
1. The crew is really great. Very professional and helpful. Getting in and out of the Zodiacs can be tricky, but the crew makes it very easy, even in rough conditions.
2. The crew is thoughtful. When we returned to the cabin this afternoon, we found a nice anniversary card signed by everyone on the crew.

I also have a few random thoughts on the not so good side, but I’ll share them when the cruise is over. Overall, though, Joseph and I are pleased and we are enjoying ourselves and our adventure.

Slainte Mhath!

Posted by ORWAT 09:45 Comments (0)

An Unexpected Upgrade

What Suburb of Toronto Are You From?

Hello Friends!

We are finally on the Ocean Endeavor, in a much nicer room than we expected. Essentially we went from a broom closet to a two-room suite. Very spacious and very welcome.

But, we started the day by getting organized in Glasgow and then going by bus to Stirling Castle. It was a gorgeous day in Scotland. Just a few clouds and temps around 60. We had a lovely visit to Stirling. Here are a few photos:

After an hour and a half at Stirling, we boarded our bus. We were on bus #2, but since bus #1 was having difficulty rounding up its passengers, we ended up bus #1. Because of port permit issues, we did not go to Oban to board the Ocean Endeavor. It was Fairlie instead.

And, instead of leaving around dinnertime, we left the port around 9:00, because of some lost luggage that a passenger or two experienced. Joe and I spent a great deal of time exploring the ship, getting fitted for rain boots and a rain jacket, learning about the ship and our journey, meeting the staff, and spending time getting settled into our little two-room suite on deck 4. Here are a few photos from the ship:

And, coming to grips with the fact that most of the people on this cruise are not only from Canada, but from one suburb or another of Toronto. Eh?

Now, it’s time for bed. The wake up call is at 7:00! But, instead of going with most of the rest of the ship, Joe and I will be with a small group visiting distilleries on the island of Islay.

More later.


Posted by ORWAT 14:45 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

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