Friday, August 26, 2005

The last days on Mull

Our last day on Mull was Saturday. We had seen most of what we wanted to see, and were pooped, besides, so we didn't rush about. We could have driven over the top of the island to Calgary, but declined, despite the Canadian connection. We went into Tobermory and looked at some shops, including a tiny antique store that had loads of water jugs for whisky. The small ones were often about 15 pounds, so I didn't get one. They also had 60-year-old Meccano masterpieces for, what was it, 80 pounds?

We did find these perfect souvenirs, though! We had to talk to the car rent guy in the morning, and thought it would be a good idea to have the rental contract with us, so we searched the car from top to bottom, and came up with some
real gems from under the seats: a souvenir Haida dish from British Columbia and a bust of Dickens. Together with the black and white wool tufts found here and there, a perfect reminder of our time on Mull...

We also found a decent patch of heather for the first time. I guess this is just not the right part of Scotland for heathery hills. Anyways, it is lovely, and here, on the point outside of Tobermory, was a big clump of it. We decided to take a little path out of town that would lead us to a lighthouse. It did indeed, though it was longer than we had thought and very muddy going for a bunch of tourists in sandals. We all mushed along pretty well, though, and did see a very fine lighthouse at the end of the path. We had brought along Arthur's sketchbook and so had a quiet moment while he drew both the lighthouse and the ruined castle we could see across the water.

Time for a last nosh at the fish and chips van on the pier, and then off to the Mull Railway! This little steam train, named Victoria, took us on a short trip to another "castle" called Torosay. It was too late in the day to get a decent tour of the castle, so we just took the train ride and peeked at the gift shop at the end of the line and got back on the train. It was great, though, toodling along on this tiny train. The kids loved it. We had an open carriage on the way down but on the return journey we had a roof and real windows and all.

Near the station was a beach full of rocks, so we had another hour's amusement throwing rocks in the water. Rocks and water, I've found, are essential ingredients on any family holiday.

After the rock throwing, we went back to our lodge, packed all our dirty clothes into the bags, ate most of the remaining food, and prepared for the day of travel to come. Arthur met some other boys and got a few quick lessons in soccer goal-scoring, and said farewell to the sheep.

We left on a Sunday, which meant our choices of ferry were something like 8 am and 11 am. So we got a rather late start on the travelling, since we couldn't bring ourselves to get to the ferry for 8. We consolidated a bit by jamming boots and shovels into the big packs, but we still had 2 small backpacks, 2 large bags, a car seat, and 2 kids. We ferried to Oban, bused to Glasgow (past Loch Lomond), where we had to pick up tickets for the next stage of the journey. Foolishly, we had not noticed that there are several train stations in Glasgow, and clicked the button for picking up the tickets at one station, and leaving on a train from another! So that was a thrilling couple of taxi rides! But we got on and whooshed to Edinburgh. Here we had a very tight connection and managed to just jump on the first class coach at the end of the train before the door closed. So we were dragging all our bags past the upper crust, the kids tearing off in front of us... Did eventually get 4 seats together and chug through the evening down to Stevenage, where we changed to yet another train. One more taxi ride and we were home. At last... and learned one last lesson: when you are leaving home at 6 am, and going away for a week, it's a good idea for an adult to actually check that the child entrusted with the task has actually put out the note for the milkman. There were the empty bottles and the note saying we didn't need milk for a week, in the front hall, and there was the milk, piling up...

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