Friday, 1 July 2022

Iona, June, Day 7

The day everything fell apart.  Heather and I had decided on a very lazy day for our last one to prepare for a more hectic time during our 5 days staying in Tobermory on Mull.  We therefore were relaxing in our room and missed the announcement that the Bishop's House was closing down as covid had swept through the group with 9 out 23 affected and they needed 24 hours to fumigate ready for the next group coming in.  The first we knew of it was when Heather saw the group organisers disappearing out of the gate with their cases and dashed down to find out what was happening.  We had been forgotten in the panic and I was still in bed reading.  Everyone else had managed to rebook ferries but we had no phone signal and were, therefore, unable to organise to leave Mull and, anyway had four nights booked in Tobermoray.  Never have two people packed so quickly!!!  We arranged with the warden to transport our luggage down to the ferry terminal for the 12.00 crossing.  We were in touch with our son, Thomas, via What'sApp, and he and Katy sprang into action and after an hour or so of effort managed to secure us a night's accommodation at the Tobermoray Hotel.  What Stars!!  At one point I saw us sleeping in the car overnight.
After the panic and flurry of the morning, things then began to look up.  We had an excellent, if regretful, crossing to Fionnphort, loaded up the car and set off for a potter via Lochs Scridain and Na Keal to Salen and on to Tobermoray.  No sooner had we left Fionnphort that I spotted a raptor sweep across the moor in front of us with a typical, swooping, moth-like flight: a superb male hen harrier.  Sadly my camera was packed away and I had no opportunity for photographs but it was wonderful to see regardless.  Continuing on our way, we reached Loch Scridain and went into otter-watch mode.  Shortly we saw a group of people studying the loch-side through binoculars and 'scopes.  They had found a pair of otters disporting themselves in the water.  I managed to stop (relatively) safely and leapt out wih binoculars at the ready. Again the camera was still packed away but it was marvellous just to watch them.  Our planned lunch stop was at the head of Loch Scridain where there is a car park.  As we pulled into it another hen harrier flew past, this time a ring tail; either female or juvenile with the same white rump as the male but a striped tail.  What a day this was turning into.
Later we crested a hill giving excellent views down to Loch na Keal and out to Staffa and the Tresheish Islands and, further, to Coll.  As we drove along the loch side, as well as watching for otters, I had my eye open for birders, as Nigel had had a golden eagle's eyrie pointed out to him complete with chick.  Sure enough, it wasn't long before we came across such a group and I had the 'scope trained on the nest and chick, with the adult nearby.  It defintely needed a 'scope get the best views as it was about half a mile away, too far for photography.  But what an amazing wild-life day this was turning into.  Planning to return another day we continued more quickly to Salen and on to Tobermoray.
We quickly found the hotel and settled in.  And didn't Thomas and Katy do well; it was magnicent and very comfortable.  We booked our evening meal and relaxed in our room for a couple of hours.  Here things went pear-shaped again, as, on our way downstairs, Heather missed a small step and badly hurt her ankle.  Having at last picked up a very distressed Mrs P we managed to carry on down for dinner: mussels in wine and cream sauce and cullen skink for Heather followed by a Tobermoray malt and Tia Maria in the snug.  The hotel staff were wonderful and made up an ice-pack for Heather's ankle.  Retiring to our room for an early night we were planning for a visit to A&E in the morning.  An excellent day bookended by two distasters.
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