Okay, I’ll admit it. Cris and I came to Scotland because we didn’t check the whole Europe visa thing until after we bought our tickets. So, when we checked it out, the UK seemed like the most viable option for dealing with the fact that our flights out were about 10 days over the 90-day limit. Fine, we said, we’ll just spend some time getting to know the Scottish side of life. This seemed nice since my grandmother always claimed a direct link to the MacQuarrie clan. Plus, I own a modernized version of a kilt with the MacQuarrie tartan (see: sportkilt.com), so I’m totally Scottish.
To be honest, I wasn’t all that fired up about this part of the trip. I wasn’t going to be able to play golf, we didn’t have a reason to include Scotland other than bad planning, and it was going to be expensive. The good news, however, was that in the spirit of my brilliant wife, we didn’t plan it beyond a couple days. That gave us the flexibility to follow our urge, once we had arrived, to check out the Isles of Mull, Iona, and Ulva.
Several people had mentioned that the Isle of Iona was a special place, or as they say, a “thin” place – in the sense that there is a thin layer separating the material and the spiritual. As for the Isle of Ulva, it was the seat of the MacQuarrie clan. To get to either one you must first take the ferry to the Isle of Mull. So it seemed obvious that we’d go to Mull, spend a night there, and figure out later if we wanted to go to Iona or Ulva first.
In spite of my lack of enthusiasm, Iona did not disappoint. It’s hard to describe the feeling of the place. The best I can suggest is that you imagine watching the sun set over the sea on the western horizon at 9:30pm. Then, while the sun is still setting at 10:30pm, you turn for a moment to the eastern horizon and a bright full moon is rising above the sea on that side. The feeling is something like that. No pictures could really capture this, but here’s our best effort:
The next day, we drove across to the other side of Mull to the “ferry” that takes you to Ulva. The ferry is just a guy with a little motor boat. He crosses the one-minute distance from Ulva to Mull to pick you up only when you move the white panel to expose the red panel, like so:
Ulva was another place I’d like to visit again. It’s almost hard to imagine that a whole clan, among other kinds of tribes throughout history, inhabited this tiny island. I can, however, imagine camping here, which is more or less what entire communities did throughout the milennia. Again, it felt like a “thin” place, and I wish I had more time to explore the place that the Vikings who would become the MacQuarries called “Ullfur”, their word for Wolf Island.