Iona and Staffa revisited

I came across the rest of my original photos from my Iona Island trip so I thought I would add a few more. These are just a few that stood out.  The original blog was Resting Place of Kings

Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat


View of Arthur’s Seat from Parliament Buildings (Source – Robert Brown

Arthur’s Seat is one peak in a series of hills behind the Queen’s residence in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Once it was a private park for the royal family and some like to think it was the ancient home of the mythical camelot.  Now it is a hiking park, easily accessed from the Royal Mile.

View of Arthur’s Seat from Queen’s back yard (Source – Robert Brown)

The first time I got to Edinburgh I was planning on climbing to the top but I was still suffering from a chest cold, and I was having trouble catching my breath.  I put it off but came back to Edinburgh near the end of my trip and got the chance to climb it.

Climbing Arthur’s Seat (Source – Robert Brown)

Of course I took the wrong route and after walking for an hour, I was told I was on the long path to the top, and still had a long way to go.  I did get to the top eventually and by taking the round about route I got to capture more photos of the surrounding city.

Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat (Source – Robert Brown)

The view from the top of Arthur’s Seat was amazing, and I made full use of the Canon SLR and long range lens. I am not huge on heights, but I find that tall hills or even small mountains are stable enough for me to feel comfortable.



Resting Place of Kings

Isle of Iona
View of the Isle of Iona, with the Iona Abbey in the background.

One of the locations in Scotland that I had dreamed about visiting for much of my life was the near mythical Isle of Iona.  The resting place of the Scottish kings from the time of Kenneth, who was long thought of as man to unite Scotland into a nation; To Macbeth, one of Scotland’s more famous monarchs.

Around the age of thirteen I read “Macbeth, the king” by Nigel Tranter  which I found to be fascinating and it led to a a passion of his take on the history of Scotland told through historical fiction.  I remember feeling deeply insulted when I was forced to read Shakespeare’s Macbeth which I referred in class to as a “load of horse shit”.  Now I know of the complexities that William Shakespeare had to deal with in writing about Macbeth considering the real villain, Malcolm Canmore, was the great ancestor of the current monarch Queen Elizabeth I.  I still stand by my original assessment of shakespeare’s historical accuracy.

I started my tour in the town of Oban, with a tour operator called Staffa Tours which still exists.  We took a ferry to the Isle of Mull where we caught a bus which took us across the island to our boat tour.  The first stop was a little island which was also quite stunning called Staffa.

Staffa was an Island which has sharp cliffs that rise out of the sea crowned on top by a carpet of crisp green grass.  We were allowed to disembark onto the island to walk into the edge of the cave and on top of the island to take in the view.  “Fingal’s Cave” named after its famous monk was special to experience and explore; seeing the stark environment the monk subjected himself to in his pursuit of his maker.  The water rushes up into the cave with the tide and would have both hidden and restricted its inhabitant.  The isle is also home to a large puffin population and a community of seals as well.  I was told that basking sharks were also seen regularly but unfortunately not on that visit.

The Isle of Iona was a breath taking view as we approached and I managed to capture one of my favourite photos thus far as we came up to the dock.  The pink stone glowed in the sunlight and gave the landscape an other worldly feel.  There is a small town on the island maintained by the local community.  Facilities and B&B’s are available for visitors staying for more then a few hours.

The Iona Abbey was established by St. Columba, another of the figures I had read about courtesy of Nigel Tranter.  He was the original patron saint of scotland before St. Andrew was adopted and myths tell of his battle of wills with the Loch Ness monster.  St. Columba established the original abbey  in 563 though the current abbey was built around 1200 by Reginald, King of the Isles.  It was in use until the reformation in 1560, after which it sat relatively unused until the Iona Cathedral Trust began  restoring it in the early 20th century.  The work was continued by the Iona community starting in 1938 and is  currently under the care of Historic Scotland.

Iona Abbey (Photo by me)

The nunnery next to the abbey was founded by the sister of Reginald and though it is ruins now; the stonework and gardens that are maintained there are some of the more beautiful scenery I have come across in my travels. The photos I took turned out well, but do not give it proper justice compared to viewing the isle on a sunny day in person.

Reilig  Odhrain or St. Oran’s Graveyard, is the burial place of the Scottish kings and one of the main reasons I travelled to the island.  The graveyard itself is to the side of the abbey, but the head stones which are so worn with age that they cannot be read were moved into the abbey to help protect them.


Uisge beatha: “the water of life”

My trip to the Oban distillery (July 2012).

photo courtesy of trip advisor

Even before I travelled to Scotland I had discovered a taste for scotch whisky.  I had tried quite a few different brands over the years but I had settled on Oban as my preferred choice.  Since it was also the beginning point of my trip to the Isle of Iona I had to make a stop at the distillery.

Oban is a small seaside town on the west coast of Scotland and I caught a train out of Glasgow to reach it.  I ended up spending a total of 3 nights in Oban I enjoyed the town so much.

After my boat tour of the Isle of Iona, I spent the next day exploring town and did the distillery tour.  The distillery is right in the middle of town and predates the town itself.  It is an impressive older building with a view of the bay.


Oban is a highland scotch and typically sold in Canada as a 14 year old single malt.  The tour was quite interesting and the guide was very informative and had a sense of humour though I was the object of his ridicule at one point.  Once he found out I was in school for a chemical engineer he told me to “get the hell out” and made it seem like I was trying to steal trade secrets.  He was convincing enough that I had to ask if he was kidding before he gave in and continued the tour.

We got the chance to try a sample of a barrel that was only aged 6 years to see the difference in flavour and the strong alcohol level.  In the tasting room I got to purchase a glass of their specialty 17 year old which I should have bought a bottle of to take home.  Even with the exchange, the prices were a third of the cost here in Canada.  I did get a bottle of the 14 year old for making friends later in my trip.



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