It started in Perth as I picked up the truck from Linzi, I was headed to the Promised Land; Oban. As usual over the past few Christmas’, I collected my 4×4 truck and headed west, like an old salmon, heading back to my birthplace, Connel – that wonderful place on the Scottish west coast. Born here, and forever a “Connelly” the place draws me back all the time, apart from the road surface, it hasnee changed much in over 50 years. It is a superb drive from Perth to Connel, I marvel at it every time, nothing changes but the years wrangled away from me. Stopping to say hello to Old Shore Road, carry on Paul to Oban, it’s nice to escape back home from everyday life, with a happy grin on ma mush I am home and love it. It may not be downtown NY or swinging London (does it still swing?) but it is Oban, no Macdonald burgers here, no KFC or Pizzahut, this is west coast. Driving along George Street, passing the familiar chip shops and Skipinnsh, doon to the ferry terminal. I collected my tickets for tomorrow – am away to Mull. The remainder of today is back on familiar ground, a wee donder around my favourite bars; Tartan, Oban Inn and Auley’s. A chunk of seafood to keep me goin, from this, the Scottish capital for seafood. Bed is callin!
9.30am and in line at the ferry for Mull. It’s a sail and then head up to Tobermory, needed to see a few people and make some plans for the gathering in 2022. The whisky distillery was yelling my name, it captured me for a wee while, some nice juice to be had in there, not when driving mind but for later. Job done, headed back to Oban for a final night, the usual happens, as it does here, local chat, local drinks – well it does have a distillery! Meanwhile in the bar, the barman asked me “one for the road?” Jeeze, this road goes from Wick to Brighton!
A drive south to Loch Fyne and stopping at Tarbert, drop my bags into my castle (for the next 3 days) and head to the island, a wee walk for weary legs. The wood panelling of the bar called me for a dram, I obey. Life was now put into slow motion, chill for a few days, relax and share a drink or seven, chat to friends old and new, nae worries on the drink drive front. The dinner was delicious as usual, followed by a few drinks, tellybox and beddie byes. This continued for 3 days and nights. Do like it here for Christmas, I had offered it to a few guests from past tours, it will be open to book once again for 2020.
Notable moments from this 6 day trip; Oban bars and seafood, cannee beat em. Then of course the wee day trips locally, I do like a bit of history. Skipness Castle begun in the early 1200s, by the MacSweens. It was acquired by the Stewart earls of Mentieth in 1262 and passed into the hands of the MacDonalds in 1325 and eventually on to the Campbell earls of Argyll. Norway ruled Argyll in the 1200s, but the Norse’s days here were drawing to a close – in 1263, Hakon IV was defeated by the Scots at the Battle of Largs. Three years later his successor returned rule of the Hebrides to Scotland in the Treaty of Perth. The MacSweens, who backed Norway, were forced out. By the end of the century, the MacDonalds had control of Skipness. Scotland and England were locked into the Wars of Independence. The MacDonalds held Skipness until their downfall in 1493, and in 1502 it was granted to the Campbell earls of Argyll. The Campbell’s completed the conversion of the buildings to a tower house.
Keills Chapel, built in the 1100s and was dedicated to St Cormac. It contains almost 40 carved stones, which range in dates from the AD 700s to the 1500s. Most significant among the chapel’s collection is the Keills Cross, a free-standing high cross dating to the 700s. Only one face is carved in relief, including: panels of spiral ornament, animals and key-interlace on the shaft – a robed figure holding a Bible in one hand and raising the other in blessing, with lions on each side – almost certainly Daniel in the lion’s den – on the lower arm of the cross head – a raised, circular bird’s nest boss with a hollow centre containing three peltae, at the centre of the cross head cross arms on either side with more lions – St Michael slaying a dragon on the upper arm. The central boss is paralleled on the Kildalton Cross on Islay. How, when, and why the cross got to Keills is a mystery.