Take Me Back to the Isles of Staffa & Lunga!

Have you ever done one of those meditation exercises where you’re told to close your eyes and picture a place that brings you calm and peace? A place with unrivaled beauty that makes you feel happy? Well my friend, the Isles of Staffa and Lunga in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland have become my “meditation vision”. That being said, I don’t really do much meditation, but if I did these places would be foremost in my peaceful mind. The words “stunning beauty” don’t even begin to describe them. At one point in our journey, I found myself standing practically alone atop Staffa feeling so incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to experience something so special.

The Isles of Staffa and Lunga are not exactly an easy jaunt from the main cities of Scotland. For us, our journey took us from Edinburgh, to Inveraray where we stayed for a couple of nights. Next, we journeyed to Oban, hopped on a ferry to the Isle of Mull, and the next day boarded a tour boat with Staffa Tours out of the picturesque town of Tobermory. Are there easier routes? Perhaps. But we took our time enjoying the beautiful sites Scotland had to offer along the way. 

Staffa Tours specializes in boat tours to Staffa and Lunga. They were very professional, kind, and offered nice, comfortable accommodations with seating both inside and outside. Not to mention they had bathrooms onboard. An important convenience if you are going on a full day tour. Although the boat was full (perhaps 50 people), there was plenty of seating for everyone and once we arrived on the island, everyone scattered about so it never felt over crowded.

Jack’s best “Blue Steel”

As we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Treshnish Isles, I found myself enchanted by the water. It’s difficult to explain, but I’ve found this in the Lochs of Scotland as well. The water seems extraordinarily thick and glassy. Although we were in the open ocean, the water still seemed to take on this thick, heavy demeanor. It’s fascinating to watch a boat cut through the water and create a slow, smooth wake that can span out for what seems like a mile. I find it eerily beautiful. Maybe I’m weird being fascinated by something like this, I don’t know. But it really is a very unique phenomenon.

Our first stop was the Isle of Staffa. All I can say is that if we went nowhere other than this island, I would have been content. Beautiful is not even a worthy word to describe the attributes of Staffa.

The island itself is made up of basalt volcanic rock that has come together in a uniform matrix. Almost like a 3-D puzzle. Fun fact, The Vikings gave Staffa its name because the basalt reminded them of their houses, which were built from vertically placed tree-logs (thanks Wikipedia!).

It’s absolutely incredible. A short walk along a cliff brings you to the famous Fingal’s Cave, a site visited by both Queen Victoria and Felix Mendelssohn who was so moved by the beauty of the cave that he wrote the Hebrides Overture as a tribute.

As we approached, a lone bagpiper stood at the mouth of the cave playing a hauntingly beautiful melody. When he finished he told the small crowd around him that it had been his life-long dream to play his bagpipes here. I felt privileged to be part of such a special occasion. 

After our bagpipe serenade at Fingal’s Cave, we hiked to the top of the island and sat on a grassy spot near the edge of a cliff. A soft sea breeze kissed our cheeks as we took in in the majestic view. Sea birds called overhead, and an expanse of sparkling aquamarine water undulated below. It was remote, peaceful, and absolutely beautiful.

I thought for a second about hiding out on Staffa and letting the boat leave me there, but realized my two boys might not appreciate the island as much once night fell and we were all alone in the dark, so I begrudgingly dragged myself back to the boat. However, we were excited because our next stop was the Isle Of Lunga to meet some Puffins!

The Isle of Lunga is similar in composition to the Isle of Staffa. A rocky base covered in grass and heather. Again, breathtakingly beautiful.

After hiking up a short trail, we came across our first puffins. To say these little guys are adorable is an understatement. I can see now why people travel far and wide to get a glimpse of these birds. Burrowing into their nests set deep in the heather, they pop out and look at you with as much curiosity as you them.

I could have sat and watched them all day. However, I was with my two boys and you know boys, they’re always onto the next thing. “Yeah, yeah, cute birds. I get it, now let’s move on”. 

A short cliff-side walk led us to Heart Rock.

Home to literally tens of thousands of birds, this rock is a sight to behold. The sounds of bird calls is almost deafening and it’s amazing to stand there and watch as birds manage to find a spot to land on the crowded rock. 

All those little dots are thousands of birds!

After Heart Rock, we were feeling adventurous and hiked to the top of Lunga.

When we reached our destination, we all sat alone on a rock overlooking a wide expanse of open ocean. Ok, you know by now that I’m in love with Scotland, and views like this are one of the many reasons why. There are very few places in the world where you can sit isolated from the world and take in such an array of sweeping, vast beauty.

Take me back to the Isles of Staffa and Lunga!

Again, the time came to leave the island and I begrudgingly peeled myself away, looking longingly back from the boat as the island became a small dot on the horizon. Our journey brought us back to Tobermory with new memories, new adventures, and a new love of puffins. 

I highly recommend making the journey out to the Scottish Isles of Staffa and Lunga. If you do, you too will always keep the memory of their magnificence with you and may also begin to see them in your “meditation visions” when you are searching for calm. They are a tranquil place of unrivaled beauty, adorable wildlife, and perfect peace.

As a side note, Absolute Escapes helped us book our perfect trip to Scotland. I highly recommend checking them out. They are awesome!

It’s Time to Celebrate a Silver Anniversary!

Brett and I just celebrated 25 years of marriage…25 years!…A quarter of a century! That’s nothing to be taken lightly. We’ve certainly come a long way since that second day of college when I was introduced to him through a mutual friend. First thoughts on my end, “what a dork”. The second time I saw him, he brazenly told me he was going to marry me someday. “Ha!”, I thought to myself. “That will never happen”. Fast forward 25 years, 4 kids, 6 moves, and many adventures later I suppose it’s safe to say he knew what he was talking about. 

Our Bunch ❤️

Practically every couple has “their song”. Brett and I actually have two. Shortly after Brett and I got married Shania Twain’s “Still the One” was released. We knew it was one of our songs and I looked forward to the day when I could listen to it and be able to say, yes we’ve made it. 

Looks like we made it

Look how far we’ve come, my baby

We mighta took the long way

We knew we’d get there someday

They said, “I bet they’ll never make it.”

But just look at us holding on

We’re still together, still going strong

You’re still the one I run to

The one that I belong to

You’re still the one I want for life

You’re still the one that I love

The only one I dream of

You’re still the one I kiss good night

Ain’t nothing better

We beat the odds together

I’m glad we didn’t listen

Look at what we would be missing

The reason why this song was so important was because we knew when we got married we were up against huge odds. As you may know, not long after we met, Brett grew on me a bit and we ended up dating. After all, he was persistent and just wouldn’t go away. 😉 Well, I ended up getting pregnant out of wedlock and many, many tears passed before we decided to get married. “I’ll give it a shot for the sake of the baby”, I thought. But honestly, I wasn’t all in, and neither was Brett. Honorable, yes, but we were just kids and had a lot of growing up to do. My stepdad at the time told me that Brett was just going to leave me as soon as I “got fat” and I could just see others shake their heads behind our backs, perhaps making bets on how long our union would last.

And you know what? They were right to do so. We didn’t like each other for many years. Everything he did annoyed me, and he secretly resented me for taking away his fun college experience. We held on by a very thin string but always kept God and our children’s welfare first in our hearts. It was hard. It was really hard. Finally, about 6 years and two kids in, we took a long hard look at each other and decided we needed to do more than just get by. Call it maturity, or just the fact that we got past the idealism of romantic love, I don’t know. But at that time God really moved in us and it was a turning point in our relationship. 

It took another few years to learn how to make our new “mature” relationship work. However, we were determined not to give up and fought fiercely for what we were trying to build. That’s when it began to get good. We began to get to know each other as adults, and mutual respect grew. To be perfectly honest, it was a bumpy road and we had a lot to learn about what true love was supposed to look like.

But now here we are. It’s taken a long time but we’ve built a solid foundation, and have become best friends. It’s wonderful to be able to say that there is no one else I would rather spend time with than Brett. Does that mean our lives are now all wine and roses? Goodness no! Marriage is a constant state of ebb and flow, of learning, adapting and growing. We still argue and don’t see eye to eye at times but know in the end we will always come back together and work it out. We have learned to give unselfishly to one another (most of the time). I now see Brett as a loyal, hard working man who would do practically anything to make me happy. He constantly pushes me to be a better person, and I him. We are still very different in many ways, but have learned to meet in the middle and this is incredibly character building for each of us. 

So what can I say after 25 years of marriage? 

  • It’s not easy. You have to be willing to adapt, become unselfish, and love unconditionally.
  • If you put in the effort, It’s the most rewarding thing you can do aside from raising children.
  • Love is not a fairytale. It takes loyalty, commitment, hard work, and lots of prayer. But it’s better than a fairytale because it will fill your life with a rich, deep, committed love that lasts.
  • Always try to put your spouse’s needs first. The more you give and show love to them without expecting anything in return, the more they will love you back.
  • It’s ok to have up’s and down’s as long as you are both committed to making it work in the long run.
  • Faith in God is the essential component in making a marriage work. He has been our rock and I can tell you 100% we would not have made it without our commitment to our vow we made before Him.
  • Make your spouse your best friend. Do things together. Spend time together. Dream together. Brett and I never run out of things to talk about. We have coffee, go on walks, out to dinner, to the movies, etc. We just truly enjoy each other’s company and I don’t take that blessing lightly.
  • Remember that one day the kids will be gone and all you’ll have is each other. For some people this is a terrifying thought. Take time early on to invest in each other so when that day comes you won’t be strangers.

And finally, here’s our second song. I’m sure after all I’ve said you can see why. It’s by Alan Jackson and still makes me cry.

Remember When

Remember when I was young and so were you

And time stood still and love was all we knew

You were the first, so was I

We made love and then you cried

Remember when

Remember when we vowed the vows and walked the walk

Gave our hearts, made the start, it was hard

We lived and learned, life threw curves

There was joy, there was hurt

Remember when

Remember when old ones died and new were born

And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged

We came together, fell apart

And broke each other’s hearts

Remember when

Remember when the sound of little feet

Was the music we danced to week to week

Brought back the love, we found trust

Vowed we’d never give it up

Remember when

Remember when thirty seemed so old

Now lookin’ back, it’s just a steppin’ stone

To where we are, where we’ve been

Said we’d do it all again

Remember when

Remember when we said when we turned gray

When the children grow up and move away

We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad

For all the life we’ve had

And we’ll remember when

This is what 25 years looks like for us. It’s taken a lot of work, prayer, and self-sacrifice but oh the rewards are so sweet. I pray your quarter of a century marriage milestone will look the same and when you look at your best friend who may now have a few more wrinkles and some grey hair that you will be as grateful as I am for the blessing of the person standing before you. 

I love you Brett! 

Happy anniversary. 

Thank you for never giving up on me, for being my best friend, and for loving me even when I am difficult to love. 

You put an inscription in my ring and I agree without hesitation:

 I would do it all again! 

Taiwan Taoyuan Airport-Taipei

This is a series meant to help you find the best of the best in lounges everywhere. Our 12-year-old, Jack has become a lounger-extraordinaire. He knows how to get the most out of any lounge experience and always manages to get our full money’s worth out of any visit. As a result, we have come up with a lounge rating system according to our very discerning lounge critic. Enjoy, and may you too achieve lounge nirvana!  

Jack’s Rating System (ABC’S)

1 (worst)-5 (best) 

Ambiance

Bathrooms

Comfort  

Sustenance 

=

Overall Score

____________________________________________________________________________

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

Taipei, Taiwan

Terminal 2 Plaza Premium (D)

(Priority Pass)

Ambiance-3

Jack gave the ambiance of this lounge a 3 because he said, and I quote, “it wasn’t that ambiancy”. Hey, that’s what you get sometimes when you have a 12-year-old rating lounges. However from a more mature perspective, I thought it was basic but fine. They were playing classical Christmas music and had a lovely decorated Christmas tree which was pretty classy.

Bathrooms-2

The bathrooms were clean but pretty basic. Two stalls and no frills. Much to Jack’s disappointment, there were no showers available. And if you’re wondering, yes he has actually used lounge showers before. This kid! 😆

Comfort-3

Elijah making his Little Lounger debut!

Tables were pretty small, the majority of which were side tables situated between two chairs. However, these tables did house plugs for charging devices which was helpful, and the chairs were comfortable. Some additional 4-person tables and work stations were available but the seats were not as comfortable.

Sustenance-2

This lounge does not offer much variety with food and drink choices. Most of what was offered was what many would consider side dishes with the exception of about four different Chinese food options. Basic drink choices were available; like assorted sodas, water, coffee, and a very limited selection of alcohol. They were out of beer which brought the sustenance score in Jack’s Dad’s mind down significantly. However, Jack did love the crispy small hash browns offered and managed to pound down at least 4 platefuls of these delectable little morsels.

=

Overall Score: 2.5

Wondering what Jack thought of other lounges he’s visited? Check out some more of his facinating reviews here:

https://bunchabroad.wordpress.com/little-lounger/

10 Ways to Help you Overcome Jet Lag

Jet Lag Isn’t For the Faint of Heart!

When our oldest son, Hunter came from Detroit to visit us for the first time in Shanghai, he thought he had the whole jet lag thing figured out. “I’m going to pull an all-nighter the day before I leave so I’ll be really tired and sleep on the plane the whole way there. That way, once I get there, I’ll be wide awake and ready to go”. Brett and I just nodded our head’s and told him we would see how that theory played out. Sure enough, he was exhausted, but still couldn’t sleep well on the plane so wound up arriving in Shanghai 15 hours later even more tired than he would have been if he had prepared for the journey like a normal person. 

I’ve heard every theory under the sun for how people plan on attacking jet lag, and although there are those rare people to whom it doesn’t seem to affect (and I truly hate those people), 9.999 times out of 10, every attempt ends in failure. Not only that, but I’ve gone through this grueling process so many times now that I can almost predict how the majority of people will react. Here’s how it plays out:

Night 1: The first night you arrive at your destination, you’ll be so exhausted from travel that you will actually sleep really well. Don’t be fooled! This is just your body’s way of tricking you into thinking you’ve beat the system. 

Night 2: The next day you’ll hit your jet-lagged wall about 3:00 pm. If you manage to make it through until a decent bedtime, more power to you, but don’t think this means you’re going to sleep through the night again. You silly person! No, you’ll most certainly fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, but then sometime between 4-5 am, BOING! Your eyes will open and you’ll be wide awake (perhaps until morning) thinking about all kinds of irrelevant things like, “if airlines were smart, they’d put a spa on the plane so travelers can schedule an inflight massage.”. I’m here to tell you, I’ve planned out all the details of such spas throughout many a sleepless jet-lagged night!

Nights 3-6: Like Groundhog Day, repeat the process from night 2 for the next three days, with each subsequent night offering one extra hour’s sleep before wake up and voila, after about a week, you’ve finally fully adjusted. Hallelujah! Hopefully, this won’t be just in time for you to return home and start the entire process over again.

Jet lag is even so kind as to be nondiscriminatory. Trust me on the one. It doesn’t matter if you’re 12 or 82, a college partier or a homebody, an early bird or a night owl. Nope, everyone gets hit the same. There’s simply just no way to avoid it. So don’t get cocky by pinning 15 different jet lag busters on Pinterest, and think you’ll somehow beat the system because it’s just not gonna happen. Instead, simply buckle up and prepare for the ride. 

Since I’ve been down this road so many times, I’m here to tell you that there are some tricks of the jet lag trade that will help you power through. Although you will still be jet-lagged, at least you’ll know the best ways to attack it head on, and perhaps relieve some of your suffering in the process. I should add as a side note, that we typically face a 12-hour time change when we travel to/from home and although other time differences will be difficult, this one is the grand daddy of them all.

1. Take advantage of that first good night’s sleep. 

You’ve been through a lot throughout your travel and your body’s exhausted. Take advantage of this fact. I typically sleep almost 12 hours the first night after a long-haul flight. Nothing feels better than a shower and lying horizontal after traveling for 12+ hours (our last trip from the US to Bangkok was 25 hours! Now that one’s a doozy).

2. Don’t be afraid to seek help.

Meaning, sleeping pills or supplements to help you sleep. I’ve tried sleeping pills, melatonin, and diffusing lavender essential oil help me. Now, I don’t recommend using them all at once, of course, but find one or two that work for you and use them the first few nights. In addition, having a houseful of screaming kids will help you sleep at night too. If you want some, I’m happy to put some of mine on loan to you. 😉

3. The first 3 days are the worst.

You know how Jesus rose again on the third day? Well my friend, so will you. I wish I could sugar-coat it and tell you that you won’t feel like you are walking around with a fog hanging over your head but then I would just be lying. It’s the strangest feeling. Sometimes I even still feel like I’m on the plane. But for some reason, after the third day, the fog lifts and you can begin to once again function like a normal human being. It’s always funny walking through the grocery store the first few days after a big expat holiday. It looks like the store has been overrun by the zombie apocalypse. Everyone’s walking around with a glazed look in their eyes while putting who knows what into their cart.

4. Strive to stay awake until at least 8 pm.

This will help your body adapt to your new time zone and ultimately help you more effectively overcome jet lag. Sounds easy, right? Haha! We’ll see.

5. Go back to kindergarten.

Nap time may be your best friend when fighting jet lag. Just make sure you nap carefully. I highly recommend napping before 3pm, and only for 30 minutes. Now I know you may have hit your wall and just want to go to bed for good at 3:00, but fight that urge with everything you have. After all, you aren’t going to get adjusted to your new time zone if you have an afternoon bedtime.  In addition, if you nap longer than 30 minutes, you run the risk of not being able to fall asleep when it is actually time to go to dreamland. Trust me on this one, there’s scientific evidence to back me up here.

6. Embrace the tired.

It’s important not to push yourself too hard in the first few days while adjusting to your new timezone. Instead, simply enjoy this time with family or friends. Get a massage. Maybe go check-out a site or two, but remember that 3:00 witching hour will be lurking at your door and when it arrives, be sure to cut yourself some slack. The same goes for moodiness or, dare I say, grumpiness? Remember, your poor body is exhausted so it’s ok to cry if someone doesn’t pass you the ketchup fast enough. Sounds weird, but I’ve cried over things way more stupid than that. 

7. Figure out what’s going to work best for you at 4am.

Brett and I take very different approaches to this problem. I become a fierce fighter and stubbornly lay in bed looking at the ceiling because, “darn it, I WILL adjust”. While he embraces the early wake up by getting out of bed, making coffee, and watching the sunrise in quiet peace. However, no matter what, we both end up adjusting at the same speed so it’s just important to figure out what will help get you through those frustratingly early hours so you don’t go crazy. 

8. Give working out a try.

Although the last thing you may want to do is go for a run, studies have shown that working out helps improve sleep, and at this point I’m sure you’re willing to try anything to help you make it through the night!

9. Plan enough time in your trip to adjust to jet lag.

I always tell people who are planning on a trip to our side of the world to allow a minimum of 2 weeks vacation if possible. The first three days are really rough, and considering it takes a full week to get adjusted to the time difference (we’re 12 hours ahead of the US), wouldn’t it be nice to have a full week after you’ve adjusted and feel human again to sightsee or do activities without feeling as if you will pass out if you merely sit down?

10. East to West is best.

It’s easier to overcome jet lag when traveling from East to West. I don’t know why, but for some reason this is the case every single time, and not just for us. I’ve talked to other expats who experience the same thing. Weird, right? I’m sure there’s some science-y reason behind it but that’s beyond my expertise, sorry.

As I said before, Jet lag is not for the faint of heart. But take heart! This too shall pass and you will soon be back to your good-old magnanimous self, ready to take on this new adventure before you.

Good luck, and sweet dreams!

Special thanks to Autumn Lytle for organizing all our awkward family photos I know the amount available was endless). Who knew they would be perfect for this post? 😉

3 Reasons Why Expat Life is Weird

One week ago we were in the Seattle area enjoying what was left of a wonderful Christmas break. Do we live in Seattle? No. Are we from Seattle? No. But there we sat in a beautiful vacation rental overlooking the Seattle skyline and the Puget Sound.

I began to think as we sat there that expat life is so unusual. It’s wonderful, it’s frustrating, it’s a unique way to live and it’s an incredible opportunity. But above all that, it can also be weird. Case in point: we were home in The States for Christmas, but since we no longer own a physical house, we didn’t return to our home state but instead rented a vacation house on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Now all this is pretty cool, but it’s also a bit different. To illustrate my point further, here are 3 reasons why expat life is weird:

1. You’re never truly settled.

Sure, you move to a new country and put down some shallow roots, but you know deep down that this is most likely not your forever home. It’s temporary, which is a weird way to live. I tend to be a person of habit and routine. One who likes to plant roots that run deep. Living an expat life doesn’t offer that opportunity, and this reality can be a struggle at times. We live on a 2-3 year plan that may or may not change at any point. For example, we were supposed to live in Shanghai for 3 years. Those 3 years got extended to 5. However, right before the 3-year mark, we ended up finding out in July we would be moving to Bangkok in August. Whenever you ask an expat how long their assignment is, you can see a little glint of uncertainty flash in their eyes before they answer. In addition, their response is usually something to the effect of, “well, we are supposed to be here until 2020, but you never know”.

2. You know the life you’re living is not reality.

At least for us, living abroad has provided more disposable income than we’ve ever had before. This has afforded us the opportunity to travel the world, go out to eat more often, and buy things that we perhaps could not afford before we moved. I mean, I was sitting in a vacation rental overlooking the entire Seattle skyline and Mount Ranier for Pete’s sake.

That’s not reality…for us anyway. It’s amazing but I also know after we move back home, we will no longer be able to afford to rent a house like that and may be back to staying with relatives whenever we travel. Now that would be weird!

3. You long for home and wonder why.

Although it’s a given that you always miss your family back home and long to be with them, this is more about home in a physical sense. I’m not going to lie, our life in Bangkok is pretty darn amazing! We have a driver and a housekeeper. We have a pool.

We basically live in paradise and would never be able to afford such luxuries if we didn’t live abroad. Yet, every time we go home to The States, I find myself longing to stay. Even though we no longer own a home, there’s something about being back in the familiarity of your own country that’s comforting.

I feel settled there and although when I leave, I get to return to this incredible life, I find it difficult to rip myself away-every.single.time. Then, as a result, I feel guilty because it seems as if I am not appreciating the huge blessing I’ve been given, and find I just end up in a jumble of emotions. Weird, right?

I suppose living abroad is really just a weird juxtaposition of reality. It’s an amazing opportunity, a huge blessing, and a fantastic way to spend a few years of your life. On the other hand, it’s also a life that can include times of longing for the familiar, and for the roots you can’t seem to make grow deeper. It’s a weird, wonderful life that’s certainly never dull. I know one day 10 years from now when we are settled back in The States, we will look back on these days with longing. Perhaps we’ll be bored with being settled, and decide we need to go and do it all over again. Hopefully, if we do, the next time will be in Scotland. 😉 But until then, I plan to try and enjoy every crazy moment of this weird, and wonderful ride.

4 Days on The Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull is a quiet, and beautiful island. One of the largest islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, it offers picturesque coastal towns, rugged cliffs, and beautiful white sand beaches. Cows and sheep outnumber people and seem to dot the windswept landscape everywhere you go. Winding, single track roads carry you from the green coast through the Scottish wilderness with a vast array of topography and wildlife.

When I scheduled our trip to Scotland with Absolute Escapes, I asked them for suggestions on where to go. I was looking for places that were off the beaten path, but with enough to do so that my travel companions (Hunter, 21, and Jack, 12) wouldn’t get bored. Mull was suggested as offering a little something for us all, and it truly did. Mull felt like a much different vacation than we typically had. Things moved more slowly on the island. There wasn’t something to do 24/7, but this became quite a nice change of pace. The boys had time to explore and come up with their own entertainment which ended up being their most enjoyable part of our entire trip to Scotland. I enjoyed watching them bond over things like hiking and swimming instead of simply sitting in front of a tv or glued to their phones.

4 days is just enough time to hit the highlights of Mull. We enjoyed every minute and appreciated the opportunity to slow down a bit. Intrigued? Here’s what we did:

4 Day Isle of Mull Itinerary

Day 1

We boarded the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Oban to Craignure after spending the morning exploring the town of Oban. In this cute coastal town, we found many shops and places to eat.

We all enjoyed Oban very much, and I would highly recommend putting it on your list of places to visit in Scotland. Upon arrival to Craignure, we continued on to Tobermory, a picturesque fishing village lined with brightly painted buildings situated along the harbor.

On our way, we came across two abandoned ships on the side of the road that looked as if they had quite a story to tell.

By the time we arrived in Tobermory, all the shops were closed so we simply walked around and enjoyed a lovely dinner by the water. 

Day 2

This was the day we were all excited for! We booked a boat tour to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles through Staffa Tours. Oh, what a wonderful day it was! We had never seen anything like the Isles of Staffa and Lunga. The way the volcanic basalt rocks jutted sharply out of the sea looked as if someone had chiseled them away by hand.

Fingal’s Cave was remarkable, and we had time to simply explore the island, taking in the stunning view from the top.

The Isle of Lunga was home to the most adorable bird in the world-the puffin. We had time to hike around and watch these little creatures in their natural habitat. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Day 3

Since Mull is so large, and the roads so small, it took us almost a full day to cross the island in order to get to our next destination-Fionnphort (believe it or not, pronounced Finn-a-furt). Along the way, we stopped at the Isle of Mull Cheese Farm where we enjoyed a self-guided tour and snack in an adorable cafe.

Next, we made our way halfway around the island to the Killiechronan Pony Trekking farm and enjoyed an hour riding horses over hill and dale.

Back on the road, we made a quick stop at Calgary Bay, a beautiful white sand beach but didn’t have much time since the drive was so long (about 5 1/2 hours since the roads are so small). Upon our arrival in Fionnphort, we couldn’t believe how tiny it was. I’d say it was 1/2 mile in length at the most.

The entire town of Fionnphort.

A few B&B’s, one restaurant/bar, and one convenience store were about all it had to offer. I’ll admit, I was a bit worried about filling time for the boys, but in all honesty, I think this became their favorite destination. After dinner, we went out to explore. The weather had been unseasonably warm (almost hot), and the boys decided they wanted to go swimming. So at 10 pm, in full daylight, they jumped into the Atlantic Ocean. Well, although the air temperature was warm, the water temperature was not. However, they were having such a great time they ignored the fact that their bodies were numb and swam around for quite a while.

Day 4

Another highly anticipated day of exploring. In the morning we hopped on the 10 minute passenger ferry to the Isle of Iona. This was the place that captured my heart. This island is very small and totally walkable. We visited the remains of a nunnery founded in the 1200’s.

Then we went to the Iona Abbey, the location where Christianity was brought to Scotland. It was truly a sacred, beautiful sight to see.

After that we were feeling pretty adventurous so decided to walk to a nearby abandoned quarry. Typical of us, we found ourselves lost so we climbed a sea cliff and hiked around the island a bit. Just us, the sheep, and endless gorgeous views.

When we returned to Mull, we ate dinner and the boys decided they wanted to go on another hike and swim. We spent the rest of the evening adventuring around Fionnphort hiking, getting stuck in the mud, laughing, and just having a great time.

The next morning we made our way back to Craignure and headed back to the mainland. We all agreed what memorable fun we had and would love to do it again. 

All the facts

Where we Stayed

Tobermory

Harbour View B&B

This lovely little Bed & Breakfast is situated atop a steep hill offering stunning views of the harbor and the rooftops of Tobermory. We occupied both the Rose and Lavender cottages behind the B&B. Although they were small, they were private and cozy.

www.tobermorybandb.com

1 Argyll Terrace

Argyll, PA75

Telephone:

01688 301111

Fionnphort

Caol-lthe Guest House 

Don’t even try to pronounce this one. I never could get it right. But I can say this B&B was the most professionally run one I have ever visited. The accommodations were very comfortable and breakfasts were delicious.

www.holidayisleofmull.co.uk

Address:

You don’t really need one. Just look for the sign. It’s on the one and only main road.

Telephone:

01681 700375

What we Did

Tobormory Distillery

Staffa and Treshnish Isles boat tour

Isle of Mull Cheese

Killechronan Pony trekking

Day trip to the Isle of Iona

hiking

swimming

shopping

eating

Thoughts and Things

Since Mull is such a large island, 4 days is really the minimum amount of time you will want to spend here. The longer the better. 

In the summer, it’s light until about 11:30pm. However, most of the shops and restaurants close early (shops around 6, restaurants a bit later). That being said, you’ll have quite a few hours of daylight left to fill so perhaps save some exploring or nature walks until evening.

Some of our best moments on Mull were those that weren’t planned. Make sure you leave time in your schedule to relax and make things up as you go. Who knows, maybe you too will find yourself freezing in the Atlantic Ocean and loving every cold minute of it!

The island is mainly made up of single track roads. Prepare yourself. These driving conditions are very different from what you may be used to, and getting places tends to take way longer than you would expect. It is 48 miles from Tobermory to Fionnphort but it took us 5 1/2 hours to make the journey. We did stop a lot to look around, and I was pretty nervous driving on the roads at first which is most likely why it took so long. Read more about our adventures driving in Scotland here.

We weren’t huge fans of the food selections on the island. Lots of bar food and seafood which is fine, but just don’t expect to find any Michelin Star restaurants. 

On your next visit to Scotland, put the Isle of Mull on your itinerary. From boat trips and cheese farms to pony trekking and hiking, Mull is a large, diverse island that’s sure to leave you with happy memories, as it did us. 

White Knuckles, Curb Hopping, & Coo Crossing, OH MY! Our Family’s Adventure Driving Through Scotland.

Today I’m here to tell a tale. One of adventure, intrigue, and death-defying stunt moves. Ok, I exaggerate a bit, but not much when I am talking about our family’s experience driving the streets of Scotland. 

Let me begin at the very beginning…a very good place to start. Wait, I think that’s a song. Hmm. But really, here we go. You know how much I love Scotland, right? I suppose I’ve mentioned that fact a few times.

For the Love of Scotland, Two Girls Take off on the Trip of a Lifetime,

Don’t go to Scotland!

Things We ❤️: Absolute Escapes

 So I was excited to bring my family over for their first visit. My youngest son, Jack and I arrived in Edinburgh last summer after a veeeeerrrry long journey from Shanghai. To say we were exhausted upon our arrival would be an understatement. However, I knew the moment I had been dreading for months had finally arrived. I was going to have to get in a rental car and drive in Scotland. There was simply no way around it. We had a busy 16 days in front of us traveling hither and yon throughout the country so we needed wheels. 

Why was I so scared to drive in Scotland you ask? Well for starters, the Scots drive on the wrong side of the road, according to us Americans!!! I had nightmares of pulling out into the wrong side of traffic, or making a left turn into the wrong lane. Needless to say, I was pretty worked up. However, being the cool, calm and collected mom that I am, I put on my brave girl pants and told Jack to climb in. But before we took off into the wild blue yonder with the wind whipping through our hair, we had to inspect our rental car and note any prior damage. At first glance, I realized this was no ordinary car. It was a Mercedes E-Class Estate Wagon. Why make me even more stressed out by giving me a super expensive Mercedes?! And even worse, it was a brand, spanking new car. I’m talking we were maybe the second drivers to rent this car. Ever. Ok, no pressure. 

Now let’s take a moment to review: I’m exhausted, sitting in an airport parking lot in an unfamiliar foreign city, expected to drive a brand new Mercedes on the opposite side of the road than I’m used to. Ok, just making sure you’ve got a clear picture in your head. Let me add to the story a bit. The Christmas prior to this trip, we rented a car in the States. I got persuaded in to buying the additional insurance on the rental. I never heard the end of it from my husband, saying I never should have agreed and it was a waste of money because our credit card already offered insurance. So this time, I confidently said no to the offer of extra insurance. “Haha, I thought. You aren’t gong to get me this time!”. As we slowly (and when I say slowly, a turtle may have gone faster than us) pulled out of the parking lot, I began questioning that decision. I don’t think I have ever held onto a steering wheel tighter than I did those first few days driving in Scotland. 

So we made it out of the parking lot (woohoo!). Jack was my official navigator so I could focus on nothing but the road. Well, I don’t know how many of you have used a 12-year-old to help navigate, but this can be a bit of a challenge. They can be a bit clueless when it comes to map reading (sorry Jack!). We literally went dizzily around a roundabout three times before we could figure out the right exit, and passed our B&B twice before we could find it. My heart was racing the entire time, and I drove, white-knuckled and owl-eyed the entire way. Funny thing, I wasn’t feeling so tired anymore. As we parked, I accidentally ran over the curb and decided right then and there we would return to the airport in the morning and pay whatever the ridiculous fee would be for the extra insurance, pride be damned. 

It just so happened that as a special treat, Jack’s favorite person in the world, his older brother Hunter, was flying in the next morning to surprise Jack and continue our first week in Scotland with us before the last two members of our family to come would arrive (this is a bit complicated to follow I know, so just don’t even try. 😉 ). We had a lot to do and see in that week, and a lot of driving to do in order to get to all of our destinations. But now I had a 21-year-old navigator in the passenger seat so things were sure to go better right? Ha!

Doesn’t he look fully capable of navigating?

Let me interject here quickly and say that I’m usually a very good driver. I’ve been on the road for many years and have had a very minimal number of accidents (2 to be exact). However, streets in Scotland are old, small, and complicated. There is a different type of roundabout what seems like every 500 feet, and driving a surprisingly wide car like the E-Class Estate is not exactly an ideal way to take on these types of driving conditions for the first time. 

But, onward we went. I was still nervous, but a bit more emboldened when Hunter came up with a safe word I must have heard 1,000 times…“LANE!”, meaning I was drifting to the left and about to run into the curb on the passenger side. It was so hard to get a feel for exactly where I should be especially since most of the lanes were really narrow, and oncoming cars were zooming past us so close we could feel the wind from their speed shake the car. 

Although the scenery was beautiful, I don’t think Hunter and I noticed much of it that first day.

He was busy keeping my lane positioning in check, and I was concentrating with every ounce of my being on the road ahead. But, we had been driving for a while and were getting thirsty so we began looking for a place to safely pull over in order to buy some water. Finally, along came a promising looking gas station on our right side. We all spotted it and as we were looking at it, I somehow drifted over to the left (remember these lanes were small so there wasn’t a lot of drifting room). Like a slow-motion scene out of a movie, the car hopped the curb, continued down the road for what seemed like a mile but was really only a foot or two on only three wheels, and made a horrible scraping sound against the road. “AHHHHH…HHHH…HHHH!!!” All three of screamed in unison, but I managed to get off the curb and pull into the gas station. Hearts pounding, and fear of the damage that may have just happened coursing through our veins, we all sat there for a moment just looking at each other incredulously. I peeled my fingers away from the death grip I had on the steering wheel, and we reluctantly got out of the car in order to assess the damage.  Peeking through one eye, I saw that two of the car’s rims were scraped, there was a gash in the tire, and somehow the front fender of the passenger side was scraped up pretty substantially.

“Boy am I glad I got the extra insurance,” I giggled nervously. Thankfully the car was still completely drivable. So we bought our waters, took a deep breath, and slowly got back on the road. 

The next few drives went about the same way. We drove along narrow two-lane roads throughout the Highlands, missing most of the beautiful scenery around us because we were focussing intently on not crashing the car.

Perhaps Jack would have enjoyed it from the back seat but he slept most of the time since he felt car sick due to the windy roads. After the Highlands, our next destination was the beautiful Isle of Mull. I didn’t sleep at all the night before we journeyed to the island. Instead, I had horrible visions of driving the car off the ferry into the ocean, or something else equally devastating. But lo and behold, the ferry ride went fine. Whew!

We made it onto the ferry!

It was when we got off the ferry that things once again got interesting. 

Have you ever heard of single-track roads? Oh boy, now these are something that will get your heart pumping. Single-track roads are exactly how they sound. One-lane is available to drive on in either direction with passing places for oncoming traffic available at certain points along the road. Imagine playing a game of chicken with cars and you’ll get the gist of the driving conditions on these roads. And to add to the fun, not only is there only one lane, but many times you are driving on very winding roads on the side of a cliff with consistent blind spots as you go up and down hills.

Let me just say, Hunter is a pretty laid back guy. Not much rattles him. However, driving on the Isle of Mull managed to get even him stressed out. We had a lot of quick, face-to-face car encounters that would require one or both cars to back up to a passing area and wait our turn to continue.  One such incident occurred right after we a took a tight corner. As we rounded the corner, a car was coming right at us. The driver was kind enough to back up so we could pass. The problem was, he backed up right into a ditch. Two wheels spinning in mid-air, this guy wasn’t going anywhere without a tow truck. We felt terrible. Not that it was our fault, but I could see myself doing the exact same thing. 

This became a regular occurrance after a day of driving.

Still, after a couple of days driving those single-track roads, I came to kind of like them. They were quiet, could be peaceful, and when there were no other cars to be seen in the distance, it was fun picking up some pretty good speed feeling like I owned the road. Sometimes our only company were the Highland Coo’s that simply stood sleepily in the middle of the road staring at us as if silently daring us to just try and make them move.

When we left the Isle of Mull and worked our way back to Edinburgh, The roads became divided and wider again. It felt like such a luxury having two or more lanes available on which to drive.

When Brett and Elijah finally arrived, I had become pretty comfortable driving. Brett was actually thoroughly impressed by the way I navigated the city streets. I just looked at him and said, ”oh you know, it’s no big deal”. So Brett tried his hand at driving. After the 15th time I yelled, “LANE!” in an hour, we decided to leave the driving to the pro…me.

Who would have guessed? 😉