This last week we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary so my pearl among women and I headed off to Oban on the west coast of Scotland for a long weekend. We set off early on Friday morning, driving to Berwick where we caught the train to Edinburgh, from there to Glasgow and from there to Oban.
One off the main reasons for the choice of Oban was the prospect of the train journey. We enjoy travelling by train anyway but the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Oban is one of the finest routes in Britain, spectacular as it wends its way along Loch Long, Loch Lomond, Loch Etive and Loch Awe.
The autumn colours were wonderful and although the day was grey and drizzly this somehow did not diminish the beauty of the scenery. In fact the grey mists added to the grandeur and menace of the Trossach peaks and Kilchurn Castle on the shore of Loch Awe was the perfect Halloween castle – dramatic and mysterious.
Oban was wet, grey and windy when we arrived but a short walk along the esplanade took us to the warmth of our very comfortable hotel. We discovered a great restaurant overlooking the bay with an extensive selection of gluten-free options.
Pearl among women at Oban Bay
Saturday was wet and windy , but fortified by a hearty Scottish breakfast we braved the elements and explored the town. We visited St John’s Scottish Episcopalian Cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1863 and has not yet been completed! The guide to the Cathedral attributes this to a combination of bad luck and a lack of funds. Some of the walls and roof are held up by amazing steel buttresses.
Eight sided baptismal font in Cathedral
We had been told that because of the bad weather it was unlikely that any of the ferries would be running, and indeed, the day trip to Mull and Iona that we had been hoping to take was cancelled. However, a slight improvement in the weather prompted us to enquire at the ferry terminal and we were told that we could take a non-landing cruise to Mull. The large Caledonian McBrayne ferry crosses to Mull and back several times each day with each leg of the journey taking about 45 minutes. An announcement from the captain warned us that because of the strong winds and the heavy swell we should take care moving about the vessel, hold on to railings and watch out for doors closing more quickly than expected. In the event, there was a barely noticeable up and down movement!
The rain eased off but the wind was very strong and made standing on the outside observation decks dicey so we contented ourselves with watching the scenery from inside the ship through the large windows with occasional forays outside to take photos.
More rain on Saturday evening had us dashing from the hotel to our now favourite restaurant for another delicious meal.
Oban at night
The weather changed on Sunday – it got worse! We braved the gale force winds and horizontal rain to walk to the Oban branch of the Church which meets at the Oban High School. We sat in our damp clothes in cold classrooms for the abbreviated two hour meeting schedule. If the classrooms were cold, the welcome was warm. On arriving the first person we saw said, ‘I know you!’. She turned out to be the former Lesley Lisgoe that we knew many years ago in Sunderland Stake. Now known as Sister Williams she is serving a member and leadership support mission in Oban with her new husband.
Including my wife and I, we were 14 in the congregation – 2 senior missionaries, 2 missionary elders, 2 investigators and 6 local members. The high councillor who was due to speak had cried off because of the bad weather so Elder Williams (who is also the Branch President) gave an extemporaneous talk and the whole Sacrament meeting lasted only 30 minutes.
The weather was, if anything, worse as we battled back to our hotel arriving drenched to the skin. we battened down the hatches for the rest of the day.
Monday, while still wet and windy, was much improved. We enjoyed more exploration of Oban including the small but interesting Museum and some shopping. Lunch consisted of the most beautiful smoked salmon eaten al fresco from the famous green hut on the ferry terminal.
The rain made the train journey back from Oban even more spectacular with vivid white cataracts of water tumbling down the steep red hillsides alongside the railway track – a truly memorable sight.
We arrived back home after 11pm having thoroughly enjoyed our anniversary trip despite all that the elements threw at us.