We slept in today! That meant getting up at 8:30 instead of 6:30.  It was a calm slow morning.  At 10 we headed out for a leisurely trek to the other side of the island to a remote beach.  It’s called the Bay at the Back of the Ocean.  To get there you have to follow the single track road south until it curves west and ends. Then you go through a livestock gate and enter the cow/sheep pasture which apparently is also part of a golf course.  Heather was a little nervous when she saw live cows grazing in the field we would have to cross, but they obliged her and moved on. Once you top the crest of the hill the view is truly spectacular. A rocky cove shelters a pebbly/sandy beach where the sheep also graze.  Yes, sheep on the beach. Crazy!  We did a little beach combing and waded in the 50 degree water until our ankles were numb. We climbed the rocks and explored in the tidal pools. I spotted something very exciting in the distance. In the smooth water there was a disturbance that looked very much like a whale’s tail.  We freaked out a little and spent the next 30 minutes watching for it to jump out of the water which he never did. Why not? Because our whale was a rock that Captain David later told us was called Captain Brown’s Rock!  Apparently there was a shipwreck off this cove and the people of Iona made a human chain out into the water to rescue the survivors. The captain of the ship was Captain Brown. We felt kind of dumb but the story redeemed the time we had spent “whale” watching.

Next we spent some time shopping in the local craft stores  and eating lunch on the terrace overlooking Martyr’s Bay.  It was nice to have the time to wander the island and absorb the tranquility.  We met Jane and Ros at the Iona Abbey gift shop. I interviewed Ros, an Abbey Steward, in the cloister.  The abbey was built-in 1200’s, but fell into ruin over the centuries. The 8th Duke of Argyll undertook the reconstruction of the abbey in the 1800’s and then gave it to the community. One of the most stunning things is the display of Celtic Crosses that date back to 700 A.D. The most unbelievable one is standing in front of the abbey church and has been there intact for 1200 years.  The other original crosses have been pieced back together and are on display inside the museum.

To get a good shot of the abbey we had to go into another pasture.  Of course Heather was less than enthusiastic about venturing out into the field with the “wild” animals, but she did it for the sake of the shot. Meanwhile I was reassuring her that they would not be aggressive unless they felt their calves were being threatened, and there were no calves grazing in that field.  Suddenly 5 calves appeared over the top of a ridge and they started running toward us.  At this point the cows also started moving briskly in our direction.  Heather says, ” Ok , I’m about to be out!, There’s a bull! I’m out!” She started running away, but she did remember to put the GoPro over her shoulder facing back to get the shot of the cows chasing her up the hill.  I did follow, laughing my head off!  Nikolas however, stayed out to make friends with the cows.  We called her the “cow whisperer” because she sat down among them and  one almost licked her hand.

Next we filmed a few shots down by the bay then got ready for dinner. Nikolas magically got us a table at the fully booked Argyll Hotel. Kris at The George Hotel in Inveraray had highly recommended it since they grow all their produce in the organic garden on the property. We are still not sure how she managed to get us a table. She said it was a trade secret with a little bit of French magic thrown in.  This is a great time to mention that there are only 3, yes 3, places to dine on this island. The two hotel restaurants book weeks in advance during the high season. The other serves  overpriced mediocre food at best. Needless to say we did not book in advance, so we needed the French magic.

We arrived ahead of our reservation and took the opportunity to sit on one of the benches overlooking the harbor.  All of a sudden from behind we heard in a Scottish accent, ” Here’s the two traveling mums!”  We turned to see the smiling face of Captain David from the boat ride to Staffa.  He chatted with us for a while and offered some advice about crossing the cow pastures. He also told Nikolas that she was lucky that she did not get hurt.  He then told us the story of a man who was crossing the pasture we crossed this morning, who about a year ago upset a cow and she ” made a mess out of him.”  This information, of course, made Heather feel very vindicated in her caution.

Dinner at the Argyll, what can we say but WOW! Chef Richard is a young fellow from Burma. He has a real gift for blending flavors and textures that you would not think to put together.  Gnocchi with butternut squash, lime peel, sunflower seeds and walnuts in a cream sauce…. a  fish on curry spiced roasted potatoes with a brown sugar shrimp sauce topped with sultanas.  Very unique. They have a real gem tucked away in this remote location.

We are packed and ready for our travel day tomorrow.  We are leaving the tranquility of Iona for the excitement and rush of London.  Worlds apart, yet both so enjoyable.

Enjoying the journey listening to the quiet,

Courtney and Heather.