We have 2 nights, one full day, at Oban in late September. With some of the issues I have been reading about with construction work at the caves on Staffa and the late season visit, would you recommend the 2 or 3 island tour for Mull, Iona, and possibly Staffa. We have a car, but the consensus seems to be that the tour is a good option for a one day visit.
Here's a suggestion - instead of taking the three island tour from Oban, you could catch an early CalMac ferry from Oban to Craignure, drive out to Fionnphort, and have a choice of visiting Staffa or Iona, or possibly both.
CalMac has frequent walk-on ferry service from Fionnphort to Iona. Going that route, you can spend as much or as little time on Iona as you'd like.
Staffa Tours www.staffatours.com has two sailings daily from Fionnphort to Staffa. 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. If you catch the early morning ferry (reservations strongly recommended) from Oban to Craignure, you'd have enough time to catch the 9:30 sailing, and be back in Fionnphort to have more than enough time to explore Iona. The last ferry departs Craignure for Oban at 7:15 p.m. Using that schedule, you'd have the option of dropping the Staffa visit if construction is still under way, spending more time on Iona (which needs a minimum of four hours to appreciate), and enjoying some of the more scenic parts of Mull.
Thank you, Mike. I have been reluctant to schedule the tour because of my uncertainty about Staffa as well as the fact that I did not know if we would be seeing some of Mull’s best sites. If we were to drive ourselves, could you suggest areas we could drive to that would be good options? Again, thank you.
Hi again, jsss72,
As you have a full day on Mull, in addition to Iona, I'd recommend visiting Duart Castle, which is just south of Craignure on your way to Fionnphort. You could either visit on the way to Fionnphort, or on the way back. However, if you're planning to take the 9:30 a.m. Staffa Tours trip to Staffa, you'd need to visit on the way back to Craignure. The castle closes at 5:00 p.m., but the grounds are open until dusk, and there are beautiful views over the Sound of Mull and the Firth of Lorne.
The A849 from Craignure to Fionnphort is a good drive. A good part of it is along the shore of Loch Scridain. There are only two small villages along the way - Pennyghael and Bunessan.
If you have the time before the last ferry back to Oban, I'd also recommend driving up to Tobermory, which is one of the most attractive towns on Scotland's west coast. If you had more time, I'd recommend a drive along the B8073 from Salen to Tobermory by way of Calgary and Dervaig. However, that drive takes the better part of two hours, and you'd still have to make your way from Tobermory to Craignure. The B8073 is one of the most attractive drives in Scotland, especially done counterclockwise.
Where are you going after Mull? If you're going north to Skye, you could cancel the second night in Oban, stay overnight on Mull, and take the Tobermory to Kilchoan or Fishnish to Lochaline ferry on your way to Skye.
Excellent suggestions, Mike. I’m excited about those.
We are going to Oban after two nights on Skye. We will drive down through Glencoe on our way to Oban. Originally I had considered staying on Mull our first night in the area instead of Oban, but I was concerned that I could not be sure of our arrival for reservations for the car ferry. We could also stay the second night on Mull in order to see Tobermory, but we will have to be on our way early the following day for our drive to Stirling, then Edinburgh.
Keep in mind that if you have mobility issues (can’t do steep stairs) Staffa is not the island for you.
Thanks for the warning, but we do not have a problem with stairs.
Second vote for Duart Castle. It's very old and has an amazing location.
I have to say that while I enjoyed visiting Staff and Fingal's Cave, the boat ride over and back was stellar. It was a gorgeous day and wonderful to be on the water. I did enjoy exploring Iona too. I did not book a tour in advance, but I drove down from Tobermory where I had spent the night. I was able to get the boat to Staffa, which then returned us to Iona and I caught the ferry back over to Mull.
We just returned from Scotland last night. Hindsight, I would not do the 3-island tour ---- the absolute highlight, though, was Staffa, because we saw LOTS of puffins, they were within a couple of feet from us. The tour does not allow for puffin sighting AND the cave, so we did not see the cave. The drive across Mull was pretty, but so is all the countryside of Scotland. Enjoyed Iona and the abbey. Would not really recommend Mull, as there are as pretty, or prettier places, that don't take your whole day. The puffins leave around the end of the first week of August, so you wold be able to see the cave on Staffa. The advise on doing it on your own via car ferry sounds like a good option and wish I had had the advice (or read it!) before planning!!
Thank you so much for the update! We had decided to take the car ferry and go it alone as Mike suggested, but I’m unclear about some of your suggestions. Am I right that you would go to Staffa, Iona, and Mull? We leave in about a month.
Hi again, jsss72,
Staffa is going to depend a lot on the weather. If it's raining, the rocks are going to be slippery, so you may just want to tour around the exterior of the island on the boat. If you're going over in a month or so, it's nearing the end of puffin season, so you may not see many of them. If you decide that you'd like to visit Staffa, then Staffa Tours, out of Fionnphort, would be your best bet. That way, if you decide not to visit Staffa, the Iona ferry is only a couple of hundred yards away.
CalMac operates the Iona ferry, and it's a passenger ferry only. (Except for the few people who actually reside on the island - they are allowed to bring their cars across.) The sailing is about ten minutes. As I mentioned initially, you need a good four hours to really get an appreciation of Iona. If you have the opportunity, climb the island's only "mountain," Dun I, if it's a clear day. You can get some wonderful views from the top.
At the very end of Mull, along a cow strewn single track road, is the island of Erraid, where David Balfour was "stranded" in Kidnapped. There are a few holiday houses there, as well as an offshoot of the Findhorn Foundation.
I hope that you have a wonderful time on Mull and Iona.
Thanks again. You have been wonderful help!