Or … In which we screw up, tempt fate, and risk death.
The Isle of Mull is a popular attraction featuring spectacular views, castles, and history. The Island is dotted with farms and crawling with sheep, goats and highland cows, or rather heilan’ coos. After the long and arduous hike up to the peak of Ben Lomond we were keen for something a bit less dramatic. We took the advice of a tourist website for a short hike to the site of McKinnon’s cave on the east coast of the island. This is where things got interesting.
Rather then fork over the 6 pounds they wanted for the map to the cave, we decided to go strictly by the description on the web site. The route to the cave is actually pretty well marked but there was one point where we had to make a crucial decision about whether to go left or right. Since this was along private property the trail was marked by some signs put up, presumably, by the property owners. It was not like a well marked park service trail; this one took us though grazing land segmented off by barb wire fences and gates so frankly the web site description could have fit about any direction you felt like taking.
As you might guess we picked the wrong way. For the record it should be noted here that Julian, inspired by a profound desire to avoid a repeat of yesterdays climb, was right all along about the right way to go. Had we just listened to him the story would end here with a short walk along the rugged shoreline to the cave, scarcely inspiring a victory photo - sadly, this was not to be the case.
We climbed up on to a ridge that rose up sharply from the shore, climbing higher and higher as we went, affording us some extremely dramatic vistas of the shore line below. In our defense, the website description said that we would encounter “increasingly dramatic views”, so we naively though we were on the right path. But the hills were covered with sheep and goat tracks - dozens of them. Every time we turned around we thought we were on the “right path” only to discover that this one was another dead end. We climbed for some time trying to find a trail or path that fit the website description. At one point Julian flatly refused to continue saying that, “we were going the wrong way”; he was right. We forged up ever higher until we came upon a waterfall. Since the website description mentioned a waterfall we thought we found it; there was much rejoicing. We inspected the area we saw the cave at the bottom of the gorge below. Jackpot! We were excited, jubilated, and dog tired from the climb over the ridge, but we found it and we would soon meet our objective. At least that what we thought.
I went down the gorge to inspect the situation and got a bit more then carried away as the rest of the group lost site of me. Was it stupid? Yes. Was it foolhardy? Sure. So why did I do it? Well to be the first one to the cave of course. After being dressed down by my concerned fiancÃ©, I realized there was no way down to the cave with out rock climbing equipment or death. But now we had come down too far to go back the way we came. We had to work the whole group across the face of shear hills hovering over ominously jagged rocks. One slip and any of us could have fallen to our doom. We clung to the tufts of grass as we made our way slowly across the face of the ridge until we all were back to top still puzzling about how to get down to the cave.
Before too long we figured that we just couldn’t get to the cave from here and that the web sites description was full of shite. We had to get down off the ridge and we found a spot that seemed as if it might afford us a way down while avoiding serious injury or death. We gingerly made it back up across the sides of the deadly gorge to a large fenced meadow we rested a bit and at this point we might have given thanks to a deity for sparing our lives, if we were all inclined that way; we weren’t. We started walking towards the farm house where the van was parked.
Dejected after failing to complete out mission we tired to console ourselves with the idea that it have been a good effort. Then after about twenty minutes just as we had given up all hope we came across a gate in the fence that had a sign that clearly said something to the effect of “this way to the cave”. We after risking life and limb we simply couldn’t pass up the trip to the cave so we headed down to the shore line and made the much shorter trip to our destination. The walk was a bit treacherous but not anywhere as life threatening as the highland route.
The cave was not anywhere near as exciting as the overland adventure but we did get the obligatory victory photo at the mouth of the cave. Coming back to the car we had one more challenge to overcome, staring straight into the face of deadly ferocious cows blocking our way we had to shoo them with all our adventurers powers.
That night we ate Italian food, got giddy on a couple bottles of wine and celebrated the fact that we were still alive and decided that tomorrow would be a bit more sedate as we headed off to the Isle of Iona.
The ferry ride to the Isle of Mull
More pics below the fold:
Truly does her best Cave woman impression!
The dramatic vista!!!
Julian defiantly states “this is the wrong way”!
The waterfall … the cave must be near!!!
Climbing the shear face of the cliff of death!
The ballet of doom!!!!
Safely back down the bluff, we look at where we were a few minutes ago.
This is where we should have been in the first place!