Five days. That’s all we have.
For a round-trip visit to the Isle of Mull that’s more than enough.
Eight years ago, along with a friend we completed our first visit to Scotland on these same roads, in a van.
The reasons for hitting these same roads this year are plentiful and fun! A report with the photographers from the Zeppelin travelogue, and most importantly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of discovering a little corner of paradise in Scotland. Back on these one-track roads 10 years later, it’s Jeanne’s turn to describe her trip in words and pictures.
We skipped the Fireman’s Ball for a fantastic voyage across England and Scotland.
Paris-Calais-Dover- Liverpool- Corran- Lochaline – Isle of Mull. MPQ. picks up the Esquisse (the van kitted out by We Van) in Nantes and meets me in Paris. To burn off some energy in anticipation of the 20-hour drive we have in store, we head to a concert by the folk group June Bug at a music shop in the Barbès neighbourhood. M. has put us on a tight schedule. We have arranged to meet the two Zeppelin photographers outside Glasgow. We have to lead them to our final destination, the Isle of Mull, part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago in western Scotland. Jim and Patience are an English couple who run a family farm there, breeding several hundred Blackface sheep.
Every summer, the whole tribe of shepherds, friends and family members set off to herd the sheep who have been wandering in the peninsulas, hills and glens of the farmland. They call this legendary event “gathering”. Once the sheep have been assembled, they shear their heavy winter wool coat before releasing the animals for another year of roaming. Impressed by their friend MPQ’s passion for this land of lochs and fairies, the two Zeppelin reporters have decided to come along. More accustomed to the slums of Dhaka than a place with just 6 inhabitants per km2, they are trusting their friend’s judgement in the hope of bringing back a “story”. I am already familiar with the area and imagine that it’s going to be hard to photograph people in this vast space.
In the glens, with their long and steep green valleys formed during the ice age, mankind is truly minuscule. It won’t be easy for the English couple, who covet their privacy, to warm up to the two reporters. The photographers left from Strasbourg and have a headstart of a few hours. And the English couple are expecting us for dinner the next day at their cottage on the island… But we have overestimated the leisurely pace of our journey and have spent too long sitting at a café in Paris. So it’s foot-to-the floor as we join the périphérique at 10 p.m., heading out of the capital and towards Calais. We get to our next stop just a few minutes too late, missing our shuttle. F…!
Hebrides Express © Jeanne Teyssier
We wait for the next, from 2 to 4 in the morning, eyes wide awake, at the drugstore in the terminal, where sleepy Polish families pass the time wandering between Burger King and Sainsbury’s. Green light, and finally we enter the long, dimly lit tunnel. Headlights off, engines off. 35 minutes later, we reach Folkestone as the sun rises, greeted by a fluorescent ramp. Arrows point in all directions. Worried that there is too much confusion, I suspect my co-pilot’s level of alertness is less than ideal so we force ourselves to stop for breakfast. We try to blend in quickly to the local culture, ordering bread and melted cheddar cheese for a boost of energy. Cutting as many corners as we can… I take the morning shift and courageously attempt to drive on the left as we head towards Manchester on the M6. I am dying to take a detour through the countryside but console myself in the knowledge that merely driving along the route is enjoyable. We make it over the “border” into Scotland without even noticing.
The crossing over the Clyde River on the Erskine Bridge is spectacular. The Zeppelin photographers are patiently waiting for us at a petrol station outside Glasgow, in their green Defender Land Rover, nicknamed “Def”, their faithful companion on all their adventures. We must be a strange sight as we travel together along roads that become narrower and wetter, skirting around lochs as we wind our way towards our destination. Despite the drizzle, the green hills of Argyll reflect the light beautifully. After 20 hours of continuous driving, the excitement of finally arriving gave us a jolt that kept us wide awake. We give in to the rocking motion of the ferries that transport us from the mainland to the Ardnamurchan peninsula and then to Craignure, our point of debarkation on the Isle of Mull.
In the tiny shop at the port, we stock up on Tobermory whisky in anticipation of our travels around the island. A few more hairpin bends under the pine trees… before being greeted by dogs barking in the comfy foyer with its worn-out armchair…