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Part 3 ~ October means Mull!

Jan 08,2006 by Julian Grattidge

The car is readied, checked and double checked for anything which could throw a proverbial spanner in the works. Then with accommodation finalised and numbers firmed up its time to get ready! The next big task is sorting everything you need for a week in mull, a rally, and long journey. Loading the service barge becomes an art-form as one goes about trying to load spares and consumables for every possible eventuality · wheels and tyres are usually the going concern as nobody really knows what the weather on Mull will throw at you until the rally actually starts · and even then conditions on one side of the island are usually very different to those on another! Last but not least the car needs to be prepared for transportation and once anchored to the trailer all is set.




Another adventure begins...


Travelling from Staffordshire up to Mull can be a gruelling experience. In spectating days gone by it was a nice pacey affair up to Glasgow and then on to Loch Lomond, before a nice short blast across to Oban, usually in a Subaru or suchlike. However, as crew things are different, very different. If you imagine having to tow your local garage up to Scotland you’ll get an idea of how laborious it can be · a fully loaded service barge complete with rally car and trailer is not the nippiest mode of transport one could choose for a trip of over 400 miles! Hence the early start · anywhere between 4am and 6am depending on which ferry we are trying to make from Oban. Any last minute jobs we hope to have finished the day before departure in order that an early night can be had before the off · but in reality in never happens, more often than not because you’re like a kid trying to sleep on Christmas Eve · you just want to be up and away! Thus, you can’t sleep and eventually get up feeling like crap when the alarm clock sounds. The various cars, vans and trailers rendezvous at the pre-determined location, usually a large garage forecourt on the way out to the motorway. Trailer straps are double-checked and people are inserted into various cars to equal out space and baggage, after which the journey eventually gets underway.


Duck Bay stop-off; more like seagull bay today, mind.


Wherever possible we try and get up-to and out-of Glasgow before rush hour/s, and aside form the odd stop make our first proper halt at Duck Bay Hotel on the ‘Bonnie’ Banks of Loch Lomond. There is a lovely restaurant & bar right on the edge of the loch which has lovely views from behind huge glass windows. After something to eat and drink we have a little rest before embarking on the next leg of the journey over to Oban. The convoy is basically restricted to the speed of the service barge and as daft as it sounds, the journey is extremely tiring for all those following behind as it often takes more mental concentration to drive slowly than it does to drive at a normal pace · the only nice thing about such a long journey is looking at peoples faces in cars that pass by · it’s not every day you see a mint rally car, and as such, they usually attract a bit of attention.



We must be getting close..!


The familiar sights come and go as the long journey progresses and eventually you are making the steep descent down to the ferry port in Oban · at last! There’s something almost therapeutic in seeing the ferry come into view - you know that within an hour you’ll be back on Mull, which has become a regular home-from-home. It’s often the case that other crews and rally enthusiasts are on the same crossing, so there are usually various people inspecting the rally cars on display, as if looking for a hint of the expected potential come the rally.


Once the ferry is moored and occupants travelling from Mull back to the mainland have disembarked, it’s time to get the vehicles loaded. Once sorted down on the car deck you can get up aboard to either have a drink in the bar, have something to eat, or get right up on top of the ferry and watch from outside as the crew finish loading rally cars, locals, and cattle trucks!


Waiting to board at Oban


Before you know it, the familiar Captains message is booming over the loud speaker and the huge engines begin to churn up the water around the back of the vessel to slowly move the ferry out of the harbour. Once out of port the route takes the ferry up the East side of the Mull towards the Sound of Mull (the channel of water between Mull and the mainland).  


McCaigs Tower stands proud on the Oban skyline


As the views of Oban are slowly left behind, McCaigs Tower stands out proud on the skyline way up above the harbour frontage. The impressive 19th century structure is a copy of the coliseum, the sight of which dominates the town below as you slip out to sea. Hopefully conditions are calm and before you know it the familiar views on the Isle of Mull come into view, the first being the formidable Duart Castle; the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean dating back to around 1350, and well worthy of a visit!


Once past the castle the ferry soon bears left into the port at Craignure and you are back down to the car deck ready for disembarking. The huge ferry engines vibrate through all the vehicles as docking commences and eventually the ferry comes to a complete stop. Soon the sirens begin to sound as the huge bow of the ferry lifts up right in front of you and the car ramp slowly lowers to meet the static pier beneath. With any luck you’re near the front and you’re soon up and onto the island to get your first proper lungful of Mull air in twelve months - ahhhhh... it’s good to be back!


Ancestral home of the Clan Maclean; Duart Castle, Mull.

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