“I like this island, because it slows you down whether you want to or not. The island itself literally won’t allow you to rush.”
My brother in law said this as we were driving along the winding, rutted, curving roads of Mull. The sea was crashing on our right, the sun glowing through the clouds ahead, and some very unconcerned sheep were straggling their way along the road itself.
Once the sheep moved on, the fog came down.
When the fog lifted, the sun broke through in such glory we stopped to stare.
When we arrived at the ferry to Iona, we had to wait for it to come back from the other side.
This happened the whole trip – particularly on Mull, which is smaller and quieter and almost all the roads are single track.
No matter what you did, you couldn’t move too fast.
On our last day, we were driving to Tobermory to catch the ferry back to the mainland. We left the cottage early…significantly early, and I’m not quite sure why, except that I felt it was wise to have more time and not less when trying to catch a ferry.
We were about 15-20 minutes from our destination when we came upon a bridge that was completely flooded. Not just flooded, but rushing, fast moving, peaty water flinging itself across the bridge in an endless flow.
I have a Mini Cooper, so the likelihood wasn’t great anyway, but even the Range Rovers were turning around and going back the way we had come. There was no crossing that bridge that morning.
So we turned around. We went back over the most rutted and most single-track of all the single-track roads on Mull – the one marked as a “weak road”, and we felt that was putting it lightly.
We drove alllllllll the way round – see my not-to-scale map. It took us a full hour and then some, when we had been only 20 minutes from our destination.
But we just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t get the car, and us, and all our stuff, across that bridge in time: so we went another way. It was a longer way, and it too was full of miniature floods to drive through, but we managed, and we even made it to the ferry with 10 minutes to spare. And I heard later from someone on Insta that the water had slowed down by the end of the day and the bridge was crossable again.
This is the island mentality (and the island rules) which I appreciate so much when I go to Mull. It’s true for most of the islands, but particularly true for Mull.
I’ve always been slowed down by the island, and it starts from just getting onto it in the first place. It’s the reason I love Mull more than Skye, although it feels like every person I meet in the world has heard of Skye and thinks it’s amazing.
But Skye has a bridge, so you can get onto the island any time of the day or night, and most of the roads are pretty decent.
Whereas Mull is not accessible unless you take a ferry. So you have to wait. You get to Oban (or Kilchoan) and you wait for the ferry to come. And sometimes it’s delayed. And then you get across and the sheep slow you down or the highland cattle decide to take a field trip or the bridge is flooded. That’s just the way it goes. It’s island rules.
We talked a lot about how to remember the island mentality when you come back to the mainland. It’s hard, and I admit there are things I really like about being back on the mainland. I like Aldi’s and Amazon Prime and Hello Fresh and drive through Starbucks and being able to pop by and visit a friend. I like phone connections and strong WiFi and roads that don’t make me nervous about the state of the undercarriage of my Mini.
But I can catch myself when I’m driving on the big open roads, and someone cuts me off or is in a hurry. When the WiFi won’t connect, or my email isn’t working, or we have changes within the team. When life itself gives me a reason to slow down, what do i do?
On the island, I simply accept it. There’s no building a new bridge within the space of a few minutes, so you go round. Or you wait.
But I can choose what attitude to have whilst I do it – and what I love about the islands is that everyone is choosing the same attitude. Patience, and peace, and gratitude.
My holiday didn’t work absolutely perfectly. There were days where it poured rain and days when the bridge flooded and blisters on my feet and some big things going on which had to be thought about and dealt with even whilst on holiday.
I loved it though. I loved every minute on Mull because I chose to love it, and one day I shall buy a house there and go over as often as I want…as long as I go on island rules, and with the island mentality.