Like an aperitif before the main course, the drive north west to Mull, up Loch Lomondside and through Glencoe, lends its own spectacular backdrop to the drama that lies ahead. There is an ethereal beauty to the landscape even when it’s dark, grey and gloomy. The rain scoured slopes of the mountains sit hunched by the side of the road like old men with their cloud capped peaks looking like bunnets clamped down over their ears to protect them for the onset of winter chills. Camper vans and motorhomes parked at the road side and in lay-bys look for the all the world like multicoloured rocks which have tumbled down the craggy slopes, lining the roadway like an ornamental path. The rain eases, gaps appear in the clouds and blue sky seeps through illuminating a fairy tale landscape of sparkling waterfalls, shiny wet rocks with grass and foliage showing the first dappled tinges of autumn.
Sprits lift as human life stirs and breathes in the cold, clean, invigorating, rain-washed fresh air. This is not just air for breathing, this is for tasting and savouring.
The ferry terminal at Lochaline is bolted to the shoreline where the Caledonian MacBrayne MV ‘Loch Fyne’ does a handbrake turn into the sea loch to line up for the ramp. Vehicles are disgorged just before the waiting embarkation queue starts to load up the now vacant deck, guided into position by Hector with a firm wave and a stern smile.
When all are safely aboard, the ramps are raised. The beat of the twin six cylinder Volvo diesels becomes a deep rumble as the Loch Fyne heads out to cross the Sound of Mull to Fishnish and the sainted isle itself.
Calm, peaceful and quiet now, but tomorrow night controlled mayhem will be unleashed on an excited and expectant populace.