Neither of us really wanted to leave Mull but the next segment of our road trip beckoned. We repaired to the pub to consider ferry options and mull over the important subject of whether Ben More was compatible with Marilyn Munro.
Another hooley had been forecast for the next day and we had to decide whether we should plumb for the big ferry to Oban or take a chance on a smaller ferry to the Ardnamurchan peninsula. To complicate matters for the latter (preferable) option, there were two sub-options: one from Tobermory and the other from Fishnish.
If we went from Tobermory, we could show Campy one of Mull's major attractions and I could follow every single tourist and try my hand at a picture of the colourful fishing port in all its glory. But Fishnish was closer and the roads on Mull are narrow. We did what most British tourists do and asked the publican.
"The ferry's big enough from Fishnish. The logging lorries use it all the time," was the somewhat non-committal reply.
"Would we need to book," I asked timorously.
A fellow patron, a local, piped up: "Nae worries, mate. Just pitch up and it's first come first served."
And he thought he was being reassuring.
We did check a ferry timetable the next morning. It was a bit more reassuring but carried the normal caveat about the possibilities of hooleys.
When is a Ben a Munro and a Marilyn and why's it relevant
Armed with beverages and some grub, Shan and I repaired to a table by the window and mulled over the importance of the topic. It had briefly been raised on the bus from Fionnphort to Craignure vis-à-vis one of the splendours of Mull, Ben More. It had emerged from our splendid driver that Mull and Skye were the only Scottish Islands with "proper" mountains.
We both ended up agreeing much later that the explanation was a Scotsman's revenge for an Englishman's description of the rules of cricket. I will attempt to simplify the protuberances.
We all know Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain in the British Isles, right? So all mountains in Britain are Bens? Nope. Is Ben Nevis a Munro? Yep. What are Munros? Mountains that rise more than 3000ft (914.4m) above sea level. Are there mountains in Britain that would qualify as Munros if they were in Scotland? Yes, indeed. Are they called Munros? Nope, they are called Furths (evidently because they are further away). Are all Munros as spectacular as each other? Nope, the more spectacular Munros are named Marilyn on account of their prominence (don't ask). Are all Marilyns Munros? Nope. A Marilyn is any peak that protrudes more than 490ft (150m) above its surroundings. Can a Furth be a Marilyn? Apparently so. So a hill can also be a Marilyn? Of course. So we can have Marilyn Munro, Marilyn Furth and Marilyn Hill, just so long as they stick out enough. Does it get worse? Of course, we haven't yet considered Corbetts and Grahams (formerly known as Elsies). These also qualify as mountains in the British Isles, exceeding an altitude of 2,500ft and 2,000ft respectively. So we must be able to have Marilyn Corbett and Marilyn Graham, too? Sure thing. Are there more categories? Of course there are, but you and I have probably lost the will to live by now ... .
All this to demonstrate that Ben More (the one on Mull; there are two others) is, at 3,169 ft (966m) altitude and 3,169 ft prominence, a right-on Marilyn Munro and therefore a proper mountain.
Back to reality
Shan and I staggered back to Campy and our last sleep on Mull. In the morning, we set off in the general direction of Tobermory, still a little undecided. We got to the Fishnish turnoff and agreed it would be a crime to miss Tobermory and we had plenty of time to go there and back to Fishnish to get into the queue for the ferry.
The road was mostly fine, except for where it wasn't. The last hill ended in a sudden drop down to the parking on the edge of the town. It had started from the ridge overlooking the Sound of Mull, and the mainland in the form of the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
Tobermory is a gorgeous spot but we felt we could only really do it justice by coming back on another trip. After a quick sortie to a sarnie shop, and including my effort to photograph the waterfront, we were in a bit of a panic about getting back to Fishnish.
As a cyclist I often find myself descending a hill in the excitement of checking out the attractions at the bottom and then regretting it when contemplating the return ascent. It was a bit like that with Campy. The climb almost qualified as a Marilyn in its own right. We acknowledged this when reaching the summit and peered down at the sea 450 ft below. We pressed on, having no idea of the traffic we might encounter back at the Fishnish ferry port and envisaging gargantuan timber lorries, backed up like post-Brexit Kent, and preventing us from ever getting back to the mainland.
Instead we sat on an empty slipway for about two hours. The only lorry we saw was disembarking our ferry when it eventually arrived (middle below). We were the first vehicle to board. Only the horizontal wind sock shows how windy it was.
Docking in Lochaline was a little hairy in the wind but, before long, Campy was climbing the steep hill out of the small port town on our way to our next destination in Resipole. The scenery on that stretch was one of sweeping grandeur. Loch Sunart cuts a deep swathe into the mainland between those two points and the last 12 miles of road follow its perimeter. This is thrilling for the scenery on its own but I was pleased to be wearing my brown underpants when confronting some of the aforementioned logging lorries on some of the twisting road's narrowest bits.
The drivers of these leviathans are super confident in their experience of traversing this challenging terrain and come at you, steely-eyed at 100 km/h, coordinating their vehicular extremities to a millimetre.
I never got time to get used to it. The last HGV we encountered was on the narrowest, twistiest section. It was being driven by a lovely fellow who was in no way menacing but simply could not go back. There was no space for him to reverse and he could see there was for me. I couldn't. I have to confess I was close to tears. The drive had already been pretty knackering.
But we got through it with his expert directions, encouraging me into impossible corners, and we eventually squeezed past each other. I managed my best approximation of a cheery wave.
Shan and I proceeded in trepidation and with great caution from there. Our HGV driver friend had told us that the last 5 miles to our destination were very winding and narrow. Intertwining two arthritic fingers I joined Shan in willing that nothing else would be coming the other way.
Nothing was and we arrived at our spotless pitch where we could park Campy for the next two nights. It overlooked the loch, all the way down to Càrna and soon worked its magic.
Coming soon: The road to the biggest Ben and beyond.