The tourist at the front of the queue peers anxiously into the bus.
“Are you the bus to Fionnphort?”
The answer is given wearily. “No. I’m the driver.”
The driver, now identified, goes on to explain, in a slightly more conciliatory tone, “this” slapping the dashboard, “this is the bus!”.
Having established which was which, we clamber on. There aren’t many of us – it’s the last bus of the day and most of the tourists have already left, on their way back to the mainland. The bus sets off at a fair old lick, on the charge across the island so we can reach Fionnphort in time for the ferry. In truth, the hurry is probably more to do with the driver wanting to go home for the night – the ferry won’t leave until the bus gets in.
It’s a spectacular drive. The bus climbs out of the verdant rhododendron lined roads into the glen that carves its way across the island from East to West, hewn out by glaciers thousands of years ago, huge boulders the scattered detritus left in their wake. It is bleak uncompromising country – a moonscape of moor and loch, no trees, no bushes, just grass and heather. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can see golden eagles riding the thermals, but not today. The cloud is low, covering the mountain tops, and any self respecting eagle will be hunkered down in his eerie.
The ruined remains of crofts hint at a time when life was less harsh – presumably before the Clearances when this land would have been farmed. But two centuries of sheep have chewed their way through everything, except for the coarsest of grass and the toughest of heather.
We cross the saddle and drop back down to where the road follows the coast. It is a landscape now of gorse on the one side and seaweed strewn shoreline on the other. Peering out of the window in the hope of seeing otters and seals, unsuccessfully, we are greeted instead by a magnificent red deer. Next to a bridge, she stands sentinel and entirely unconcerned by our presence. She allows us to pass and, weaving our way through pretty hamlets and tiny fishing ports, we reach the ferry in plenty of time for the final leg of our journey.