The Lismore Life
ISLE OF LISMORE, SCOTLAND: January 5-22, 2014
Leah: I think my life goal is to live somewhere where a piece of mail can reach me simply by someone writing my first name and a vague geographic reference to my location on the envelope. This is a decidedly drastic departure from my years of telling Steve we need to live no farther than 30 minutes from an airport, but after our time on Lismore I think I may be committed to this decision at some point in my life.
After Hogmanay festivities and time spent in Edinburgh and Glasgow, we bussed northwest to the small port city of Oban where we then caught a ferry to the Isle of Lismore, a small island about 10 miles long and one mile wide sandwiched in Loch Linnhe between the mainland and the Isle of Mull. Despite the choppy ride and our incredulity at sharing the ferry with only two other people—a young couple from St. Louis—we made it to Lismore 50 minutes later and were soon greeted by our Workaway host Sarah and her delightfully charismatic terrier Buzz; her husband, Yorick, was busy driving their youngest son back to school and wouldn’t be home for a few hours yet.
sings and is an accomplished textile artist by trade, even supplying items to stores in the US. She explained that she goes through phases with her work and right now she’s experimenting with lampshades and birds, although if you have a poke through her website and online store you’ll see that her work also encompasses window treatments, accessories, pillows and much more (we did have fun, however, chortling at how her current pieces echo a hysterical Portlandia clip involving plastering birds on everything. Even Sarah’s family is famous; the version of Auld Lang Syne in the Sex and the City movie is sung by none other than her sister, Mairi. I had never followed the show or movies and therefore had to google the song, but apparently Mairi still receives an annual check for her haunting version.
Orkestra del Sol and the Co-Creators, although he’s also a skilled piano and guitar player as well. A builder by trade, he maintains undeniable woodworking and construction skills and will play a key role in turning a currently collapsed croft dwelling into their future dream house. While we stayed with these two we also saw them screen a few potential movies to show the community on an environmental theme, fracking in particular, and Yorick especially seemed to take matters to heart and fired off letters to his political representatives and researched everything he could online. They’re also both virtuosos in the kitchen, deftly whipping up a range of dishes that filled the stomach and warmed us from the inside after working in the cold rain. Indeed, some of my favorite times were spent talking in the kitchen during and after dinner, often a wine glass in hand as the cats and Buzz wove among our chairs and the stove crackled with heat. Sarah and Yorick have both experienced so much that life has to offer, from travel to family to pursuing their passions, that it was invigorating to talk with a couple without much money about how they’ve still made ends meet, enjoy a robust social life, have family and friends that adore them and basically lived a blessed life. This close to the end of our trip, I need all the reassurance I can get!
There aren’t many families with young children on Lismore but there is a single primary school where kids of all ages are schooled together in one room. Older kids typically go to school in Oban; they’ll stay in town at specially designated “hostels” for students during the week and often take the ferry home to be with family over the weekend since commuting via ferry simply isn’t an option during the week due to cost and often weather which can cancel the ferries. There is a small fire station with a fire engine and a designated grass clearing meant to be a helipad (a woman was air-lifted out while we were there) and as part of the volunteer firefighter team, Yorick wears a pager 24/7 and has to report for maintenance and checks at the firehouse every Monday. Lismore also boats a shop, a post office, a seasonal café, a small museum, a few B&B options, the church and several ruined buildings and castles of historical note.
All of which made leaving Scotland so bittersweet. Months ago our holiday destinations of Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh and treks throughout the Scottish and Irish isles was just a notation on our calendar, something to look forward to whenever things got tough (and believe it or not they do, even when you're travelling). Now that we are heading south to our last country on this epic voyage--and I can probably say that since there is a high likelihood of Scotland seceding from the U.K. if an independence referendum passes this September--I can say that I will sorely miss Scotland and Ireland and wholly plan to return one day. They were everything I expected and more: serenely and dramatically beautiful, full of good craic and brimming with haggis (Scotland that is). As we recounted our past several weeks and discussed the future over a couple of pints at a JD Wetherspoon in Glasgow--with Stone Double IPA on tap no less!!!--it became apparent that no matter where we went Scotland would go with us...a place this cool will stay with you forever.
CLICK HERE TO SEE PICTURES OF LISMORE.