I take back every nasty thing I said about the weather, the people, the squalor and the general dreariness of this country. They're all still true but now I understand why it happens, they're paying for having Scotland on the northern border.
I spent a couple of days on Mull (the island not the substance), clambering around in the hills. Mull is in the inner Hebrides about three hours North of Glasgow, or two if you have a Fiat Brava and a ferry to catch.
My friend Andrew came over from Perth to stay with his parents who have a cottage on Mull and he invited me to come up for the weekend.
I flew up Friday night on an Easyjet plane and and navigated out of the airport onto the M8 freeway West of Glasgow and North across the Erskine bridge. Going North I tuned into BBC1, got some thumping good music on the radio and followed the A82 up Loch Lomond towards Crianlarich.
At this time of the year the sun sets at about 11pm in these latitudes and so I had a gentle afternoon sun streaming in the windows as I drove up through what must be the most beautiful scenery in the world. Traffic was light and I had the loch mostly to myself, except of course for the odd wild deer, leaping salmon and the like.
About half way up the Loch at Tarbet you turn left into the gently rolling green hills and head towards Inverary. The road becomes a little more twisty and the loch's smaller but no less breathtaking.
At Inverary I stopped for a coffee and a quick pee and then went North towards Lochawe and the road to Oban. The country around Inverary is slightly less scenic until you come up over the pass into the Lochawe glen. The glen is a steep sided, verdant green pocket in the hills with a flawless, mirror bright image of the cloud studded sky in the loch below.
Eventually you reach the main road between Crianlarich and Oban which is more rural, slightly narrower and features a set of narrow stone bridges. The drive here was slower and less interesting because the traffic was thicker and the road more complicated. I reach Oban however without incident and in time for the last ferry to Mull.
Departing at 11.15 the ferry dropped me off at Craignure on Mull at midnight. From the ferry landing I turned left towards Fionphort on one of the only two roads on Mull. About halfway along the road to Fionphort I found the little town of Pennyghael and the house belonging to my hosts parents.
We went through the usual rituals of greeting and reminiscence over cheese and wine and then retired to bed with a promise of hill climbing should the weather prove suitable in the morning.
In the morning the weather proved not only suitable but damn near perfect. The previous days, I was informed, had been rather too warm and a little unsuited to rigorous physical pursuits. Saturday however was beautifully warm with just enough cloud cover to give temporary relief from the sun when necessary.
Since the weather had chosen to smile on us we decided to seized the opportunity and go for the grand tour of the islands highest peak, Ben More. Mull is a fairly lumpy island with a group of peaks over 1000ft scattered from end to end. The only true 'munro' however is Ben More at 3500ft.
To do it in proper style, we dropped off one car on the South side of the peak and caught a lift around the back to the North side. From there we ignored the obvious glen which local knowledge had informed us would be muddy and unpleasant. Instead we tackled the North flank of the nearest peak Ben Farra.
Ben Farra is steep but not particularly difficult and within an hour or so we were sitting atop the summit looking out over the islands and the mainland. We stopped for lunch in a saddle on the South side of the summit to be out of the wind.