Oh boy, oh boy, Oban Ferry!

A little blond girl runs smiling down the deck of a ferry boat.

Start with one big ferry boat. Add one little girl. Mix briskly.

Yield: 500 tons of fun.

We had spent the previous day exploring the gusty seaside town of Oban (pronounced “o-bin”), with the sort of cute name that only the Scottish can muster. And on this morning, we had plans to ride the local ferry boat to the nearby Isle of Mull, and then on to the Isle of Iona.

My two kids were particularly excited about the journey as they had always wanted to ride a fairy…envisioning a ride on the back of Tinkerbell. Who was I to crush their Disney dreams with talk of a mere boat?

So when we walked out of the ferry station, across the bridge, and on to the deck of the monstrous Caledonian MacBrayne (the cool kids call it “CalMac” for short). The children were awestruck. The boat stood three or four stories tall, crammed full of little turbo diesel eurocars inside its monstrous belly. It blew a bellowing horn whose blast made everything shake. They hadn’t seen anything like this before. But it was when they learned that you could buy ice cream on this boat that they about wet their pants.

Two ice creams and a few exploratory laps around cabin later, Kali spotted other passengers walking along the outside deck of the boat. They leaned against the railings, watching lighthouses and little green islands slowly wash by. She tapped on the glass, motioning to grandpa that she wanted to explore outside herself. Grandpa was more than happy to oblige, and I followed them both out with my camera.

The wind was already blowing, and the steady motion of the boat added a little extra breeze. But I’ll bet that it was the ice cream put that much extra wind to Kali’s sails. She rocketed to the end of the deck and back to grandpa with mouth and eyes smiling. I caught this photo in the midst of her joy, right as a gust tossed her hair around.

Don’t get me wrong; it can be tough to travel with kids. (Woe! Woe to those parents who think their kids will sleep during that overnight flight across oceans!) But there were so many zany, fun moments and curiosity-fueled conversations on this trip that I couldn’t picture being in Scotland without them. I’m grateful to have caught one of these moments on camera. I’m grateful for these kids.

When was a time you had to ride a ferry to reach your far-flung destination? Tell us already in the comments section!


  • Kate 04-16-2015

    I’m never happier than when on a Calmac ferry and Oban to Mull is one of my favourite trips. I first travelled there thirty years ago and it still feels like an adventure when I return. I never tire of it. Your excellent photo captures my own delight. Thank you for sharing your experience – your grandchildren will have a wealth of memories!

    • P.J. Oswald 04-16-2015

      Thanks for sharing, Kate! Here’s hoping my family can return in 30 years to share in your sentiment. Do you live in Scotland?

  • Averil 04-16-2015

    your photo brought back memories of childhood holidays which invariably included a Calmac ferry somewhere along the line! My sister lives in the Outer Hebrides, on the wonderful island of Harris, and there is nothing better than a fantastic drive up to Uig on Skye followed by a Calmac breakfast on the early boat! I hope you enjoyed your trip to Scotland, I’m sure it’s given your kids some fantastic memories!

    • P.J. Oswald 04-16-2015

      I’m glad to hear that the photo stirred up some fond memories. You’re convincing me I need to make my way to the Outer Hebrides next time we head to Scotland. We visited Skye, Mull and Iona this time around and I certainly didn’t have my fill.

  • Sam Taylor 04-16-2015

    gorgeous picture and a lovely write-up ,we also adore the Calmac ferries and would strongly advise you to travel to the small Isles next time as well as I think your daughter would delight in them and you could read her the stories of Katie Morag and how she lives on the island

    • P.J. Oswald 04-16-2015

      I appreciate the encouragement, Sam. Now I just need to save up for my SMF -> EDI ticket…and for the Katie Morag books, evidently. I’ll take a look into those books!

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