Friday Postcards from an Isle of Mull phone booth
Red phone booths are disappearing faster around London than Starbucks can set up a new branch in Seattle. They have their own hashtag on Instagram, are in countless photos of first-timers heading to the England and show up on key chains in every trinket shop in the kingdom. It’s a bit overwhelming how much swag you can get with the red phone booth, and yet you can’t actually find them in many places anymore.
One place you can still find the red phone booth is on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. They aren’t in the most useful places either, at least not for your average traveler. You will find them in towns boasting exactly two houses or along a single lane road with more sheep than human residents. Possibly the best place we found a red phone booth on the Isle of Mull was next to a waterfall. Yes, directly next to a waterfall.
We actually knew to look for this particular phone booth before we arrived on the island. It had been featured in the 1947 film I Know Where I’m Going starring Wendy Hiller. The phone booth isn’t exactly on the way to anything. If you are going down the A849 (the southern road that takes you to the Isle of Iona ferry), turn when you see a sign for Carsaig. About 20 minutes or so down the road you will leave the rolling hills and enter a wooded area. On your left you will see the red phone booth next to the waterfall. What you won’t see is a good place to turn around. Down a long drive is a private estate that acts as a B&B, but they don’t want you using their driveway to turn around. Straight ahead and up a hill is a single lane road that can take you down to the water, which would be a lovely drive if you have the time. We did not have the time.
Turning around proved to be its own adventure. My dad, who was traveling with me along with my mom and my two boys, had not only mastered driving on the left side of the road, but he is now a certified “turn in under an inch of room on both sides of the car” driver. Not too bad for a grandpa I’d say. It took at least 5 minutes to turn the car around so we could get back to the main road, but we did it.
Was the phone booth worth the detour and painful turning adventure? Yes. It isn’t everyday that someone puts a red phone booth, or any phone booth for that matter, next to a waterfall. The story goes that when they put the phone booth in it was the dry season. No one expected a waterfall to pop up after the snow began to melt in the spring. Wendy Hiller certainly knew when she was being pummeled by rain and getting a few extra bits of water from the waterfall in the movie I’m sure. She lived to tell the tale and so did we.
Would you detour to see a red phone booth in an odd location?