Mulling it over

By | Category: Travel destinations

Coloured houses and sailing boats in Tobermory, Mull

Stag Party

Outside the window of the lodge a stately troupe of stags pass by, antlers glimpsed through the forest which covers this estate. I am in Lochaline which overlooks the Sound of Mull – it is a small place with one shop, one hotel and a social club but it turns out to be the ideal base to explore the enchanting Isle of Mull. The island is steeped in legend and, as well as the stag party, there are eagles to spot while scuba divers can explore shipwrecks with the dive centre here.

What’s the story Tobermory – Instantly recognisable to those people of a certain age, Tobermory was the town used as Balamory in the children’s television series of the same name. The pretty town is the capital of Mull and is located on the north eastern part of the island. But this is not a capital with bright lights and nightlife – Tobermory has a population of just 700 and its quiet streets are filled with colourful cottages, tiny craft shops and cosy pubs overlooking a quaint harbour. The town has one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland (it dates from 1798 only ten years after Tobermory was designed and built as a fishing port.)  Very close by is the Mull Aquarium, the town’s newest visitor attraction with a huge saltwater tank, touch pools, quizzes, interactive games and a cinema room. It is Europe’s first “catch and release” aquarium.

Where’s there’s Muck

Anyone wishing to explore the Hebrides further can take in the smaller islands such as Rum, Eigg, Canna and Muck which has lovely beaches. The Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services visit all four islands from Mallaig and they are worth a visit for great walks, peace and quiet as well as lovely views. Or visit the beautiful uninhabited isle of Staffa. Visited by the likes of Queen Victoria and Robert Louis Stevenson Staffa is home to Fingal’s Cave and countless puffins. Or you may spot a porpoise, dolphin or whale. Trips depart twice a day from Iona and Fionnphort.

Duart Castle

Castles:

There are a number of historic sites and castles here. Duart Castle, home of Sir Lachlan Maclean, Twenty-eighth Chief of the Clan Maclean, stands proudly on a clifftop guarding the Sound of Mull. The ruin of Duart Castle was purchased in 1911 by the current owner’s Great Grandfather, Colonel Sir Fitzroy Maclean. Not only did he spend a fortune restoring the castle to its former glory, he restored it as home of the clan, the seat of the Clan Maclean. Today Sir Lachlan himself is often at home to welcome clansmen from all over the world.

Incidentally, another Lachlan, Lachlan Macquarie a governor of NSW and often considered as one of the greatest colonial governors who helped set the pattern for the development of what became Australia is buried on Mull, having been born nearby on the island of Ulva.

Moy, Aros and Dun Ara Castles date back to mediaeval times but two more – Glengorm and Torosay are Victorian and very imposing. Torosay is not open to the public and Glengorm is a B&B and provider of self-catering accommodation.

Mull seen from the island of Iona

The sea, the Sea

The waters around Mull and Iona are rich in marine life, including the basking shark, the second largest fish in the world which can be seen from June to September. The Minke whale can appear during April and May and you can also spot playful bottle-nosed dolphins.

Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the local seafood. Pubs and restaurants in the area serve the finest fresh langoustines, crabs, lobsters, clams and many varieties of sea fish.

Divers flock here to see fascinating wrecks.

The Breda – In November 1940 the Breda was laying off Oban, part of a convoy being assembled that was bound for Mombasa, Bombay and Karachi. She carried a mixed general cargo that included cement, tobacco and cigarettes, three Hawker and 30 de Havilland Tiger Moth biplanes, Army lorries, NAAFI crockery, copper ingots, rubber soled sandals, banknote paper, 10 horses and 9 dogs. At dusk a group of German Heinkel He 111 bombers swept across the anchorage, and straddled the Breda with four 250-kilogram (550 lb) bombs. The force of the explosions ruptured a water inlet pipe, and the engine room was rapidly flooded, depriving the ship of power. Taken in tow she was beached in shallow water in Ardmucknish Bay but a storm the next day swept her into deeper water where she sank to a mean depth of 26 metres.  

The Rondo – Wrecked in 1935, this tramp steamer (2363 gross tonnes and 80 metres in length) lies bow down in 54 metres on a steep slope with the stern in 9 metres.

Hispania – This Swedish merchant vessel (644 net tonnes) sank in 1954. The wreck remains fairly intact, and although she is gradually disintegrating with time, she remains one of Scotland’s finest wreck dives.

the ferry for Oban

Getting there:

Regular ferries reach Mull from Lochaline to Fishnish from where a bus takes travellers to Tobermory.  There is also a ferry to Tobermory from Drimnin, 12 miles from Lochaline. But check times before you venture out, as public transport there is not always 100% reliable. Buses operate on a ‘hail and ride’ basis. Or you can take the ferry from the mainland town of Oban to Craignure.

For those travelling by train, there is a service to Oban from Glasgow Queen Street. The station in Oban is next to the ferry terminal.

Accommodation

From camp sites and caravans, B&Bs, cosy holiday cottages, dive lodges and charming small hotels there is something for everyone here. The Tourist Board has comprehensive lists of all the options including camping pods on Iona!

All images © VisitScotland

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