Mull is easy to reach from the Scottish mainland yet feels surprisingly remote. Children will love spotting sights from the popular TV series Balamory while adults can go hiking and dolphin watching
The stark beauty of its ruggedness, the spectacular views and beautiful coastline, the quaintness of its villages and the effortlessly charming acceptance of tourists by the local people mean Mull holds a special place in many people’s hearts.
Situated just off the west coast of Scotland, the island of Mull was inhabited a long time before the striking Cal Mac ferries steamed into Craignure Port. Inhabited since about 6000BC, when hunter-gatherers lived peacefully in caves, Mull is an island rich in history. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to stand atop the island’s highest peak Ben More and conjure images of island farmers battling it out with Viking invaders on the hillsides below.
Mull is really easy to reach from mainland Scotland by ferry. The main ferry port is at Oban, with ferry operator Caledonian Macbrayne (www.calmac.oc.uk) offering crossings to Craignure, on Mull’s south easterly side and takes 45 minutes. It’s advisable to book during the peak summer months.
Once safely on terra firma, Tobermory, the island’s largest village, is the first stop for most visitors. It’s a lovely 30-40 minute drive north from Craignure, where the road hugs the coastline for stunning views.
Tobermory is picture postcard perfection. First built as a fishing port in the late 18th century, it is now a thriving seaside village that was thrown into the limelight in 2004 as the setting for children’s television series Balamory. If you’ve young children with you, they’ll soon be jumping up and down shouting about stories in Balamory at the first glimpse of the rainbow of terrace houses as you drive down the hill into the village.
We stayed at the Carnaburg Guesthouse, which is perfectly situated on the main street and was reasonable at £65 for the room. Despite many reviews to the contrary, we had a lovely warm welcome here from Vivien and adorable Guiness the black spaniel, and the breakfasts were definitely of the hearty Scottish variety! Other good options right in the village include the Tobermory Hotel, Harbour Guest House and for a real treat, try the sumptuous Glengorm Castle, about four miles from the village, which is a beautiful 19th century castle converted into rooms. The castle also has a garden centre, café and art gallery if a day trip is more within your budget!
If you’re planning to camp, then the campsite (Tobermory Campsite) is a mile and a half from the village. The campsite has everything you need, including a “midge magnet” that cleverly catches some of the unsuspecting little nibblers flying past. They are still a pest though, so be sure to pack some repellent!
So, accommodation sorted, but what to do next?! Mull is a great place for hikers and walkers, and there are loads of options. We picked up a great little book full of detailed directions for beautiful walks, and completed a lovely circular walk (albeit in the rain) around Treshnish; where we discovered hidden caves and abandoned villages, and some of the most spectacular scenery on the island. Mull Magic (www.mullmagic.com ) also offer daily walking tours and custom guided walks, many of which begin in Tobermory.
Mull has a healthy population of golden eagles and sea eagles, so keep a keen look out or head up to the viewing hide on Loch Frisa (open April to September) to spot the white tailed eagle. Whale and dolphin watching boat trips are also popular. Aros Park is about half a mile from Tobermory, and is a wonderful wildlife rich woodland and loch area, with some great easy walks around the loch.
History lovers will feel at home on Mull. We started with a good walk around Tobermory, and discovered lighthouses, historic churches and the compact but very interesting Isle of Mull Museum was well worth a visit to while away a couple of rainy hours. Duart Castle, the oldest inhabited castle on Mull is open to the public (www.duartcastle.com) and from there take the three mile footpath to the enchanting Torosay Castle (www.torosay.com ), where you can explore the gardens, tea rooms and farm. They also host concerts in the grounds during the summer months.
Phew! After all the sightseeing, we were starving. I have to say one of the best places to eat in Tobermory was the Mishnish pub, which, while we were visiting in January, served delicious, home-made and really filling starters, main courses and puds, all for 99p each! We were so astounded at the value and the quality of the food that we ate there as much as we could. Look out for this promotion during the winter months!
Other great places to eat are Café Fish, who have their own fishing boat, so the fish of the day is about as fresh as can be, and the MacDonald Hotel also had great value lunches and sandwiches. The Tobermory Hotel is great for fine evening meals, or for something a little lower key, try the award winning chip van, with the steps of the Clock Tower providing seating with a harbour view, just be prepared to share with the ever hungry seagulls!
We visited Mull in January, and it was really quiet and peaceful, although the weather was pretty terrible which hampered a few hiking attempts. Summer is much warmer, although still wet, but you’ll have to share the island with plenty of other visitors.