Monday, September 28, 2015

Glengorm Castle, Isle of Mull

*This is not a sponsored post - I do not make money through my blog. We just love this place!
Glengorm Castle

I certainly must begin with a post about Glengorm. We got married here in 2006 on one of the most beautiful days imaginable. Even the photographer was surprised. We returned with my children and M's mother in 2007 for a wonderful week before touring through the highlands, and in 2010 we were here again with M's mother and my daughter (my son opted out of that trip), but that time we stayed at Glengorm for two weeks.

When we got married we stayed in the castle in one of their B&B rooms - Laorin.

In 2007 and 2010 we stayed in a self-catering cottage - the same one where M and his family had stayed in 1985, when they first got to know Glengorm. Sorne Cottage is no longer used for short-term rentals, but we have fond memories of our time there.
These are two cottages; we stayed in the one on the right.

This time M and I stayed in the Steadings, which accommodates two in a flat above the coffee shop. It was really perfect for us, both in location and in ammenities. There's a jacuzzi bathtub, a computer with wi-fi, a well-appointed kitchen including a water boiler for tea and a fancy coffee press/machine, an enormously comfortable kingsize bed, an open fire place and a woodpile and axe outside (M did some chopping to get the logs down to size), and a collection of books and DVDs for those who prefer to remain indoors on rainy days. While it would be silly to do so, a couple could be quite happy for some time never going further than the flat and the coffee shop.
the Steadings flat is above the nature lab and its entrance
We could pop down for a cappuccino as of 10:00, and the coffee shop sells Glengorm beef and lamb - both of which we bought for meals we cooked that week - and venison. They also sell homemade jams and chutney, shortbread, some staples one might need for cooking, dried herbs, beverages, mugs, postcards... And they offer delicious meals until 16:30. Don't neglect a stop here if you come to the estate for accommodations or to hike on their grounds!

Tomato-Basil soup (as delicious as my grandmother's!), roast beef sandwich & salad

The castle and estate have a very interesting history even though it's not very old. It was built in the 1860s by James Forsyth, an unkind man who ran the tenant farmers off his land when he decided to convert the estate to one suitable for stalking/hunting and fishing. One of the evicted tenants cursed Forsyth and said he would not live to see his castle completed, and this came to be true! The name Glengorm means "blue valley," and the name was suggested by another evicted tenant because of the smokey bluish color produced by the burning of the tenants' homes! Forsyth liked the sound of the name but didn't grasp the irony.

The estate changed ownership quite a few times, and in 1969 the Nelson family bought it. The current owner, Tom Nelson, grew up on the estate. It is a working farm where they raise sheep and highland cattle with the help of their Border Collies Spot and  Flea, and they have an extensive garden which provides fresh produce for the coffee shop, the castle breakfasts, and markets around the island. They also have two "working Cocker Spaniels" whom you will see in and around the castle, but an insider assured me they do very little work! :-)

This video shows many beautiful images of the estate and the grounds, and you'll meet Tom himself as well as Glengorm's wildlife steward, Stephanie Cope. We arranged a walk with Steph through the grounds to the hide on Loch Mingary, where we were able to see and photograph an eagle, two young stags, curlews, hen harriers, and divers (loons). The video does not exaggerate - Glengorm truly is that beautiful.

at the hide
Steph writes a blog about the wildlife project, and this is my favorite post of hers, explaining the colored markings you'll see on the sheep in the fields. She's not only a knowledgable nature expert, but she's an excellent and entertaining writer!

One of the things we love about Glengorm is that it's familiar. We know we want to walk along the paths to Dun Ara (an ancient hill fort overlooking the coast) and the bathing pool on our first day. We know where to find the standing stones, and on our second walk we'll go through Sorne Forest and wander past the ruins of tenant cottages from the days of James Forsyth. We'll then get more adventurous and stray from the clear paths, and inevitably we'll end up calf-deep in a bog (hidden swamp) or in a field facing curious and skeptical highland coos - not a problem as long as it's past calving time and they've no bairns to protect. We'll explore parts of Mull we haven't seen before as well, but we like to begin with what we know we love.

coastline and bathing pool from Dun Ara
We also really like the self-catering idea. We enjoy cooking together and appreciate the privacy, knowing we're the only ones who will be in the cottage/flat during the week. We don't have to tidy up for maids, we wash our own clothes and towels as needed, and we don't have to make smalltalk in the mornings over coffee (or tea, in M's case). We built time into our schedule and went to the Tesco in Oban before our ferry arrived to get most of the things we'd need for the week, which saved us money over doing the shopping on the island. We bought quite a lot and still spent only slightly more than what dinner at the hotel near the Edinburgh airport cost the night before!

As I mentioned before, the coffee chop sells Glengorm meats as well as local bacon. We'd planned on this, and on Sunday we bought a 1.5kg leg of lamb for about €31 ($35). That may seem like a lot, but it was beautiful meat, and the stew we made fed us for three days - in other words we got six dinners out of it. Lamb stew reheats wonderfully for leftovers!! We left our recipe in the  kitchen drawer for future guests to try. :-)  Oh, and when we discovered that there was no pot in the cupboard large enough for our stew, I inquired in the coffee shop if we could borrow one - they were happy to loan us a huge pot!

By the time we'd finished off our stew we'd bought beef to make Gulasch, which fed us for two evenings. Our plan worked very well - we made two hearty meals that are still tasty as leftovers, and made plenty so we didn't have to cook every night after our long walks. The coffee shop is open every day from Easter to the end of October, but I imagine you can still get Glengorm meat by contacting them if you are there during the off season.

In a future post I'll write about what we enjoyed doing when we left the estate to explore other parts of Mull, but I'll end here with things we recommend while staying at Glengorm along with a few additional photos so my kids can relive their memories.

Recommendations while at Glengorm:

  • have a Ordinance Survey map and/or buy one of the many books about walks on Mull, and walk every path through and around Glengorm that you can find. You can stray from the paths, but make sure you wear (waterproof) boots because you're likely to land in a bog.
  • join a guided walk with wildlife steward Steph Cope - she can tell you all about the flora and fauna on the estate
  • have a meal in the coffee shop
  • if you're in a self-catering accommodation, plan to cook a lamb stew!
  • ...and bring a knife sharpener for the kitchen knives (we always pack one when we travel)
  • visit the Producers Market in Tobermory on Monday - we bought a delicious Glengorm venison pie along with fresh greens and bread
  • treat yourself to a full Scottish breakfast (and cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, toast, juice, coffee or tea) at the castle one morning - you need to reserve at least a day before, and you can do that via email or phone.
  • walk out to the coast with a picnic lunch and soak in the fresh ocean air, the rays of sun or the wild clouds, and the peace.
full Scottish breakfast, sans black pudding

sheep, coos, castle, Sorne Forest, and one of many bogs

the view from our castle bedroom (2006)
one of the paths to the sea
You'll sometimes have to share the single-track road to the castle with others.
This may require some patience. Don't rush the coos;
they'll move when they're darn well ready to.
Glengorm's standing stones

We will never get tired of Glengorm or the Isle of Mull, and we will keep coming back.

1 comment:

  1. A lovely description of what must be a little bit of heaven.