Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Exploring the Isle of Mull

Now that I've described what there is to do at Glengorm castle & estate, I thought I'd continue with what else there is to see and do on the island if you're staying long enough to do more exploring. It's also worth noting that if it's raining at Glengorm, you could quite possibly get into your car and drive to somewhere else on the island and find sun! The reverse is also true, of course.

I wrote about the Isle of Mull earlier this year and what we've done on our previous trips there - Duart Castle, of course, the isles of Iona and Staffa, and pony trekking, to name a few - so I will try not to be too redundant.

We keep returning to Mull because, although many islanders rely on tourism during the non-winter months and the island is well-visited then, there are still fewer people than on Skye and the mainland. I liked Edinburgh, but there were just way too many people there for our taste. Tobermory can get pretty crowded because it is a tiny town with one main street of shops, but we spend most our time out walking anyway. It's not that we don't like people, but...well, maybe that's part of it. We just really like our peace and quiet and value time alone.

Duart Castle
The ferry ride from Oban to the island takes 45 minutes. You drive your car into the belly of the giant ferry and then go upstairs for the sail out of the harbor, past Kerrera Island, Lady's Rock, and Duart Castle (seen in the Sean Connery film "Entrapment"), and finally land at Craignure ("Crayn-nyur'") on the Isle of Mull. Before you come to Mull with your own or a rental car, make sure you read instructions about driving on single-track roads. Once you get the hang of it, this style of driving is logical and not even difficult (I say this having only observed M driving there, not doing so myself). The road from Craignure toward Salen starts out as a two-lane road, but after a few miles you get this...
single-track road
If you have a guy on your tail seemingly pushing you to go faster, stop on the left side of the road at the very next passing place. If the passing place is on the left, pull into it. If it's on the right, stop opposite on the left side of the road. STAY LEFT! When you see an oncoming car, use the passing place in front of you in the same way, and either use your left blinker or flash your headlights at the oncoming car to indicate that you are waiting for him. If he gets to a passing place and flashes at you, drive on and pass him while he waits. Give him a bit of a wave as you pass to thank him for waiting.

Be aware that on the other side of every bend and curve in the road there could be suicidal grazing sheep and frolicking lambs, or a group of highland cattle. They have the right-of-way.

So...once you get the hang of driving on Mull, what can you see and do? In order to not reinvent the wheel, I thought I'd provide a few links I've found to what others have already written followed by photos of what we've done.


Holiday Mull's extensive website offers tips on driving as well as links to wildlife tours, self-guided walks, accommodations, places to eat, and things to do.

The Scotland Info Guide site offers similar information with less flash and flare. Helpful for the basics.

Check out the Round & About Mull & Iona diary for scheduled events during your visit!

This blog post by a country hopping couple lists ideas for things you should do on the island with pictures. I'd add to their list a boat trip to Staffa, combined with the boat ride to Iona.

The Walk Highlands website offers helpful information on various walks you can take around the islands. The site shows you how difficult each walk is, how many km/miles it is, and roughly how long it will take you.

What We Did

Visited Tobermory

Although we are not shoppers, I do enjoy stepping into the quaint little shops, and I always find something to buy. Don't miss the bakery, the chocolate shop, the book shop, or the soap shop.

I believe the whisky distillery offers tours, though we haven't done this yet.
Stop in here if only because it smells so wonderful!
Isle of Mull soaps make for nice gifts to take home.

I love handmade pottery, and we have several pieces from Mull.

Aros Hall, next to the big church (which is a cafe and shop, not a church).
This is where the Producers' Market is held on Mondays.

A tip for when you find the bookstore (on the north arm of the harbor): check out the local interest books. There are some unforgettable collections of stories, tales, and legends about Mull collected and written by islanders as well as several great books describing walks to take on the island. If you didn't bring any Ordinance Survey maps with you, pick up one or two of those as well.

This is our Scotland shelf. Of the 24 books, 10 of them are about Mull.
Of course we had to have fish-n-chips while in Scotland, and our favorite place is on the Fisherman's Pier in Tobermory. It's a little van near the clock tower.

Hikes / Walks

This is the main reason we come to Mull. We are by no means serious hikers, which means unless you have a physical disability or serious injury, if we can do it, you can do it. This is where the hiking books come in really handy. You can decide how far you want to walk on any given day, how much up-and-down you can handle, and choose a walk that fits. We've done the Ardmore Shore walk, been to 's Airde Beinn (the crater loch), walked much of Glengorm's land in the north, and this time added a few new walks.

It's during our walks that we really get to explore the island and forget about everything but where we are.

Speinne Mor, the hill we didn't quite climb. I know it looks like a little bitty bump,
but the walk was more strenuous than we were prepared for.
It didn't help that we kept losing the darn trail, which was described as
"clear and easy to follow".

Loch Frisa

the Mishnish lochs

waterfall on the Aros Park walk from Tobermory

Lochan a'Ghurrabain, Aros Park walk

Calgary Bay

This beach is a popular site during the summer months on a fine weather day. We tend to go for a drive on days when it's raining, and it's rare that the rain doesn't let up for at least a bit. So we like to stop here and stroll on the beautiful white sands. There's also a walk from here called "Art in Nature" where you'll apparently see sculptures along the way.

The waves leave artistic patterns in the sand.

Loch Na Keal is another place to stop, and especially to hike along. If you're knowledgeable about the tides, you can get to McKinnon's Cave - and you can read about the legend in one of the local books about the island! 


We stopped for a restroom coffee break in Salen, and something helpful to know is that there are public restrooms here in case, as happened with us, the restaurant is closed and the coffee shop's restrooms are out of order and being seen to by the local plumber.

Not far from Salen are the ruins of Aros Castle, and that is a nice short walk through some bracken, along the shoreline, and around the ruins.

There is much more that awaits us!

What's Next?

Climbing Ben More  Yeah, right. Perhaps at least we can get up Speinne Mor next time.
Hiking on the isle of Ulva
Exploring more of central and southern Mull
Attending a performance at the Mull Theatre, "the smallest professional theatre in the world"
Attending a ceilidh
Meeting Iain Thomson, Mull's "singing shepherd," and hearing him sing live at a pub or ceilidh

Do you have a holiday destination that you love returning to over and over again?

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