Monday, 1 May 2017

Mull April 2017: To begin at the beginning

Every year the Gang of Five (or maybe Four or Three or even Two) head north and visit the Scottish Islands. We've given Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides a good go and this year we turned our attention to Mull in the Inner Hebrides. Getting there is an adventure in itself: my sat nav tells me that Fionnphort, the place we stayed on Mull, is 637 miles from home. What it doesn't say is that it's not a direct route and it takes about 15 hours lapsed time to travel there: car to Exeter airport, flight to Glasgow via Manchester, hire car from Glasgow Airport to Oban, Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Craignure and finally a drive through spectacular scenery to Fionnphort (pronounced approximately as Finafort). There's not a lot in Fionnphort but with an excellent B and B, a decent pub/restaurant next door and the ferry to Iona just 5 minutes away, it was a good place to be based for our stay.

And how did we spend our six nights on Mull? Walking on Iona and seeing its sights and sites, visiting a sea eagle location, having a day's cruise to Staffa and the Treshinish Isles and generally taking in the views and atmosphere wherever we went. The next couple of posts will give some idea of how we filled our time. Here are few random shots to get things started. 
The view from our B and B (appropriately called Seaview - highly recommended for location, comfort, welcoming hosts and magnificent breakfasts) across the Iona Sound to, mmmm, Iona.
A view down the Tiororan Glen where we spent some time at an RSPB Eagle Watch site. The eagle in question is the White Tailed Sea Eagle. Re-introduced to the Islands a few years ago with birds brought from Norway, there are now about 20 breeding pairs on Mull and the programme is judged to have been a great success. Did we see any Sea Eagles here? Ah, you'll have to wait for another post to find out.
Looking up the Sound of Ulva towards Ben More, at 996 metres the highest mountain on Mull and the only Munro on the island. Unfortunately (ha, ha) we did not have time to climb it.
Duart Castle, dating from the thirteenth century, and the ancestral home of the Clan MacLean. Yet we another thing didn't have time for.
If you like a beach with white sands and clear blue water, Mull and Iona are the places to head for. But these are beaches to walk along rather than to swim from. Some say the Gulf Stream warms the sea in these parts: I say they are wrong. It's damn cold and only nutters would dip their toes into the briny up here.
A view taken from the top of the island of Staffa looking back towards Iona and Mull over a relatively benign sea. More of Staffa in another post.
The 'workhorse' of the islands - the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry. What I like about these is the calm professionalism with which they operate and the no-fuss way they go about providing their service. And now that the Scottish Government has started subsidising them, the prices are almost a bargain.
We liked this notice we came across on our way to Ulva Ferry. We saw a few cats lurking in the vicinity but they looked anything but uncertain: rather over confident I'd say. Of the frail old woman, there was no sign.
Coming into the hamlet from the opposite direction, there was a variant of the above. Doddery OAP? Again, no sign - apart from those in the car.

Tobermory - 'capital' of Mull. Our brief visit there coincided with some sort of music festival and the place was filled with male bikers and loud punk music. I don't think Miss Hooley of Balamory fame would have been amused.

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