At the end of my report on Islay, I promised you more Hebrides.
This time, we headed off to Mull. We stayed in a house on Calgary Bay, in the northwest of the island—here’s the view from our front window:
The tiny village of Calgary (Calgaraidh in Gaelic) is the namesake of Calgary in Alberta, thanks to Colonel James MacLeod of the North-West Mounted Police, who seems to have spent a happy time here in the 1870s.
The roads of Mull are largely single-track and winding, and we wanted to take advantage of (another!) spell of good weather by being out in the open air, so we didn’t drive far.
We got as far north as Glengorm Castle which, despite sounding like a place from the writings of Compton Mackenzie, is a pleasant spot from which you can wander along the coastline, looking out towards Coll and Tiree and the Small Isles.
And we got no farther south than the island of Ulva, which lies only a short distance from the mainland. It boasts a rather fine tearoom, and a particularly bijou ferry, which is summoned to the mainland using a sliding shutter to reveal a red square on an otherwise white placard.
Ulva is dotted with the ruins of old cottages, a reminder of what a populous place it once was. The war memorial in the grounds of the church also gives one pause—this tiny island parish (just 10 by 5 kilometres) lost four residents to the First World War, and two to the Second.
I found myself particularly wondering what had happened to Mary Melosine MacNeill, of the Women’s Land Army.
Our nearest town was the metropolis of Dervaig:
Driving in the opposite direction took us along a rugged coast road, past the triply tautologous Eas Fors Waterfalls (eas is “waterfall” in Gaelic; fors is “waterfall” in Norse).
(While the Boon Companion was taking this long exposure image, there was a sudden burst of alarm calls from birds in the trees, and a sparrowhawk shot right around the little bowl of the waterfall.)
From the crest of the same road, driving south, you’re also treated to the sudden appearance of Mull’s highest mountain, Ben More.
(While the Boon Companion lined up that image, I was distracted by big wings soaring overhead. White-tailed eagles are nowadays so common along this stretch of coast that it’s almost unusual to have a day out without seeing one.)
We also took a trip to the colourful harbour of Tobermory:
From there, we were able to catch a boat to the Treshnish Islands, on the same excursion we took last year when we were in Ardnamurchan. The main attraction, of course, were the puffins on the uninhabited island of Lunga:
While the Boon Companion busied herself with these little characters, I wandered off to take a look at the ruined “black houses” that look out across the sea towards Mull, and wondered what life must have been like here, during a winter storm.
Then there was a hitch. The boat that was to take us onward to Staffa and Fingal’s Cave had developed an engine fault. So we stood around in the sunshine while another boat motored out to pick us up. Being British, we formed a neat queue in the middle of an empty and featureless pebble beach:
Staffa was, as ever, mobbed. We found ourselves a nice place to sit beside the path to Fingal’s Cave, and watched the surf breaking over the rocks. We each had a neat hexagonal basalt column to perch on.
And that was that. Another week in the Hebrides, another week without rain. I assured an Australian couple on the Ulva ferry that the weather in Scotland was always like this. They didn’t believe me for a moment.