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.
10 thoughts on “Mull”
I loved BC’s super photographs.and was mightily impressed by the metropolis of Dervaig . The view from your window would be a great subject for a painting. and rival the sands of Morar. . Wish I had a post card of that. Post cards are few and far between nowadays as most people just use their phones . Anyway it seems you had a good time in perfect weather ( as is always the case in the Hebrides, of course )
I happened to be at Locheil yesterday (quite close to Morar), and had a look for a suitable postcard. But, as you say, the selection is nowadays very limited, and seemed to feature mainly Ben Nevis, or the Glenfinnan Viaduct (of Harry Potter fame).
Thank you, and of course the BC, once again for the lovely photos. You did indeed seem to have great weather – even if you tried to delude some country-folk of mine about its normalcy. I am glad to see that the rhododendron infestations, we have discussed before, don’t seem to have made it onto these islands.
(I had to play an appropriate little piece of Mendelssohn after reading your report.)
On a previous visit to Fingal’s Cave via small ship, with a calm sea, we motored up until the bow was pretty much inside the cave, with Mendelssohn playing over external speakers on the bridge.
Interesting acoustic effect.
Thanks for looking for a PC, even though the things are fast going the way of the do-do bird.
I forgot to mention that your post reminded me of a poem I learned at ‘school, I think it was called “Lord Ulinn’s daughter” , from your mention of the island of Ulva. All I can recall of the poem is I think “I;m the chief of Ulva’s isle and this Lord Ulinn’s daughter” Must look it up. I used to know it all. . I’m mixing it up with “The Highwayman” of similar ilk
You may be pleased to know that while schlepping my green wheelie bin down to the curb I remembered some more of the poem !
“a chieften to the Hgihlands bound cried boatman do not tarry, for I’m the chief of Ulva’s Isle and this Lord Ulinn’s daughter ”
More may be sunk in the depths of memory , eh ?
That looks like “Lord Ullin’s Daughter”, by Thomas Campbell. He wrote it after spending some time on Ulva, I think. You can find the full text here.
Thanks so much. It all came back to me when I read it. I’d mixed up a few lines. A fine poem
Good morning Dr. Grant, it’s 3AM local and I’m being victimized by insomnia at the moment. I’m posting because I’m fairly amused by the phrase “rhododendron infestation” in the third post down, living as I do in their native range. (My next door neighbor has a twelve foot tall example in magnificent bloom by his front door at the moment.)
So we gave you rhododendrons, what did we get from you guys?
Gorse. The nasty, spikey kind. They “remediate” patches of the stuff by dragging 200 to 300 foot lengths of anchor chain fastened between two large bulldozers over it. Repeat one or two times on the regrowth and the patch finally dies out.
Best regards, as always, Don.
Don! Good to hear from you, as ever. Folks are fretting about your absence, over in the other place.
R. ponticum is a major problem in several places in Scotland and Ireland, with some major clearance efforts going on. In remote parts, I’ve often been able to detect the presence of someone’s old country house by the appearance of rhododendrons on the open hillside, a few miles from the garden in which they were originally planted.
Gorse used to be farmed in Scotland, but it’s a bit of a menace now, too – it’ll colonize open grassland more or less while your back is turned. But I do like the smell.