Saturday, 6 October 2018

A few days in Mull


David and I have wanted to visit Mull for a while, but the time was never right for one reason or another.

Tobermory is on the north east of Mull

David has two additional interests to mine - first, the malt whisky made here (Tobermory and Ledaig). He's a whisky lover and we have visited many of the Scottish distilleries, often combining this with golf. Secondly, he has long had an interest in the colourful buildings in Tobermory both from a photographic and a personal point of view (he knew one of the actors in Balamory a children's program set in fictional Balamory - Tobermory of course. Neither of us has ever seen an episode of Balamory!).

Iconic view of Tobermory. Our hotel is sitting high, above the blue house on the right
I have lots of different images

While David is unable to drive for health reasons, I've undertaken all of the driving he would previously have done when we were together, but I haven't been able to take over the driving he would have done on his own This included a photography club in a town 20 odd miles away which clashed with something I was doing. Public transport isn't always feasible. He has a bus pass (I don't) so local bus and metro travel is free for him.

You may be aware that I have tried to interest David in bridge (with almost zero success) and in golf, with limited success. It is important to have interests and friendship groups separate from your partner but equally important that you can share interests, I firmly believe.

With this in mind, David and I have been going on re-wilding walks with a health-focused group and this has introduced us to many local areas previously unknown to us. David hasn't really been able to take decent photographs on such walks because the rest of the group is keen to walk on but would like to do so. That means we need to go on our own.

Rob, the originator of these walks, has his home on Mull. He recently moved to take a job in Oban, which left us all bereft! He is a fantastic and enthusiastic instructor and extremely knowledgeable. He kindly marked my maps of Mull with the best places to see various types of wildlife.

The other thing David and I are doing together is attend a photography club locally. While David has a lifelong and extensive interest in photography, my interest is much more limited. I have taken ‘snaps’ and record shots for years. I accompanied David on a landscape photography course in France a few years ago and developed an interest in flower photography, though at the time I wasn't sewing or playing bridge - both are much bigger interests. In this club there are several competitions following which the entries are critiqued, I believe. I've decided to embrace the club wholeheartedly. I put in two flower images and await the critique next week with interest. The next challenge is to produce images of a seascape. We're allowed two entries each. I'm not sure that any of the seascapes I took from Mull will work for this so I may not enter.

David is also attending a local photography course with the same enthusiastic tutor he had last year. This week he is missing a photoshoot at a stately home, designed to show autumn colours, so he hoped to get some autumn colour photos in Mull.

So do you see how this all comes together?

(I wrote some of the following while in Mull)

A trip to Mull at this time ticks a lot of boxes. We're hoping to get photos of the colourful Tobermory houses, by day and by night, a seascape or two and photos of autumn colours. David also has an interest in astrophotography and would like to shoot an image of the milky way as the area is not polluted with light as it is at home. We hope to have a few good walks and perhaps see some of the wildlife that is here, though we don't plan to spend hours in hides or walk for hours to isolated places in the hope of seeing some, even though I knew from Rob that the stag rut had started.

So on Saturday last week, I drove up to Oban and took the ferry across to Craignure in Mull, then drove the 45 miles or so to our hotel in Tobermory. We started very early and I was tired - I'm not a natural driver. I found I didn't like the road up past Loch Lomond and the other lochs too much as the roads were narrow, two way though, with rock on one side and a fall on the other. This made me less keen on one of our planned nocturnal trips in Mull as I thought there were a lot of single-track roads.. On arrival at the hotel, we found that parking was at a premium and we decided to concentrate on the immediate area, on foot. The parking issue turned out to be because there was a classic car tour - the drivers were driving around Scotland and stayed at our hotel for a couple of nights. The cars were very interesting, but I prefer mine!

Mull is a lot more hilly than I realised

As I sat writing this on the first evening, in front of a log fire (much needed), with a glass of wine (also much needed), outside it was dreich and miserable. It was cold. It was rainy. The visibility was poor. David didn’t want to go through with some of our plans any more than I did.

I didn't take any sewing. I took a photography book. I still had my phone though (my new camera can be shot remotely using my phone and can copy small JPEG images from the camera). If I get any half decent photos, I'll include them in this post. My new camera is easier to use than my last one, which kept ‘freezing’. It's a compact but very versatile. I didn't really want to be seen as specialising in smartphone selfies at the camera club! Though what's wrong with them when they're taken with a particular purpose in mind? In fact, in one of the photography magazines of David's, they recommended a book 'Smart Phone Smart Photography' by Jo Bradford which I bought; it has just arrived today so I haven't looked through it all.


The weather improved markedly from that first day. It was colder than we’ve recently become used to used to but I had appropriate clothing so no problems. I had taken some of my layers bought for our Northern Lights trip a few years ago - but that was overkill! Thinking of sewing, I don’t need to think about making any walk-specific items for the moment, though again a pair of trousers would be useful. For our Friday re-wilding walks, a lightweight jacket would be useful, for spring and autumn. The autumn colours were less advanced than those at home which I thought surprising as Mull is further north - but then the Gulf Stream probably has more influence there than it does on the east coast where we live.

This isn't my image. Tobermory Lighthouse from the path
I do have some images but wasn't too happy with them

One walk we took was along a 2 km cliff path to Tobermory Lighthouse (Rubha nan Ghal).  Gorgeous views and yes, some seals. The old lighthouse keepers’ cottages have been bought and done up. A family lives in one and rents the other out. There is NO road access. All materials for the lighthouse and for their renovations had to be brought in by helicopter or boat. Needless to say, the postman doesn’t deliver mail to them (I asked him) and they don’t have the benefit of supermarket deliveries. Well, of any deliveries. Maybe an Amazon drone? Last winter the path was closed for repairs (there is some evidence of rock fall and slippage) so I don’t know how the family managed. If you had seen how much stuff we carried for our brief stay you'd realise that there is no way we could stay there. It’s off grid completely (for electricity - solar; for water - spring) and fabulous.

Our hotel sat high on a promontory (see earlier photo) and we misunderstood the initial directions to the lighthouse (which is at sea level). We cut through the golf course at Tobermory - 9 holes, hilly, beautiful views and I’d love to play there. (We didn’t take our clubs.) We considered it as a venue for next year’s family trophy but decided against (Just realised I haven’t said anything about this year’s trophy. Oh well! We played it in Pidley). Unfortunately, the ‘path’ from the golf course towards the lighthouse was too difficult and we turned back but not until we had gone some way along. We had an extra-long walk that day. I’d hate to think the lighthouse family carried on living in their cottage and used that path while the regular path was closed! I was glad we saw the golf course. There is another golf course in Mull which we didn’t go to see.

View from Tobermory Golf Course

Mull is very dog friendly. Even the stiles have dog entrances.
The start of the path across the stile looked innocuous but we had to give up as it became steeper and more treacherous.
At the entrance to the real path
Great views from the path

We both like food and coffee bars though we don’t often visit restaurants at home. We did of course visit the distillery and David got to sample 4 whiskies and bought 2 bottles. 



The hotel food was great and the restaurant had the most fabulous views. We ate at other restaurants too,  but our highlight was a meal in Cafe Fish, an award-winning restaurant on the pier that has its own fishing boat and lands crabs etc right outside for absolute freshness. I saw the crabs I ate as starter in the evening landed that afternoon. The restaurant looks very unprepossessing from the outside and if you didn’t know of its reputation, you wouldn't give it a second look. You must book as it’s popular. Inside is perfect.


We’re home now. I got plenty of exercise on walks, didn’t see much in the way of wildlife and David didn't get his star photos as even in Tobermory, there was quite a bit of light pollution and we didn’t want to drive at night to a more isolated spot. Oh, the roads weren’t bad although quite a few are single-track but all the drivers were considerate and there are plenty of passing places so that wasn’t the issue - the wine with my evening meal was more significant!

I didn't intend this to be a detailed travelogue detailing everything we did so I'm stopping now. 

Importantly, we spent time together doing something we want to do together rather than travelling for others as we usually do. 

2 comments:

  1. What a lovely trip! We've been to Oban but didn't take the ferry to Mull. Maybe next time, I'm sure another distillery to add to our list might help convince my husband. Or not, as that road along Loch Lomond could be a deal breaker! What a nightmare. Imagine driving there on what you consider the wrong side of the road...we were so happy to finish that trip with the rental car in one piece!

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    1. Like you, I've been to Oban a few times but this was our first time in Mull. That road is indeed a deal breaker. I had forgotten what it was like - we came back an easier way, longer but safer - east then south rather than south then east! We'll go back to Mull. I've been to a few of the islands but next we'd like to go to the Orkneys

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