26th August to 2nd September 2012
I left Chester bound for Mull at 5am on 26th August 2012 and calling at Glasgow to pick up Pia and Kirstin, arriving there at 9.25am (without getting lost in the city). At the back of 10am we were on our way to Oban and had a brief stop for coffee in Tyndrum. At 1pm we were in Oban to do our big shop in Tesco and to fill up the car with fuel. While waiting for the ferry to Mull we had fish and chips by the harbour only for our meal to be constantly attacked by seagulls. We sailed at 4pm taking us three quarters of an hour to cross to Craignure. It was then a 32 mile journey to Bunessan and to Traigh Mhor Cottage for the week, arriving at 6pm.
Our cottage, excellent in every way was on the sea front so it was a short walk to the headland point in the middle of Loch Na Lathaich (sea loch). Here we were fortunate to see our first otter or was it a small seal? Light was fading so it was difficult to be certain. It was a delightful new quiet world for the three of us and a full week of discovery lay ahead.
After a long day (for me - I had driven 368 miles!) we all enjoyed a lovely evening meal. We were all happy with the lovely cottage Kirstin had chosen with excellent facilities – I was given the best bedroom.
Monday 27th saw us wake up to a very wet morning but after breakfast we went on a 11km circular walk from the cottage round the peninsula to Carraig Chorrach and then onto Achnahard and into the main village of Bunessan before returning to the cottage for a light lunch. Thereafter I went sea fishing for an hour but alas no luck. One of the attractions of Mull and in particular Ross of Mull (where we were located) is the fantastic beaches. In the late afternoon we were bound for Ardalanish Bay which turned out to be a lovely location. We enjoyed a walk along the golden sands and we sat in the dunes just to enjoy the clarity and quietness of all our surroundings and all the bird activity on the tide line. Having shopped at the nearby Organic Farm we were going to sample the local produce in our evening meal that evening.
Tuesday turned out a dry but breezy day and after debate around the breakfast table as what to do and I was out voted 2-1, we were bound for Iona which was a key location on our agenda. We left at 9am for the short journey to Fionnphort, parking in the village car park and then taking the short ferry crossing at 9.55am to the Island. Vehicular access is not allowed for non-residents. The sound of Iona was indeed choppy to say the least but we stayed on deck to watch gannets all around us dive like white spears into the ocean. They were catching fish being the master fishers they are.
We firstly visited the Nunnery ruins, with its tranquil cloister gardens which was established in 1203 as a Benedictine convent. Then we visited the famous Iona Abbey and joined a tour to be shown round which we all very much enjoyed. We had discussed walking round this small Island, renowned for its tranquillity and natural beauty and this we did reaching the north of the Island and looking across to Eilean Annraidh. Coming across the west coast we passed over some lovely beeches. Near Shian we cut inland and went over the Island’s golf course before climbing up to Loch Staoiheig. From here we reached the wild pebble beach at Port an Fhir-Bhreige. Massive waves rolled in from the Atlantic so we sat and watched with fascination. It was then a walk back across small hills and moor land areas coming in at Sligneach. We had coffee in the St Columbus Hotel where we met a very interesting Lady from Edinburgh who had been coming to the Island since she was a girl guide at the age of 14 years. She is a member of the Iona Community and has a great liking for the Island. At 6pm we were on the ferry once again on our way back to Mull. We all had a most fantastic day which will never be forgotten.
We were all looking forward to Kirstin’s organic beef which was being cooked in a slow cooker. It turned out wonderful as was our pre dinner drinks on a bench outside the cottage.
We had allocated Wednesday 29th to do an Island tour and we did find that Mull was indeed a large Island. Once again we were away at 9am and at Loch Beg we turned left onto the B8035 and stopped on the west side of Kilfinichen Bay to see if we could spot any otters. Here we watched two peregrine falcons having a squabble on telegraph poles, 200 yards or so from us. Before reaching Balnahard we spotted a sole eagle high above us. Was it a golden or a sea eagle, we could not be sure? At Scarisdale Point we stopped for a picnic lunch and here I picked some common periwinkles as a starter for our evening meal. At Salen we stopped for coffee and cakes in a cafe. It was then on to Tobbermory and a look round this lovely small town. At Tort we had perhaps our best sighting of eagles. Two golden eagles were hovering above us for a few minutes and we watched their every move. They had appeared from nowhere and just as quickly these majestic birds vanished from site. Calgary Bay was another place we wished to visit and here we stopped and walked on the beech. It was busy with people and Pia decided to go for her annual Scottish swim. She did ever so well swimming for half an hour or so and not feeling the cold. From here the single track road twisted up and down, around blind corners but the good thing was that there was little traffic. At Ballygown we stopped to watch red deer. Two young deer some how or other had got caught on the opposite side of the fence from the rest of the small herd and were trying hard to rectify the situation. Alas while watching we did not see this happen.
At the Sound of Ulva we looked across to the Isle of Ulva but alas not enough time to visit. The road then winds its way along the north side of Loch na Keal until it meets the B8035 once again. At 7.30pm we arrived safely back at our cottage for our evening meal and afterwards we watched the Olympics on TV.
The weather forecast had forecasted that Thursday 30th was to be a good sunny day and this turned out to be correct. We had the ascent of Ben More 966m planned for today. We were parking our car at Traigh Doire Dhubhaig at 10.30am and we were taking the recognised path past the dwelling house at Dhiseig to the top. At times there were very strong winds and we had to be careful on the high ridges. Two golden eagles again circled above us as we made our way to the top at1.45pm where we stopped in the stone shelter for a short lunch break. It was then a scramble down a steep and rocky ridge and then up to A Chioch at 867m at 2.15pm. It was our original intention to also climb Beinn Fhadar at 702m but by mutual consent we turned left and descended down Gleann na Beinne Fada and back to our start point at 5pm. We were back to the cottage at 7pm and being a sunny evening we once again had pre dinner drinks in the garden. Another glorious day and we were all to sleep well.
Friday was a wet day so we were all dressed in our waterproofs and boots and after doing a small shop in Bunessan we were on our way to Ardchiavaig and the beech at Port Uisken where once again I gathered common periwinkles but again failed to find the mussels I was looking for.
Alas Saturday came all too soon so the last day of our holidays. After debate over breakfast as to which beech we went for, we decided to head for Pottie (1 & 2) where we would park the car and then walk to Toba. Once there we would walk to Cut-a-Bhaile and reach the extensive bay at Bagh a’Chnoic Mhaoileanaich where I must have a chance of finding mussels. It was also the opportunity to visit another small Island – Erraid – as the tide would be fully “out” as we reached it. Walking along the water edge we spotted a number of what I call “mussel graveyards”. On finding mussels in mussel beds, seagulls drop the shell in flight onto rocks 20/30ft beneath them which break the shell and they thus avail them selves with the desired and enjoyable contents. Thus I knew mussel beds were around and it was just a case of finding them. It did not take us long to find them and we left with a plastic bag full for our last evening meal. We then crossed the narrow stretch of sand to Erraid and walked on its north shore. It was then back to the main land and up a narrow track that took us to Knockvologan and back to Toba. I walked back for the car while Pia and Kirstin walked to Fionnphort for coffee and here I would pick them up. The skies above me were getting greyer and greyer as I reached the car and at the back of 3pm it got very wet and this set in for the rest of the afternoon/evening.
Pia took on the task of cooking the mussels after I had cleaned them. We had cold white wine kept for the occasion which was also enjoyed.
Alas Sunday was to be the drive back to Glasgow (Kirstin and Pia were catching the 3pm train from central station to Euston) so it was time to do packing and leave the cottage for our early morning departure at 9am. We all enjoyed a great time on Mull. Memories and laughs will always be vivid.