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January, 2017 Archive

Isle of Mull Winter Wildlife

A winter wildlife wonderland      

With Dave Sexton RSPB Mull Officer

There can’t be many places on the planet where it can be better to visit to view wildlife in the depths of winter than it is in high summer but Mull might just be one of them. Don’t get me wrong. Summer, spring and autumn are all lovely and all have their appeal and the wildlife is here throughout the year but a winter’s day on Mull can be magical.

Loch na keal on the Isle of Mull

With shorter days, the island’s wildlife has to pack a lot in and the longer evenings mean more time for you to pull the chair up closer to the fire in your Isle of Mull Cottage, pour yourself a dram of Tobermory malt and open a good book to plan your next day.

Mull and Iona birdwatching b

Reading “Birdwatching on Mull and Iona” while relaxing at your cottage

Winter is so good because all the young eagles which fledged last autumn are now confident on the wing and will be joining up with other young eagles. White-tailed eagle immatures and sub-adult in particular are very sociable and will often cruise around together in small, loose groups. It’s not unusual to see 4 or 5 young sea eagles out on an off-shore skerry at this time of year but bigger gatherings of 10 or more have been reported. Young golden eagles will often join these youngsters, especially at roost time. Meanwhile the adult eagles will be busy visiting old eyries preparing for next spring and re-establishing their territorial boundaries through dramatic displays and calling.

Eagle on Mull skerry

Otters seem easier to see in the winter months. With fewer cars and people about they appear more ‘relaxed’ and Mull’s big sea lochs of Loch Scridain and Loch na Keal are prime hunting grounds. As ever, keep your distance; just sit, hidden, somewhere downwind and wait patiently along a lonely stretch of coast and sooner or later, an otter will appear.  You can watch us getting a great otter sighting on a winters day in our seasonal review:

The red deer are now long past the rut and have settled into their winter routine. They’re often down off the hills, lower in the glens and easier to find. Stags will have forgotten the testosterone charged battles of the autumn and ‘buddy up’ with each other in small herds. The hinds and this year’s calves will do the same. It’s a harsh existence for them but the most difficult testing time of late winter is yet to come. Meanwhile the island’s fallow deer herds at Loch Buie and Gruline are also often glimpsed from the roadside or as they skip across the road in front of you. Deer are often near the roads at night especially so beware.

Offshore, harbour and grey seals are all around Mull’s 300 mile of coastline. Pupping for the greys on the Treshnish Isles is over now so they can pop up anywhere but Salen Bay for the harbour seals is still your best bet.

Salen bay on Mull in winter

Winter thrushes have largely moved through stripping our berries as they go but many remain; the winter geese are here: rare Greenland white-fronted geese on the Ross of Mull and barnacle geese on Inch Kenneth. It’s always worth a scan of the native, resident greylag geese flocks in case a rare vagrant has joined them.

Person with telescope on Mull

So whatever the weather this winter, Mull has it all. Spectacular wildlife and scenery and wonderful places to stay cosy and warm on the days which look less inviting to venture out. My advice? Go out anyway. The weather will change and the wildlife is all there, just waiting to be discovered. Enjoy!

Browse the rest of our website for more information about things to do, and places to stay on the Isle of Mull www.isleofmullcottages.com


 

How to get to the Isle of Mull?

Travelling to Mull

Road along Loch na Keal on Mull

The wild and rugged Isle of Mull is one of the most accessible of the Inner Hebridean islands, only a short ferry ride away from the pretty port town of Oban on the west of Scotland. Even though the island, with its craggy shores, inland lochs and high peaks has managed to keep a remote charm about it, cheaper and more frequent ferries mean that a journey to Mull is now easier than ever.

Isle of Mull Location Map

Map showing the Isle of Mull’s location off the west coast of Scotland

For overseas visitors, the international airport at Glasgow is just a couple of hours’ drive away from Oban, meaning you can make the hop to the Isle of Mull for a relaxing break in no time at all.

Oban and fishing boats at night

Oban from where the ferry departs to the Isle of Mull

And the journey to the Isle of Mull is all part of the fun. It begins in Oban, a small port town perched on the west coast of Scotland, where with a couple of hours to spare before the ferry you can visit the legendary Oban whisky distillery, have a dish of delicious locally caught shellfish on the pier, and watch the fishing boats bobbing in the bay. In the summer the ferries to Mull leave around every hour, and with the new scheme, a ticket is now around half the usual price for a car journey, making trip more affordable than ever. Hop on the ferry, take in the views and the fresh sea air from the top deck and enjoy the cruise through the islands over to the Isle of Mull.

Lismore lighthouse with the mainland mountains in the distance

Lismore lighthouse with the mainland mountains in the distance

Around half way through the journey to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, you’ll pass on the right hand side the beautiful lighthouse at Lismore, one of the smaller islands in the Inner Hebrides, which lies long and narrow in the waters of Loch Linhe. Beyond the island, and on a clear day, you’ll be able to see the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, surrounded by the rest of the Grampians which in winter are white-peaked and make for a beautiful back-drop as you cruise towards Mull. Travelling onwards, the rocky ridges of Morvern, the most westerly part of mainland Britain, come into view, as the ferry travels up the Sound of Mull towards Craignure. In summer, whales, dolphins and porpoises swim these waters so be sure to take a boat trip out to see if you can catch a glimpse of them. When the stone edifice of Duart Castle, a 13th century castle perched on the rocky shores of Mull, loom into view, you know you’ve nearly arrived on the island.

Duart Castle, a key landmark on the Isle of Mull

Duart Castle, a key landmark on the Isle of Mull

It’s just a 45 minute journey from Oban to Craignure, but whether you’ve been taking in the view and sunning yourself on the top deck or watching the landscape pass by from within the cozy ferry bar (if the weather is being particularly Scottish!), you’ll already have started to enjoy your holiday.

The Isle of Mull Ferry passing Lismore on the sailing to Mull

The Isle of Mull Ferry passing Lismore on the sailing to Mull

Once you arrive on Mull, it’s just a few minutes before you’ll be heading toward your chosen Holiday Cottage   The majority of the roads on the island are single track and offer a great way to see the landscapes and wildlife of Mull, just remember to allow cars behind to pass using the passing places provided.  Car hire is available on the Isle of Mull, though with limited availability it is worth booking in advance.  West Coast Motors operate the island’s main bus services and there are taxi services here too.  Bicycle is another good option for exploring Mull once you are here.  Mull Electric Bikes offer electric bikes for hire and can deliver them to your cottage.  A range of mountain and road bikes can also be hired from On Yer Bike in Salen.

Bus on the Isle of Mull

West Coast Motors bus heads past Ben More on the Isle of Mull

You can also find more information and contact details for getting to and travelling around the Isle of Mull on this page.