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An Autumnal Visit to the Isle of Mull

Author looking over Loch na Keal near Kellan Mill Lodge

I was a latecomer to Mull. Shamefully late in fact. Having moved to Scotland in 2003 and consciously making the decision at that point to explore every corner of my adopted home, it was 12 long years before I set foot on the island.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

My first obstacle was an earnest but naïve fixation on climbing munros (Scotland’s 282 hills over 3000ft) and ONLY munros, which I did with singled-minded determination for the first few years. In so doing I completely overlooked the walking potential of rugged ‘lesser’ hills on the islands or the unique atmosphere and challenges of their wild, convoluted coastlines….two things Mull has in spades. But when that fixation happily abated, a second and unexpected obstacle took its place.

For years I’d heard from legions of other people about the beguiling beauty and uniqueness of Mull. Whether it was via first hand accounts from my friends and colleagues, articles I read in magazines, or programmes I watched on the telly, all were gushing with praise to the point of cultish adoration. They waxed lyrical about the grandeur and the charm, the wildlife and the views, the beaches and the coast, the moors and the mountains, not to mention the wonderfully scenic roads and the world-class geological heritage.

Now, maybe it’s just me but there comes a point when mass raving about something actually starts to count against it. When all I hear are glowing reports and gushing reviews I start to get a sense of trepidation, wondering whether anything could possibly live up to such enormous expectations. I dare say that’s why I still haven’t seen either of the Trainspotting films. Yes, seriously. You think to yourself….”Good grief, it can’t be THAT good, can it?”

Well in Mull’s case……yes, frankly. It can.

I, like most other people who go there, fell under Mull’s spell pretty much the moment I set foot on the island. I then duly slapped myself in the face for having stayed away from 12 long years and, to further exonerate myself somewhat, in the two years since then I have been back twice, which I hope speaks for itself.

BITESIZE CHUNKS

Return visits are typical of the way in which I approach holidays more generally in Scotland. To do a place justice, I like to get to know smaller geographical areas well rather than zooming about all over the place and trying to see absolutely everything in one visit. Others would perhaps be content to range farther afield in the space of a week on Mull but for me, as someone who likes to be walking or cycling while I can still taste breakfast, I don’t really want to be spending the best part of the week driving the length and breadth of the island. Don’t get me wrong, driving Mull’s roads is a pleasure in itself but as anyone who has visited the island will tell you, though small in area Mull’s (in)famous single track roads effectively double the island’s size and, pleasurable as it might be, you can easily find you spend much of the week inside rather than outside your car.

So, on my very first visit to Mull back in March 2015 I based myself in Bunessan and focused purely on the Ross of Mull, Iona and the southern shore of Loch na Keal. To be honest even this was too much for one small week as there was a ludicrous variety of walking, exploring and wildlife watching on offer in just that one relatively small area.

My most recent visit was in November 2016 and was based at Kellan Mill Lodge on the north shore of Loch na Keal, which I booked through Isle of Mull Cottages. From there I focused on a part of the island I’d not visited before, mostly north of the narrow neck of land between Gruline and Salen, and along the southern shore of Loch Ba

View from Kellan Mill Lodge shore

AN OFF SEASON VISIT

You might be surprised to hear that all of the visits I’ve made to Mull have been during the ‘off’ months. i.e. after the October half term and before the Easter holidays, which is the norm for me when I go away for any kind of long break in Scotland. I typically like to go in late February or March, or at the other end of the year in early November. And every now and then I relish the prospect of a deep midwinter break in mid December or late January. Is that crazy, you’re perhaps wondering?

Well, I certainly don’t think so. For starters it’s much cheaper in the quieter months and there are some great last minute deals to be had on self catering accommodation. There’s plenty of space on the ferries, and once you’re on the island the roads are wonderfully quiet, the viewpoints are empty and you’ll spend less time sitting in passing places.

When you head out for a walk the hills and beaches are mostly deserted, and when you stop for lunch you can get a seat in cafes and restaurants. Lingering in one place for more than 30 seconds isn’t a problem as there are no midges and no clegs, and I’ve yet to be bitten by a tick in those off-season months.

In high summer the night sky never really gets truly dark, and even then you need to stay up until 1 or 2am to see it at its darkest. But in those off months the sky is properly dark before you even start thinking about going to bed, so the chances of seeing Mull’s beautiful night sky, devoid of light pollution, are increased. And if you’re as lucky as I was in my first year, you also stand a good chance of glimpsing the northern lights shimmering overhead.

At a landscape level you also get to see the ‘off season’ colours from glen to summit rather than the uniform green of summer. Not that summer isn’t beautiful in Scotland of course, it most certainly is, but outwith the summer months the landscape truly comes alive and looks its absolute vivid best. Yes there’s still green to be seen, but it’s restricted to the lower elevations and is capped with a beautiful progression of browns, reds and, at the top of the hills in colder spells, snowy whites. As a keen photographer I find it a much more photogenic prospect than in the summer months, not least because the lower light and long shadows bring greater definition and contrast to the landscape.

Then there’s the chance of storms. I imagine they’re not everyone’s cup of tea but there’s nothing quite like being on an island in a storm, taking refuge in a welcoming pub or watching the waves crashing around the coast and feeling that sense of being on the edge.

However, numerous as the off-season advantages undoubtedly are I’m certainly not blind to the disadvantages. Storms, for example, are all well and good if you’ve managed to get to the island before they rattle in off the Atlantic, but they’re not so much fun when you’re sat in a car park in Oban, being hypnotised by your windscreen wipers because your ferry has been cancelled. But even in good weather some of the key attractions on Mull are still seasonal in nature. I’ve not yet been able to go to Staffa for instance, as the boats tend not to sail until Easter. The seabird colonies are largely empty, some cafes and restaurants are either closed or on reduced hours, and there’s less chance of seeing big marine wildlife like basking sharks. And of course it goes without saying that you don’t get those long summer days.

But none of those are deal breakers for me. Even in early spring or late autumn the days aren’t TOO short, and with a bit of planning it’s easy to find shops and eateries that are open. Yes, the weather can be mixed and have greater extremes, but again that is a plus point for me. I like the drama and the variety. And if wildlife is your thing, there is wildlife aplenty even in the off months. In fact with fewer cars driving the roads, fewer vehicles stopping in laybys and fewer people snapping way with cameras, it’s easy to find your very own quiet spot to sit and watch and indulge in a little optimism……because you stand a very good chance of seeing something special.

MY AUTUMNAL WEEK AT KELLAN MILL LODGE

During my week at Kellan Mill Lodge I didn’t even have to leave the cottage to see some of the most sought after wildlife Scotland has to offer. On the very first morning I opened the bedroom curtains and was greeted by two golden eagles spiralling over Loch na Keal. 15 minutes later an otter casually swam along the shore in front of the house, and throughout the week there were always seals bobbing about in the water. At one point, as I was sat writing at the kitchen table, I saw five seals swim past at speed, breaching like dolphins as they went. Out on the hills that week a pair of white tailed eagles flew low over my head as I cycled along a farm track, I had a very close encounter with a short eared owl, and on several occasions I sat for an hour at a time watching otters foraging in the lochs.

Surprise SE owl encounter!

Weather-wise it was a typical spring week, a real mix of everything. I had one stunning blue sky day, a couple of very wet ones and the rest were overcast but benign. I used the blue sky day to cycle along Loch Ba and go for a hike in some remote, pathless hills where I saw absolutely no one all day. The wet days were fantastic for visiting waterfalls in spate, especially Eas Fors between Kilbrennan and Lagganulva, where the lower of the three falls plunges vertically onto the stony beach below. And the overcast days were perfect for some coastal walking out to the abandoned village of Crakaig. A grey, moody day brings an air of melancholy to those places that you just can’t equal in summer sunshine.

There were a couple of clear, cloudless nights when Mull’s lack of light pollution really brought the heavens to life, but perhaps best thing of all were the remarkable autumn colours. The general consensus in the Scottish outdoors community at the tail end of 2016 was that we were experiencing the most vivid autumn display in years. You might not immediately associate Mull with the kinds of places that might give rise to landscape scale transformations of the kind you’ll find in the forests of Perthshire or the Trossachs, but remember that much of upland Scotland is grass, and there are pockets of old Atlantic oak woodland around the coast, all of which create gorgeous rusty colours everywhere you look. Best of all was Aros Park just outside Tobermory, which was nothing short of a revelation when I paid it a visit, for it was easily the most beautiful autumn scene I had set eyes upon anywhere in Scotland that year.

Happily for me, a third visit to Mull is already beckoning, as I’m well aware I’ve barely scratched the surface of this amazing place. I’ve not yet set foot in the southeastern corner around Lochbuie, Loch Spelve and Croggan. I haven’t made the rough coastal walk to Carsaig. And I never got a chance to visit Ulva. There’s way too much to pack into three weeks on Mull, let alone just one week! So yes, I’m sure I will be back and yes, it will again be in those ‘off months’.

KELLAN MILL LODGE

Kellan Mill Lodge was a cosy wee cottage for the week, making a warm and welcoming place to return to at the end of the day. The weather was too cool and damp to enjoy the garden, but the house’s bright southerly aspect made the most of the shorter daylight hours.

Its location, right on Loch na Keal was superb and I relished opening the curtains every morning to reveal the views across to A’Chioch and Ben More. As already indicated, the house was effectively one of the best nature hides you could hope for, as all manner of wildlife was seen from the bedroom and kitchen windows.

The reliable internet connection was appreciated as I had a writing deadline while I was away.  I did wonder whether, as the cottage sits near the road, whether it might be busy or noisy with traffic but in truth there was hardly any traffic, and what little there was didn’t disturb us at all.

Ben Dolphin – Ranger and Blogger

Remote Holiday Cottages in Scotland

One of the special things about being on an island is that sense of removal from the hustle and bustle of mainland life.  With water all around, the peace and quiet and breathtaking views, can begin to work their magic!  We’ve put together a selection of our most remote holiday cottages on the Isle of Mull, which offer guests a sense of total privacy and solitude.

  1. Located in Mull’s south east corner Portfield sleeps four people.  The cottage is reached via a 4×4 only track and is entirely off grid meaning a total break from the electronic age!  If the splendid isolation wasn’t attraction enough, Portfield also has its own sandy beach located just below the house and backed by deciduous woodlands.
  2. Shepherd’s Light. Those seeking a holiday cottage that combines luxury with a truly peaceful and private setting will love Shepherd’s Light.  Sleeping up to four people this remote cottage on the Isle of Mull’s west coast combines all the comforts of a modern property with stunning views, and a great beach within easy walking distance too! 
  3. Torr na Locha. With its pretty setting at Ardtun on the Ross of Mull, Torr na Locha offers total privacy in a most beautiful setting.  Reached via a 4×4 track the house is set in a sheltered position with expansive views up Loch Scridain towards Mull’s highest point Ben More.  The house sleeps up to eight people and retains the quirky character of this old croft building.  A really inspirational setting.                                                                           
  4. The Bothy. Get a taste of the Isle of Mull’s most breath taking scenery with a stay at The Bothy.  Sleeping two, The Bothy is located at Laggan Farm in Lochbuie.  The Bothy overlooks the beautiful Loch Buie, a large sea loch with a stunning wide sandy beach at Laggan.  The views are just spectacular, woodland, mountains, beaches, old castles, wildlife – it’s all here, and you could be too!
  5. Experience the solitude and beauty of one of Mull’s most majestic glens with a stay at Kilbeg Cottage. Kilbeg is accessed via a gravel track that heads up Glen Forsa; a glen of stunning river pools, high mountains and abundant wildlife.  This beautifully kept cottage sleeps four people and sits with an enclosed garden.  There is a nice bathing pool in the river just a short walk from the cottage.

These are just a few picks from our stunning holiday cottages throughout Mull.  With over eighty properties in our handpicked portfolio we sure to have just what you are looking for.  Just get in touch if you’d like any advice on where to stay.

A winter walk up Ben More, Mull’s Munro

A winter ascent of Ben More

As the highest point on the Isle of Mull, and Scotland’s only Munro accessible only by boat, a walk up Ben More is often on the ‘to do’ list for visitors to the island.

Ben More on the Isle of Mull with a covering of snow

Looking across Loch na Keal and Eorsa at Ben More on Mull

At 966 meters in height, Ben More towers over the island’s other hills.  Not only do you get a stunning, 360 degree view, this sort of elevation also creates an acute sense of altitude.  With no neighbouring mountains of comparable height Ben More really does feel like the highest point around!

The simplest route to the summit starts on the shore of Loch na Keal at Dhiseig.  From here a marked path leads up the broad flank of the hill to the circular summit cairn.  Simple.  To experience our island Munro at its most dramatic though, arguably the best route is a circular traverse of Beinn Fhada to A’Chioch and then along the ridge to Ben More – a route that involves some scrambling (see map below).  Let’s take a look at this route as it was on a fine winter’s day!

Beinn Fhada ridge with a person walking

Walking along the Bheinn Fhada ridge with Gribun and Ulva in the distance

Ben More on Mull's north face and snowdirfts

Hiker walking through snow drifts with the north face of Ben More in the distance

Parking the car off the road along the shore of Loch na Keal we began the walk by following the burn (Abhainn na h-Uamha) which has a series of spectacular waterfalls along its course.   Feeling lucky we had chosen such a clear, crisp day, we then headed uphill to crest the ridge of Beinn Fhada.  At this point the views are just incredible.  Looking back you can see the curve of the Gribun cliffs, the islands of Ulva and Eorsa, Staffa, and the Treshnish Isles and ahead Ben More and the ridge look really inviting.

The Ben More circuit walk on the Isle of Mull

Frozen lochan on Beinn Fhada with walker surveying the scene

Walker climbs A'Chioch on Mull

Climbing A’Chioch with Glen Clachaig below and to the right

A'Chioch on Mull in winter with the sun

Winter sun blazing as a walker climbs the A’Chioch ridge on Mull

After a short sharp climb to the summit of Beinn Fhada (702m), with jelly babies providing the extra fuel we needed, we headed west and began the climb of A’Chioch (867m).  The views here are superb, and picking our way up towards the summit through snow drifts was great fun!  We were lucky that the winds weren’t strong at this point and able to enjoy settled conditions and sunshine.

The final traverse over the ridge to Ben More was relatively straightforward, though the final section involves some scrambling.   Just at the point where your legs are starting to ask for a rest, the ridge narrows to just a few meters wide and has significant drops on both sides, which help sharpen the senses!

View over Mull's interior

Looking west over the Isle of Mull with the mainland mountains visible in the distance

Ben More ridge on Mull in winter

Surveying the way ahead to the summit of Ben More

Walker heads towards the Ben More ridge

Stating the traverse of the Ben More ridge

A'Chioch on Mull

Looking back along the ridge to A’Chioch

wind-blowing-snow-mull

Wind swirls snow into the air on Ben More

descending-ben-more-mull

Beginning the descent

From the summit of Ben More we followed the line of cairns that descend the hill back towards Loch na Keal.  After the rugged drama of the east face of the hill this side seems very rounded and gentle, and the walking easy.   The wind picked up at this point for us blowing ice around and creating some spectacular conditions:

ben-more-winter-mull

Ice and snow blows across the hill during the descent

walker-mull-cairns

Following the cairns with the Treshnish Isles in the distance

We finished the walk feeling battered but not broken.  No matter which time of year or by which route you choose to climb Ben More it is always a memorable experience and well worth the effort.

www.isleofmullcottages.com/isle-of-mull-walking.html

ben-more-map

Ben More OS map route

 

Note: Hill walking has inherent risks and dangers.  Conditions change quickly and navigation can be difficult.  Always make sure you are well prepared for any conditions and have the correct level of experience for your chosen route.

 

 

 

Top tips for stargazing and treasure hunting on Mull in winter

What do you do in the winter?

What is Mull like in the winter and what is there to see?  Whether it is aspiring for adventure or searching for solitude, the Isle of Mull has something for everyone. I am going to share with you some of my memorable adventures and encounters that I’ve had on Mull during the winter season…

A time travelling geo-adventure!

I’ve always been curious about the origin of our landscapes and the rocks themselves. Observing the magnificent, diverse topography on Mull can inspire a life-long interest in the subject of geology and severely enhance any outdoor adventure of the natural world.

On a wet winters day on Mull you don’t need to put on the DVD of Jurassic Park to travel back to the age of the dinosaurs, as small parts of our exposed sedimentary coastline date back 183 – 197 million years to the Jurassic period. When the tide ebbs to low water it reveals a time machine, transporting you back to the mesozoic era, immerse yourself and explore ancient fossilised species.

One memorable winter geo-excursion I had on the south coast of Mull was exploring the mudstone dominated Jurassic coast to see what fossils I could find and try to visualise what the planet would have been like during that time period. The key thing I wanted to see was large congregations of Belemnite fossils which I noticed last time I was there. After discovering why they’re embedded in big concentrations I wanted to see the fossils again with a fresh understanding.

fossil2  undersea1  fossil1

As you can see from the photo these bullet shaped, ancient squid died in large numbers and in tight groups. Geologists think that this was not due to a catastrophic climatic event but a species orientated natural fatality after a sexual gathering had taken place, in the same way present day squid do. They shared the same fate as the dinosaurs, marine and flying reptiles, and ammonites at this time. There is no fossil evidence of these animals beyond the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago.

One of the great things about enjoying rocks and minerals is that the weather conditions aren’t a problem. The rocks have been there for millions of years, and they’re not going anywhere in a hurry. So whatever the weather, get out and explore the cornerstone of life on our wonderful planet!

 

Photography – capturing the motion

Due to the dynamic weather systems often experienced on the island, the photography opportunities are endless, with angry seas, moody skies and constantly changing light patterns. A later sunrise and earlier sunset also makes the ‘golden hour’ more accessible.

Just last month we had a fresh autumnal easterly wind blowing at force five which provided a great opportunity to photograph the power of the ocean continuously crashing into Mull’s easterly coastline, usually more sheltered. I checked the tide table and planned out the areas that I would cover, enhancing photography opportunities. It was a cool breeze so I wrapped up warm and headed out with my camera gear, excited about capturing images out in the wilds!

I arrived at my intended location in mid-afternoon so that the position of the sun was more suitable and the state of tide exposed some good photography subjects in the beautifully coloured seaweed. I watched the dramatic surge crash in to the shoreline a number of times in admiration and then planned out how I would compress that time into a single frame to capture the power of the motion.

I found a location with the Duart Castle showing distantly in the backdrop and a nice varied shoreline of rocky outcrops and seaweed. Using a dark filter to slow down the amount of light reaching my cameras sensor I was able to shoot frames consisting of a few seconds. Once I was happy with my composition I attempted to time the pressing of the shutter button in sync with a stronger wave crashing against the shore. After about half an hour persevering I managed to get a frame that I went home happy with!

duart bay waves

 

A ‘Natural Treasure’ hunt

Winter time in the Hebrides brings a number of Atlantic storms, which is to be expected with islands located on the edge of one the world’s youngest oceans. These storms bring an increased chance of natural treasures being brought in with the seas. The best place to look is in the strand lines at low tide. They are long lengths of seaweed stretched across the coast, potentially full of natural wonders!

One winter walk with my family (who were staying in one of the Isle of Mull Cottages on the south coast of the island) produced an exciting find when I was looking for shark egg cases in the strand lines. I ended up finding a ‘Sea Heart’ on the beach!

I since discovered that they’re large, heart-shaped seeds that drop from their tropical vines in Costa Rica and ride the ocean currents of the world. Sea Heart vines are locally known as ‘monkey ladders’, because they actually provide arboreal thoroughfares for monkeys high in the rain forest canopy.

heart      heart-rush

See what you can find this winter on the Isle of Mull. Whether it’s Mermaids Purses (egg cases), Sea Beans or absolutely any other tidal treasures, the wonderful unpredictability of nature makes it hugely exciting every time.

The dark side of Mull

I’ve had some unbelievable nights out under the dark skies of Mull over the years. Once I finish guiding on a wildlife tour during the day, I am always curious to see what else mother nature has to offer me, providing never ending beauty, wonder and learnings. Mull lies under some of the darkest skies in Europe, due to minimal light pollution.

One of those many nights was in the late winter of 2014/15 when I was out in the field with a friend monitoring owls at dusk. The early evening was very productive as we heard Long-eared Owls vocalising as they prepared for the breeding season. We looked to the north and noticed a pale green glow on the horizon, an auroral arc commonly known as the Northern Lights!

Our perseverance out in the wilds paid off throughout the night as we were treated to dancing columns rippling throughout the northern sky at 40 degrees high! The spectacle of the Aurora Borealis was improved with the accompanying soundscapes of Barn Owls screeching and the odd shooting star overhead!

mull aurora borealis      northern lights over mull

Like geology and any natural history subject, if you know more about the origins of the topic, it greatly improves your all round experience. With the Aurora Borealis, when you’ve been waiting for many years to see it, it is worth considering how long a single display really has been in the making.

We need to go to the centre of our solar system to understand where the Aurora was truly born. Fifteen million degrees celsius and crushing gravitational pressure – these are the conditions required in the core of our sun to generate the energy to seed the Aurora Borealis. It can take thousands of years for these electrically charged particles to reach the cooler outer parts of the sun. From there, they are released into outer space through moderate solar winds or a more explosive mass ejection. It can take 48 hours for these solar winds to reach our planet and when drawn towards our magnetic poles they can trigger the wonderful showing.

In this modern age we have more accurate space weather reports and also increased networking of local aurora sightings. With Mull’s higher latitude and unpolluted skies, if you put yourself in a position to be lucky, just maybe, you’ll get rewarded with a sighting of the greatest show on earth, thousands of years in the making!

I hope these stories exemplify how exciting it can be out in wild winter areas on Mull. There is so much to admire, explore and discover on the island during winter season and we would be delighted to share it with you.

 

Kick start your winter exploration of Mull with stargazing experiences, wildlife and photography tours provided by Nature Scotland who operate year round on the island: info@naturescotland.com

Browse our range of winter breaks with short stays and special deals available on holiday cottages throughout Mull: Winter Breaks

 

Top 10 things to do with kids on the Isle of Mull

The outdoors is certainly one of the Isle of Mull’s greatest attractions.  With miles of unspoilt coastline and stunning views around every corner you’re never short of things to see.  So if you are in the midst of planning your next family holiday and are thinking about days out and activities to do with the kids, you might find this list of our top 10 things to do with children on the Isle of Mull a helpful starting point.  We’ve put together this little list to help entertain your little ones no matter what the weather.

1.Explore life from the seas around Mull at the Isle of Mull Aquarium

Sea anemones Mull Aquarium

The Isle of Mull Aquarium in Tobermory

Located in Tobermory the Mull Aquarium is a ‘catch and release’ Aquarium.  This means the species on display are ‘resident’ for a maximum of four weeks before being returned to the water.  As a result there is always something new to see on each visit.  Kids will love the interactive touch pool sessions and there are a good selection of toys and souvenirs too, not to mention the mesmerising contour sand pit!  Contact 01688 302 876

2. Mull Pony Trekking

ponies wading through water on Mull

Kids will love seeing Mull from the saddle!

Catering to both experienced and first time riders Mull Pony Trekking offers a superb opportunity for kids to gain experience with the ponies whilst seeing some of Mull’s finest scenery.  Taster sessions can also be booked, ideal for the very youngest riders and those who are a bit unsure.  Perfect for toddlers are the shetland pony rides, after a quick brush and pat you can lead your little ones out on a short ride.  The more experienced riders will love cantering along the shore on the beach trek.  Contact Liz: 07748807447

3. Rainydays indoor soft play and cafe

rainydays-tobermory-mull

Located with Aros Hall on Tobermory’s Main Street Rainydays soft play will let the little ones burn off that excess energy no matter what the weather!  There are a range of ‘climbing blocks’ slides and a ball pit.  Drinks and snacks can also be purchased and there are a selection of books and magazines too.  Contact:  rainydaysaroshall@gmail.com

4. Visit Duart castle and tearoom

duart castle on mull

Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull as viewed from across the bay

Kids will love a visit to Mull’s Duart castle.  The castle is the seat of clan MacLean and dates back to the 13th century.  You explore the inside of Duart where there are exhibits and displays detailing the castle’s history.   Steps lead right up to the roof terrace where the are outstanding views.  After looking around the castle you can enjoy a sit down and some delicious food and drinks in the tearoom.  Walking trails lead around Duart point.  There is a millennium woodland walk and even a small sandy beach to find!  Duart Castle also hosts a range of events and attractions that take place throughout the summer.  Contact: 01680 812 309

5. Explore the stunning gardens at Lip na Cloiche

path through plants at garden on Mull

Paths weave through the stunning gardens at Lip na Cloiche

Situated on the Isle of Mull’s west coast, Lip na Cloiche gardens will be a firm favourite with kids and adults alike.  Entry is by donation and a maze of footpaths let you explore this stunning hillside garden.  The gardens are densely planted with a wide range of plants that thrive in the warm sea air.  The gardens feature a mix of beach-combed and ‘found’ items that are beautifully incorporated into the planting in a way that will surprise and engage children and adults too.  You can also purchase craft items and plants and a proportion of the proceeds are donated back to local charities.  Contact: 01688 500 257

6. Take a family friendly walk

Autumn trees in aros park Mull

Aros park is perfect for a family walk

Walks on the Isle of Mull for kids don’t have to involve climbing Ben More, the island’s Munro – you can see some great views at lower levels and with little effort.  Aros Park is a great option for walking with kids on Mull; located just south of Tobermory Aros Park has a network of maintained tracks including some that are suitable for pushchairs too.  In sunny weather children will enjoy ball games on the grass where there is also a climbing frame and picnic areas.  In heavy rain the park is stunning with its many impressive waterfalls that thunder into the sea of Tobermory harbour.  There are trails into the woods with adventure courses to complete and stunning views over the harbour to Tobermory.  See details and maps on our walking page.

7. Make waves at the Isle of Mull Swimming Pool

Kids jumping into swimming pool Mull

Kids enjoying the Mull swimming pool

The Isle of Mull Swimming pool is centrally located in Craignure at the Isle of Mull Hotel.  This 17m long pool is great for kids, the depth is 1.2m and there is also a shallower toddler/learner pool too.  Adults can also enjoy use of the Spa which has a sauna, steam room and outdoor jacuzzi.  A range of beauty treatments are available and there is a Rasul Mud room.  After everyone has enjoyed the pool you can head over for a bite to eat in the hotel lounge bar.

8. Discover the Isle of Mull’s past at the Old Byre

The entrance to the Old Byre

The Old Byre heritage centre near Dervaig, Mull

The Old Byre heritage centre is located just outside of Dervaig in north Mull.  Children can play in the covered play area which has a selection of toys and games.  There are picnic benches where you can enjoy food and drinks from the cafe.  The heritage centre has a excellent display of models that show life like scenes from Mull’s past.  There are also informative films you can watch and a gift shop too.  Contact: 01688 400 229

9. Hit the beach for sandcastles and paddling!

kids at beach isle of mull

Kids playing on the beach at Calgary on Mull

A trip to a beach is also a good bet and Mull has some of the finest beaches you could wish for.  Whether it’s picnics or sandcastle building, paddling or fishing, children always seem to have a way of making their own fun and games given an expanse of sand to do it on!  Mull has such a beautiful range of beaches and coastline to enjoy with sands of every colour.  Kick start your next beach day with our guide to beaches on the Isle of Mull

10. Become an island explorer and take a boat trip!

staffa from the sea

Staffa and basalt columns

Mull offers some amazing boat trips exploring the waters and small islands around its coast.  The trip to Staffa is an ideal short trip to do with children.  The sail takes around 40 minutes from Mull and you have a chance of see wildlife along the way.  Landing on Staffa you get an hour ashore to explore the island on foot (taking care!).  You can guide kids around to the impressive Fingal’s cave, and watch waves crash inside making a tremendous noise!  In spring and summer puffins arrive on Staffa and young children will enjoy watching these colourful birds.  This is an ideal first boat trip, being shorter in length but big in drama!  See more about Staffa and a list of Mull boat trip operators to contact

 

These are just a sample of some things to do with kids on the Isle of Mull but you’ll find plenty more.  You’ll also see we have a brilliant range of holiday cottages that our great for families.  See our full range at Isle of Mull Cottages and do get in touch if you’d like any help or advice: 01688 400 682 or mail@isleofmullcottages.com

Exploring Iona

When you visit the Isle of Mull you can also visit the other islands that are situated off Mull’s coast.  Iona is undoubtedly the most popular of them all and it’s easy to see why.

Iona from St Ronan

Arriving at Iona and the waters of St Ronan’s Bay

The journey starts in Fionnphort, Mull’s most south westerly village.  You can tuck into fresh seafood on the slipway whilst you wait for the ferry.  The return ticket will set you back a very reasonable £3.30 for an adult or £1.70 for a child.

The crossing takes ten minutes and you will arrive at Iona’s largest settlement Baile Mor.   The sea in St Ronan’s bay is such a striking blue colour, the white sandy beaches and stone cottages couldn’t be any more picturesque.

Watch our video guide to visiting Iona:

Most visitors make a bee line for the Abbey, a short walk that takes in some of the sights of Iona on the way.

Iona Abbey as you arrive on the ferry

Iona Abbey as seen across St Ronan’s Bay

Iona bench

A bench on Iona encourages visitors to absorb the peace

Iona post office and ferry

Iona post office with the ferry turning in the distance

The site of Iona Abbey dates from 563 when St Columba established a monastery on the island.  Tickets to enter the Abbey are purchased at the Historic Scotland ticket office.

There’s lots to see in the abbey including the impressive cloisters, which have undergone restoration and feature many impressive stone carvings:

Iona abbey cloiseters

The cloisters in Iona Abbey

Abbey Iona cloisters

A face carved in stone in the cloisters of Iona Abbey

stone carving on iona

One of the corner carvings of Iona Abbey cloisters

Abbey cloisters columns Iona

Detail of the stone columns of Iona Abbey’s cloisters

After you have looked around the Abbey you can enjoy lunch at one of Iona’s eateries before exploring other areas of the island.

Iona from above

The whole of Iona from south to north

Many visitors climb Dun I, the island’s highest point.  North beach at Iona’s northern most tip is a stunning beach too with great views back to Mull.

Dun I sign on Iona

A sign points the way to Dun I the highest point on Iona

Iona north beach Mull

The white sands of North beach on Iona with Mull in the distance

 

On Iona’s west and southern coast you can enjoy relative peace and quiet as most visitors stick to the island’s east coast and the area around Abbey.

Iona makes a great day out from Mull and is on most visitors ‘to do’ list.

Pet friendly cottages on the Isle of Mull

Some people base their holidays around their dogs.  ‘We’re visiting the island because we think Jake is going to like it’ was the start of a recent telephone conversation.  It just took me a couple of minutes to figure out who Jake was.  As it happens, we are on the dog’s side at Isle of Mull Cottages.  We encourage owners to make their holiday cottages available to those bringing their pooches with them.  After all, it’s fair to say that there might be a few visitors to this part of Scotland, that are outdoor enthusiasts, in one form or another, and are therefore quite likely to have a dog they would like to bring with them.

Looking for a cottage..

So today we’re looking at our pet friendly cottages to stay in through the canine perspective.  Is there an enclosed garden?  Are there walks from the doorstep?  Can I get to a beach quite quickly?  Here are our top three doggy destinations…

Calgary Cottage

Yes, there is a lovely garden and yes, there is a fantastic beach within walking distance.  Happy days.

Great garden to explore

Shepherd’s Cottage

Again, a great garden at this little cottage which stands proudly on the hillside above the river Aros, looking out over the Sound of Mull.  There is a great little circular route around Aros castle that will delight your dog’s senses.

Great walking territory from Shepherd’s Cottage

Craig Ben Cottage

Truly beautiful scenery, a freshwater loch on the doorstep (plenty of sticks too) and a beach just down the road, Craig Ben Cottage is a fabulous, dog friendly option.

Short walk to the loch from Craig Ben Cottage for a quick dip

To be honest, you can’t go too far wrong when choosing a pet friendly cottage from our host of dog friendly options.   Your dog is likely to be quite pleased with your holiday choice.  They will know they are going somewhere special as soon as they board the Calmac boat to get to Mull, and I’m afraid they are likely to be disappointed to leave too.  You might just have to come again next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose the Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull is part of the Inner Hebrides; an archipelago consisting of 77 islands, including some of the more well known inhabited islands such as Islay, Jura and Skye.  So what sets Mull apart in this variety of beautiful Hebridean offerings?

Blissfully peaceful

Less populated than Islay or Skye, with the vast majority of roads being single track (and okay, a little bumpy) means that Mull retains a wonderfully laid back, peaceful atmosphere, with just enough in the way of infrastructure to give you a list of attractions to keep you busy if you like a selection of ‘things to do’ in your holiday itinerary, from Duart Castle to a Wildlife Tour.

Stunning scenery

Tobermory

Mull’s capital has to be one of the most picturesque harbour towns in the United Kingdom.  On a calm day, with a high tide, you can wander the gift shops, or enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the well placed cafes on the seafront and watch the boats come and go from the sheltered bay.  Wooded hillsides at either end of the harbour, and the steep streets behind the main shopping area add to the character of this lovely little town which bustles in the summer months and becomes a sleepy haven in the quieter winter.

Tobermory is a picture postcard town

Outdoor Adventure

The south of Mull has a cluster of impressive mountains.  Ben More, being the highest on the island and one of Scotland’s Munros, is the most popular choice for a mountain walk with visitors, but there are many more hidden beauties.  Cyclists will be in their absolute element with Mull boasting some excellent cycling routes past stunning sea lochs and captivating glens as well as some shorter forestry tracks for families wanting to get in on the action.  And finally, the coastline of Mull is just staggeringly varied and beautiful.  There are white sandy bays that look like they are out of a Mediterranean travel brochure as well as the drama of steep coastal cliffs around Gribun or Carsaig.

Kilvickeon Beach

Wildlife and Birdwatching

Most visitors to Mull are keen to see the sea eagles during their stay – both golden eagles and white tailed eageles reside in Mull.   Red deer are an impressive sight too and Highland cows are often photographed extensively too.  Then along the coastline there are the sea otters to spot, and if you are really lucky, dolphins, porpoises and even basking sharks.  The rich marine environment that laps at the 300 miles of coast, coupled with the variety of habitats on land, mean that the bird life here is prolific and the flora and fauna are worth finding out about too.  So make sure you pack your camera and binoculars for a trip to the Isle of Mull.

What really sets the Isle of Mull apart is hard to put into words.  You’ll only find that out for yourself by coming and discovering its beauty for your yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romantic break for two?

Removing yourself from the hustle and bustle of the mainland, and boarding a boat to get to your holiday destination, makes staying on a Scottish island that little bit more of an adventure.   The excitement of disembarking and setting off on single track roads that winds its way along the coastline, adds to the excitement and enchanting nature of this part of the world and makes it an ideal location, we think, for a romantic break.

Isle of Mull landscape

The islands of the Hebrides all have something a little bit different to offer.  Mull has a small population, little in the way of infrastructure, much in the way of wildlife and retains that olde world charm that somehow lends itself to a good place to retreat to and spend a week cozied up, soaking up the environment and re-charging the batteries. If you want somewhere with peace and quiet on tap, the Isle of Mull should be top of your list for a romantic setting for two.

Glenraille at Lochdon

The landscape is varied and the geology is so unique that some of the structures here are found nowhere else in the world.  There are stepped tablelands in the north, a rugged range of mountains in the central and southern parts of the island, and the outcrops of pink granite give the south western peninsula a flavour of its own.

At Isle of Mull Cottages, we give you a select range of properties, many of which have special features that are ideal for those looking for that elusive, luxurious ‘somewhere special to stay’.   Want a balcony leading off your bedroom with views of a beautiful loch?  Yes, we can tick that box.  Looking for a picture postcard cottage for two, a stone’s throw from the sea?  Check.  Or how about an artist’s retreat with sauna and steam room in the master suite.  Again, we have it covered.

So if you are looking to add romance into the holiday tick list, pick one of our beautiful holiday cottages, mix it in with the white sandy beaches, fantastic local produce to sample and amazing sunsets and wildlife, and you can’t go wrong with our recipe for romance.

One of the beautiful stretches of coastline

Top 5 Cottages by the Sea

‘I’d like a cottage by the sea please.’  A simple request you might think?  But actually, how many houses are really beside the sea?  A sea view, yes, that we can accommodate in lots of properties, but a stone’s throw is a different matter.  Luckily we’re as obsessed with cottages by the sea as you are, and we’ve got some cracking examples..

1. Grasspoint Cottage
If you want to smell the sea air when you step out the door and be able to take less than two dozen steps before you are submersed in sea water, Grasspoint Cottage is what you are looking for.  On top of that the furnishings give it a lovely, quirky, rustic vibe.  The cosy accommodation with wood burning stove and bed in the the living room add to the ambience in the evenings.  It might not be 5 star accommodation, but it is a 5 star experience which we would highly recommend for those wanting to get cozy by the sea.

Grasspoint Cottage on Mull

2.  The Old Church
How does a historical building, converted into a luxurious pad, with sea views and a garden path leading to the water’s edge sound?  Quite good?  The Old Church is better than you are imagining.  The interior is fabulous, the views are amazing and you can sit on the garden bench and watch for seals, otters or even dolphins passing by.  It’s that good.

The Old Church at Pennyghael

3. The Old School House
Again, we’re not messing around here, the sea is literally a stone’s throw away from the Old School House.  Surrounded by beautiful countryside, there is a gravel track that leads around the coastline through mature woodland, past pebble, and then sandy beaches.  It’s idyllic (and that word gets used a lot, but it really is idyllic).  The Old School house has an olde world charm and the sort of stunning mountainous scenery surrounding it that makes you want to come back again and again.

The Old School House at Croggan

4. The Bothy
You’d have thought by now we would be getting onto lesser options, but no, The Bothy is ultra special.  If you want to feel like you have reached the end of the earth and to have your mind blown by a huge, sweeping expanse of beach in front of your cozy cottage for two, then yes, The Bothy is for you.   This little area of Mull is divine with a capital ‘D’; you will not want to leave.

The Bothy at Lochbuie

5. Sands Cottage
If you want to stay in Sands Cottage, a word of warning, you have to book well in advance.  Take one of the best known beaches on the island (because it is truly beautiful), add a lovely stone built cottage with a stylish interior and buckets of character and you get a hot cake of a property that everyone wants to stay in.  Sandy toes in the ocean can be achieved just across the road from this stunning property.

Sands Cottage at Calgary