A new Mull & Iona Flickr group

Just discovered another photo group specialising in images of this part of the world on the website Flickr. Called, appropriately enough, the Mull & Iona Group, it’s full of some very good snaps taken by professional and amateur alike, though it does seem to be backed, directly or indirectly, by Scotland’s tourist board via Visitscotland.com?

If you have time it’s well worth checking out some of the shots already in the group. But the thing that really caught my eye came from a tweet from Mull&Iona saying “Mull & Iona Flickr map is coming together. Always need more so join in.”

Continue reading A new Mull & Iona Flickr group

Isle of Mull Top Tips: Four reasons to visit Iona

If you visit the Isle of Mull don’t overlook the smaller, but as important island of Iona, just off Mull’s south west coast. Only a short hop by ferry from Fionnphort, anyone holidaying ought to make time to check out what Iona has to offer. Here are four reasons we make regular trips.

Continue reading Isle of Mull Top Tips: Four reasons to visit Iona

Isle of Mull Beaches – Top 5 on the Ross

I often get asked about the different things to do when holidaying on Mull. Having been a regular visitor to the island since I was a kid there’s been plenty of opportunities to discover some great spots along the Isle of Mull coastline. So without further ado, here’s my personal top five beaches worth discovering on the Ross of Mull (that’s the southern end)…

Isle of Mull beaches. No.1 – Carsaig

Carsaig [MAP] is a stunning little spot on the southern coastline of the Ross of Mull. Like a lot of beaches on Mull it’s a single track road to the beach which has seen better days. The road down to Carsaig is fairly steep ending in a spot where a few cars can park. Facing the sea head to your right (west) along the track. After a short while you get to the bat where there’s a pretty good sandy beach.

However, if you carry on along the shoreline you reach the stone flats. This is an ancient seabed that’s turned to a soft porous rock and it’s absolutely stuffed with fossils which kids can literally pull out of the soft sand with their bare fingers. In addition there are some beautiful natural salt-water pools filled with all sorts of colourful life.

Carsaig is a great spot for a sunny day… and yes they do happen occasionally 🙂

Isle of Mull beaches. No.2 – Uisken Beach

Uisken [MAP] has a long stretch of white sand facing south towards the island of Colonsay. You get to it by taking the high road out of Bunnessan and, at the brow of the hill turning left and following the road over to the southern edge of the island.

For the hardier amongst you this is a great swimming beach as it’s got a long shallow incline. On summer days if you catch the tide coming in over the sand, the heat escapes from the warmed beach into the water coming up the shore, making it great for paddling or swimming.

For inveterate beach-combers it has loads of rocky outcrops full of small pockets of water, making it ideal for kids and grown ups who like to potter around finding crabs, eels, etcetera…

It also offers some stunning views. Well worth a visit and parking is reasonably good here with plenty of room for cars. To the right (facing the sea) the next beach is Ardalanish Bay. This is another white sand beach, well worth a visit.

Isle of Mull beaches. No.3 – Knockvologan

Knockvologan [MAP] is the beach formed between the Mull mainland and the island of Erraid, made famous by the author Robert Louis Stevenson in his novel Kidnapped. To get here drive to Fionnphort and take the road going past the St Columba Centre. This ends at the Knockvologan farm, where it’s possible to park in a walled area set aside for visitors. It’s then a 300 metre trek down a rocky farm road to the beach.

Again, this is one of these places which looks quite out of place in Scotland. White flat sandy beaches stretch out everywhere at low tide, with little stone outcrops dotted between. If you catch the tide coming in or going out it’s quite a sight as, with the beach being so flat, the water moves very fast in each direction.

But it’s relatively safe as the incline is such that you would have to wade out a very long way before it becomes deep water.

Isle of Mull beaches. No.4 – Scoor Beach

To get to Scoor beach [MAP] you take the road to the left of the A849 (heading west) 50 metres before crossing the stone bridge on the way into Bunessan. Follow this side road past Loch Assapol until you head uphill. At the top of the hill as it bends to the left (there’s a wildlife sign at the point where you stop) you can park to the side of the road and follow the path through the fields. This 5 minute trek takes you down to a long bay of white sand surrounded by steep rocky outcrops offering loads of fun for adults and kids alike who want to rock hop… just be careful as it’s a long way to go if you break an arm or leg!

Isle of Mull beaches. No.5 – Fionnphort Beach

Getting to Fionnphort beach [MAP] is fairly straightforward. Just follow the A849 until it runs out of road and you’re there. Park at the St Columba Centre where there’s no charges and head down to the beach following the path.

Because of the position and shape of Fionnphort’s bay it can catch a huge amount of seaweed at certain times of year – especially after stormy weather. This is great material for gardeners but can be a bit smelly to traverse to get to the beach. Fortunately it’s at the top of the bay and you’ll forget about it as soon as you gaze across the sound to the Island of Iona a short distance offshore.

Aside from the white expanse of sand, two distinct aspects of this beach are the surrounding pinkish rocky sides which were once cut to make stone slabs adorning buildings across the world and the huge boulder sitting at its centre, with a massive crack down the middle of it. This is a mini-me rock-climbing adventure for small and big kids alike who can climb up between the two halves of the boulder and sit on top.

If it’s a low tide you can head to the far north west corner of the beach and continue through to bays further along the coastline, offering lots of rocky outcrops between the sand for hours of distraction as you rummage through rock-pools and jump over the pink stone.

If the tide comes in just head up the hill and walk overland back to Fionnphort.

Q. Have you got a favourite beach at this end of the Isle of Mull which you’d recommend to others visiting the island? If you do please let me know below.

The Japanese Knotweed saga continues at Beach House

We were expecting as much. Sure enough, despite blitzing the forest of Japanese Knotweed last year, a bit of warmth and sunlight saw shoots appearing in what feels like a blink of an eye. So we’re up at Beach House just now, doing a bunch of bits n pieces, but our main target is this iniquitous invader.

We’ve still no idea how or where this plant made its way into the grounds of Beach House, our self-catering farmhouse on the Ross of Mull (that’s the bit that juts out to the south going towards the island of Iona). Our best, and only, guess is that the seed was transported to our ground by a bird as there’s no other known outbreaks of this foreign invader close by.

Anyway, this video gives you the update….

We’ve changed the booking days

Now our weeks are from Saturday to Saturday - click to check out our updated availability calendarIf you’ve visited Beach House before you might have found the Friday changeovers a bit of a pain. That’s understandable as, usually, most people like to arrive and depart on the weekend.

Previously it was impossible for us to do the changeovers on a Saturday or Sunday. But as of now that’s all changed. If you were put off because of the Friday changeover, that’s now a thing of the past.

So if you liked the idea of our self catering former farmhouse but didn’t like the Friday to Friday week, it’s from Saturdays from now on. Just go check out our availability calendar and see for yourself.

More of Mull on the TV this Xmas

Mull and TV is the same as feast and famine… or buses. You wait ages for yours to arrive and then two or three of them all turn up at the same time! Just a few months back we had a slew of programmes which featured aspects of the Isle of Mull. Geologist Iain Stewart was crawling all over Scotland looking at the history and geology, whilst the BBC’s AutumnWatch was focusing on the wildlife.

Then nothing…

More Mull on TV this XmasBut you can’t keep a good subject out of the media for long, so it was little surprise to see Mull and its islands reappear on last night’s “Three Men go to Scotland“. It was a bit of a rambling show where the editor had clearly played pretty fast and loose with the order of the footage. It seemed to allow the presenters, Rory McGrath, Griff Rhys-Jones and Dara O’Briain to hop between Mull and the mainland as if they were in a Tardis rather than a beautiful old sailing boat.

But in the limited time available for the show the three protagonists managed to spend time in Duart Castle learning about Clan MacLean. It then jumped back to the mainland to visit Inverawe smokery and a spot of scallop diving just outside Oban harbour before returning to Mull to go check out the always impressive Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa.

It was then on to the Ledaig Distillery (or Tobermory Distillery if you prefer). Rory McGrath was on a blagging mission to ensure an (un)healthy supply of the local brew, before heading off from Tobermory and around the Ardnamurchan headland to the north, despite a false start when they caught the boat’s propeller in a local lobster pot just outside Tobermory bay.

Clearly they shot quite a bit of footage on Mull that didn’t make it to the finished programme as Griff Rhys-Jones mentioned visiting Ulva which didn’t make it into the final edit. It would be nice to be able to see the material that never makes it to the final cut on the BBC’s iPlayer website, rather than being forever lost for lack of time in the main TV show.

RSPB Warden Dave Sexton on Springwatch Xmas SpecialBut, just like the buses, there was more on Mull this festive season in the form of the Springwatch Christmas Special. Towards the end of the 90 minute show the programme revisited RSPB Warden Dave Sexton who monitors the eagle population on Mull.

It seems that the BBC has a wildlife fund which contributed cash in 2007 towards the eagle revival programme on the island and Dave explains how the money has helped towards the overall success of the project. It’s well worth viewing this segment before the catch-up service on the BBC iPlayer site expires.

Check out Mull Events on Facebook

I just came across this Facebook group for events being held on Mull. I’ve got links (at the bottom of the page) to other resources for various happenings on the Isle of Mull already, but this service has the added advantage of being shared via Facebook and Twitter.

Here's a new approach to getting hold of event information on the Isle of Mull -- crowd-sourced through Twitter and Facebook. Ideal for visitors with a Facebook or Twitter app on their phone.The main benefit of doing this is that, as a holiday visitor to Mull, it makes it very easy to sign up via your phone to either the Twitter stream or the Facebook wall using one the many apps out there for smartphones. This way you can have up-to-the-minute information on what’s going on where, during the next seven days. It’s a fantastic development as, whilst we have listings for events on Mull from other websites, as yet there has never been a single comprehensive place where you could (hopefully in time) find everything in one place.

This is the explainer I found on the Facebook group from Angust Stewart, “On the 18 December 2010 the U.K. had 28,935,380 Facebook users. It’s hoped that people understand the usefulness of posting a notice on the Isle of Mull Events Noticeboard. Both island residents and visitors can now receive, by computer or mobile phone, information about events taking place during the next 7 days. It is hoped that this can help to support and stimulate events on Mull. Events, however small, may have a better chance of finding their audience.

If you’re planning a visit to Mull it’s another handy way to keep abreast of what’s coming up during your stay.

Now, if only these events could be dropped into a public Google calendar… they’d just appear in my phone 🙂

The closure of Ulva Primary on Mull… how bankers blew up island life

We’re pretty fortunate that loads of people visit Mull, not just in the summer but all year round. But for locals the more mundane aspects of everyday life still have to be completed. As an island, simple tasks such as shopping, transport and access to services like health and education can be a bit more challenging. It’s just the reality of island life.

Ulva Primary school logoBut as we complete the first decade of the 21st century, you’d think that forcing kids to commute for over an hour to get to school would be a little much to expect when they already have a perfectly functional classroom in their community. Yet that’s precisely what’s about to happen as the Ulva Primary School (which is on Mull but right next to the island of Ulva) is slated for closure, meaning kids will now have to take a school van up hill and down dale to go to the next nearest in Dervaig, itself eight miles from Tobermory.

It’s a fairly arduous daily task for both driver and kids. Potentially over two hours of round-trip commuting to and from the school via a route that Argyll and Bute Council thinks will be passable in winter — which is a whole debate in itself.

View A Route: Kellan to Dervaig, via Burg in a larger map

This issue has been very smartly highlighted by the Save Ulva Primary School campaign, who decided to illustrate the issue by filming (and speeding up) just what’s involved in transporting kids all the way from their homes up to Dervaig… and it was captured on a good day with little traffic. What would it be like, you have to wonder, when it’s snowed under or there’s a lot of traffic on these single track, poorly maintained sections of road?

Now let’s just think about this from a cost/benefit perspective for a second. There’s the cost in fuel and in paying for the time of the driver. That must all surely add up? There’s also the loss of part-time employment to the area of three staff. Then there’s the environmental and very obvious safety issues of sending a van full of small kids up and down a less than ideal road. Then there’s the question of how the loss of this amenity will affect the local community it currently serves. That’s one that’s impossible to put into financial terms.

It does make you wonder if the council, in its enthusiasm to close a vital rural school to ‘save money’, may actually just be shifting around the numbers from various spreadsheets but, in the end, not actually saving enough to justify the closure of a vital community resource? It may save on the education budget, only to pop up on the transport one or some other line item in other departments. Have the wider implications of this decision really been thoroughly considered in this plan?

OK, so this isn’t so much about why the island of Mull is a beautiful holiday destination (which it is!). But part of Mull’s popularity lies in the people that choose to live there and have helped to make the island the appealing holiday destination that it is. If the council takes a short-term view on ways to save money and cut costs — which may be smoke and mirrors in any event — then it could be damaging a vital part of what helps maintain the vibrancy and appeal of the island for residents.

Maintaining services in rural island communities is always going to be more expensive than in a densely populated city. But if we want our islands to have a healthy future, it won’t be helped by short-term cost-cutting of services that are a vital lifeblood and part of the solid foundations of wider island life where the knock-on effects of any cuts will be much more keenly felt.

Anyway, if you’ve ever visited the Isle of Mull or you agree that there’s real reason for Argyll & Bute Council to reconsider this closure, you should head over to the campaign website and sign the online petition, which is currently at 395 signatures.

And all because some bankers wanted to make a quick buck and very nearly brought our economy to the brink of disaster. We now own these banks but have no money to pay people who actually contribute something to society and our future generations. Everyone else is footing the bill, including, it seems, the kids of Ulva Primary School.

Richard Peters’ Otter shots on Mull

I’ve been meaning to mention Richard Peters for a few weeks. I came across his photography website after someone tweeted about his otter photos from Mull, around about the time the island was being splashed across the TV in Autumnwatch.

An otter clambering over the seaweed on the Mull coastline - copyright Richard Peters PhotographyFollowing that link I discoved some beautiful images that Richard had captured back in 2009 of otters doing what they like to do. Mind you, they are nothing if not elusive and usually difficult to spot as you drive by the coastline, often missing them gamboling on the shoreline unless you’re particularly eagle-eyed. Yet Richard perservered and found his target, capturing some fantastic images in the process.

His account of how he came to be on Mull is well worth a read, as he mentions that it was through pure fluke that he first spotted otters eating at Craignure, just as they waited to leave Mull at the end of their holiday, back in 2007. But that experience made him want to revisit Mull to capture these beautiful mammals on camera, which he realised upon a return trip in 2009.

You can see the results of his return to Mull on this blog entry.

Reporter recounts cruise round Mull in former fishing trawler

Until today I didn’t even know that the town of Coventry could still muster up a local paper of its very own. But, for the fortunate folks of that town, it seems there’s still some life left in the local rag… called the Coventry Telegraph.

If you're planning a holiday to the Isle of Mull you could spend some time cruising around the coastline courtesy of the Majestic Line out of Oban.Why am I mentioning this? Well local reporter Darren Parkin was recently up on, in and around the Isle of Mull for a seven day cruise on the Glen Tarsan, courtesy of The Majestic Line, owned by Andy Thoms and Ken Grant. Based in Oban and Dunoon the company runs a number of cruises around Argyll waters, one of which encircles Mull over six nights in, of all things, a converted fishing trawler!.

It’s certainly a far cry from the larger ocean-going cruisers which can really only dock at fairly large berths. With a converted fishing boat, it’s much easier to pop in and out of the ragged Mull coastline, stopping at the many smaller piers along the way. This is the trip Coventry Telegraph reporter Darren Parkin took and reports on for the paper.

It’s a good report, excepting the tired and over-used story about how Tobermory is also known as Balamory… yeah yeah enough already. But Darren then gets into his stride, writing an enjoyable piece that even made me wonder if I couldn’t squeeze in a cruise sometime. “Skirting the top side of Mull during the afternoon, the boat anchored in Loch Sunart later in the day as the sun was beginning to drift towards the horizon. There was time for a walk from rocky coastline, through shaded woodland and up a relatively easy ascent to behold spectacular views from the hills.”

So, if you’re planning to holiday on Mull, you could spend part of your time getting a quite unique view of a unique island, in an fairly unique manner… apparently the boats don’t even smell of fish any more 🙂

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
Twitter: mullescape

A spacious self catering house on the Isle of Mull with spectacular views and superb visitor reviews, Beach House is a must for your holiday in Scotland.