Mull holiday photos get fancy with Tripwow

These days we’re really spoiled when it comes to ways to share images with friends and family. I’ve been a fan of Flickr for as long as it’s been around and it’s better than ever today. It’s also ideal for the occasional snapper as the free account allows you to upload 100MB a month.

However, we’re not in any way occasional, having taken thousands of pictures since the kids were born. That’s why we went for a pro account on Flickr many years ago. This gives you unlimited uploads.

But the big problem with having so many pictures is how to best present them to your friends and family. Well that question might have been usefully answered by a recent visitor to Mull who posted to the Isle of Mull discussion forum on TripAdvisor, providing a link to a service I’d not come across previously.

Called TripWow the service (as illustrated above) lets you pick your favourite snaps and turn them into a really slick-looking slideshow with music, which you can then share with friends. That’s just what ‘woodybark’ has done with her selection of shots from a recent trip to the Isle of Mull.

Rather handily TripWow works with a bunch of online photography websites. Using the free service you can log in to your Flickr, Picasa or Facebook account, or just upload directly from your computer.

It’s a great way to give friends a flavour of what you did and saw on your holiday and, once created, your photo presentation is easy to share on services like Twitter and Facebook.

Ralph
Beach House Self-Catering, Isle of Mull
Twitter: mullescape

Mull — The all-year holiday island

Contrary to received wisdom, it’s not always the case that the Isle of Mull is off limits in the winter months. It’s true that the weather gets a whole lot chillier as we move towards the end of the year. But, thanks to being in the path of the Gulf stream, the island is bathed in warmer waters which usually keeps the harsher cold, often endured by Scotland’s east coast, at bay.

Nigel Cole proves that the Isle of Mull is a holiday destination at any time of year.Proving this point was an up-to-the-minute blog I discovered this morning by Nigel Cole. He’s on Mull outside of what might traditionally be considered the holiday season, yet is enjoying some excellent weather… the proverbial Indian summer no doubt.

As he explains, “Today was magic. We had a dream combination of no wind, sunshine, blue skies and low volume of tourists.” He then recounts a day spent traversing the whole of Mull; from Tobermory, all the way to Iona and the Abbey, where he says, “After completing our tour of the Abbey we strolled back to the ferry for our return trip to Mull and then embarked on a return drive, this time along the west coast of Mull which proved very pleasant in the afternoon sunshine. The single track road with poor surface provided an additional dimension to the trip which, overall, proved quite exhilarating.”

This, I think, helps to confound those who would say that Mull is best enjoyed in the summer. It’s an all year round island that can offer an all-round experience. Just think twice, perhaps, about skinny-dipping in the sea at this time of year!

Ralph
Beach House, Isle of Mull Self-Catering
Twitter: mullescape

Chartering a private boat when visiting Mull

Here’s another local business (based out of Oban) with some rather interesting snippets of information on its blog and facebook page. Called Coastal Connections it has quite a lot of attractive pictures taken on past charter trips around the coast and islands on its blog. Just click on the blog archive to see an overview.

Coastal Connections is based out of Oban and runs private charters to Mull and other parts of the Inner Hebrides.Coastal Connections has a rather beautiful website featuring a map of the west coast of Scotland pin-pointing its location and, presumably, the area it services with two boats. “We aim to make your journey to the islands as enjoyable as possible. Both our Redbay 11 metre cabined RIBs provide a safe, dry and comfortable environment in which to relax and take in the scenery and wildlife along the west coast. Cruising at an average speed of 30 knots you will reach your destination in no time at all. Our services range from commercial exercises to scenic tours of the Western Isles as well as private charters.”

Apart from using smaller boats to ferry myself to dive sites up the Sound of Mull, a past-time I can no longer do these days, it’s never occurred to me to charter a boat for a cruise around the islands. But, if you are a large group or have extended family members on Mull for a holiday, it could be a great way to spend a day.

There really is nothing quite like being able to take a view of the land from the sea. It’s more akin to how our ancestors would have seen the world, when the seas were our highways and venturing inland was a dangerous prospect.

That’s also why our forebears would have not seen the national distinctions we recognise today. Peoples from modern Ireland and Northern Ireland would have been ferrying back and forth between Scotland’s Islands and mainland in much the same way we take a car on the M6, to or from the south.

Anyway, if the idea of hiring a private boat to flit you around the islands holds some appeal, you should go check out what they have to offer.

Ralph
Beach House Self-Catering
Twitter: mullescape

Grand Tour of Scotland hits Mull, Iona and Staffa

I learnt something new after watching Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland on the BBC’s iPlayer. Seems that the whole Thomas Cook travel empire started life thanks to the said Mr Cook, a baptist and worker for the temperance movement, sending the working classes to bonnie Scotland. He apparently thought that taking people on tours of Scotland would keep them sober and away from the gin palaces.

Paul Murton visits Mull, Iona and Staffa in Scotland's Inner Hebrides in the TV programme 'Grand Tours of Scotland'Another little gem was that Cook was so shocked at the poverty which he found Iona locals living under that he set up a fund to which his tourists could contribute. This raised enough funds to buy 24 fishing boats for islanders. So Thomas Cook must rank as one of the very first eco-tourists, wanting to help the community he was visiting.

Anyway, these interesting historical snippets were recounted as Paul spoke to transport historian Nikki Macleod from the University of Greenwich, whilst they sat on the last ocean-going paddle steamer the Waverley, on its way to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull after leaving from Oban. This all starts about 15 minutes into the half hour programme, so it’s a good place to start if your main interest in this episode is his travels to the inner hebrides of Mull, Iona and Staffa.

A few other interesting pieces of information on the presenter include Paul’s connections with Mull. Seems he also has family on the island which he mentions as the Waverley steams into Tobermory harbour … in his opinion the most beautiful in Scotland. And, much like myself, he also chose to get married on Mull. Good call. Worked for us!

I should mention that, unless the programme gets re-broadcast at a later date, you’ll only be able to view this online if you’re somewhere in the UK up until the 17th of November.

Ralph
Twitter: mullescape

Mull’s lochs closed due to algal blooms

For anyone who has visited Mull for a holiday, you will know that the island, along with many other spots on the west coast of Scotland, has a booming industry growing shellfish on artificial reefs. Many of the Sea lochs also form excellent sheltered places for fish farming which has become an important source of income for locals.

These reefs are actually long sections of polypropylene rope which are seeded with mussel larvae and then suspended below a floating frame. These baby mussels then go on to filter the protected waters in the sea loch until they get to a size that’s ready for tables in the UK and other parts of Europe.

Mussels by JWU @ FlickrBut it seems that even the waters around Mull aren’t immune from toxins being produced by algae building up in some of the lochs. According to specialist website Fishupdate, Loch Na Keal, Ulva and Loch a Chumhainn, a particularly pretty inlet which forms the shoreline for Dervaig, had to be closed earlier this month. Signs were put up warning casual beachcombers to steer clear of eating self-picked shellfish such as cockles, mussels or razor shells.

As the website reports, “Commercial shellfish harvesters in these areas have been contacted by the Council and steps taken to postpone harvesting until algae levels subside. It is a sensible precaution to avoid eating shellfish from these areas until further notice. Monitoring work is currently being undertaken by the council to evaluate this situation and when the situation subsides, the warning notices etc., will be removed.”

Sadly this is a problem that would have been unheard of in the past. But, due to a range of factors, including run-off from farmland, many coastal areas across the UK can now suffer these algal blooms, some of which produce toxins which can be harmful if they enter the human food chain.

Fortunately, with the monitoring undertaken by Argyll and Bute Council’s environmental health service, any raised levels of these naturally occurring algal toxins can be kept out of the food chain and still allow everyone to enjoy fresh produce from the seas around Mull.

Ralph
Beach House Self Catering
Twitter: mullescape

Our Scotland featuring new Mull pictures

If you’ve not come across it yet, you should go check out ‘Our Scotland‘ which describes itself as, “One of Scotland’s fastest growing online communities, a place to share your love of all things Scottish”. It now has well over 1,000 members, both locals and visitors alike.

Sanna Bay on Ardnamurchan which is just a short ferry ride from Mull. Copyright Karin Haerdtle @ Our ScotlandAs I was looking at new photos on the site, I came across some new pictures taken by Karin Haerdtle. They’re well worth checking out. There are also a few from the Ardnamurchan peninsula just north of Mull. It’s only a short CalMac ferry ride from Tobermory to Kilchoan and for anyone staying on Mull it’s a great opportunity to explore the most westerly mainland point in the UK.

Karin has some pictures of what I’ve always felt was probably the best sandy beach on the whole of Scotland’s west coast. Called Sanna Bay, it’s only a short trip from Kilchoan to this beach which lies on the north side of the peninsula.

As a child I vividly remember visiting this beach during what felt like those endlessly long school summer holidays and managing (I don’t know how) to catch a tiny little octopus in, of all things, an empty crisp packet. I, of course, put it back after showing the parents what I’d managed to capture. Certainly a far cry from the usual array of eels and crabs that reside in Scotland’s rock pools.

On a sunny day the waters at Sanna Bay are the most amazing green-blue colour, looking much more likeĀ  something you’d expect to find in warmer tropical climes.

Ralph
Beach House Self Catering
Twitter: mullescape

Telling Mull’s birds apart the Web 2.0 way

If you’re keen on our feathered friends you’ll probably already be well aware of Mull’s impressive variety of bird life. Unfortunately I am pretty ignorant of what’s what when it comes to the birds I see dotted around Mull’s coastline and hills. I can just about manage to identify an Oyster catcher, Puffin or a Cormorant. Beyond that I’m getting out of my comfort zone.

The RSPB's Bird Identifier makes working out exactly what you saw whilst on Mull that much easier. All we now need is a version for smartphones.So I was quite pleased to discover a rather handy new web-based tool that the RSPB has on its website. The RSPB Bird Identifier is an interactive tool that helps you work out what bird you saw. You give it some basic details about the bird and the system suggests what it could have been.

Handily there are pretty good illustrations to go with the text description. In the case of the White Tailed Eagle page, it not only provides audio, video and a map of distribution around the country, but also gives estimates of numbers and links to further useful information on habitat and more.

So if you’re on holiday on Mull, this really is an excellent tool for pinpointing what feathered beastie you just spotted. The only downside… as yet no sign of an iPhone or Android app of this tool. Now that would be great.

Ralph
Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
Twitter: mullescape

How to find self-catering on Mull… the best places to start

We’ve only recently been renting Beach House as a self-catering location on the Isle of Mull. We’re in our third year and it’s been a learning experience.

But, from a holiday-maker’s perspective, trying to find the right piece of advice or information about good self catering properties and locations on the island can be quite a challenge. Without doubt there are a load of middling websites which are pumped up with paid-for property listings that are being touted on the basis of quantity over quality. For the poor person trawling through these it can be down-right drudgery.

Fact is, there really are only a few places on the web where you can get something approaching an independent, credible idea of what to expect.

Now, as someone on the rental side of the equation, I think I can give a view on which are the best places for any families or groups looking to rent a self-catering property on the Isle of Mull.

I plan to list a few I think will make life easier for people wanting to book their own holiday accommodation. But I’m starting with what I believe is probably the best resource of all if you’re looking, not just for self-catering on Mull, but anywhere else in the UK. I’m talking about Google’s very own Maps service. You can see it in action here with a map we created ourselves.

But it’s also an excellent way to visually pinpoint places all across the island — from Tobermory at the top to Fionnphort just next to Iona and everywhere in-between. It’s also much more than a mapping service. Listings on there can offer a wealth of additional information put up by property owners and independent reviews from former holidaymakers.

Here’s my run-though on how easy it is to use Maps to quickly find what you’re looking for:

Ralph
Twitter: mullescape

How to find Beach House Self Catering on Mull… an explainer

I’ve discovered a very handy service lately called Screenr. It lets you make short (5 minute) screencasts of whatever’s on your computer’s screen.

I used the opportunity to put together another quick explainer video on how you can make use of our ‘Getting to Mull‘ page which has all the details you’ll need, not only to get up to Mull, but also to find Beach House, once you’re on the island for your self catering holiday.




Ralph
Twitter: mullescape

Mull… the Otter’s paradise

At this time of year the BBC trots out its usual gaggle of over-enthusiastic wildlife presenters to coo over all sorts of soft and cuddly creatures in Autumnwatch. It’s just started a new run, “for an eight week celebration of UK wildlife”.

But I am not meaning to belittle overly-keen TV wildlife presenters. It’s great that our national broadcaster makes a big deal out of the country’s wildlife and tries to educate a predominantly urban population about the nature that’s all around us.

In his own small way, that’s also what landscape painter, and more recently, film-maker Angus Stewart is trying to do. I recently discovered his film, made over two years, of a local otter living in amongst the people of Mull and specifically the town of Tobermory. Aptly called ‘Tobermory and the Otter’, it recounts the tale of wild otters which become bold enough to live and interact with Tobermory’s local characters going about their daily lives.

As Angus explains, “This film is a rare insight into the usually secretive life of wild otters. You will see how an otter makes use of a community, its ingenuity and strategies, how it went about stealing… from fishing boats and the range of fish it caught as well as showing the remarkable interactions it chose to have with the town’s residents.”

The film reflects the changing nature of Mull weather throughout the year, with the ever-familiar backdrop of Tobermory’s painted facade completing the background of footage showing the extrovert otter in action.

It’s certainly a far cry from our all too camera-shy otters at our self-catering holiday home, Beach House. We have otters that live in and around the mouth of the local river, also called Beach. The Beach river flows into a crescent-shaped pebble-strewn beach which has large beds of seaweed towards the eastern tip of the bay. This is a perfect playground where the otters like to potter, most likely looking for tasty morsels of shellfish and unfortunate crab.

By contrast, the otters in Angus’s film seem far more relaxed in the hustle and bustle of life in and around Tobermory. So, if you rather like otters you might want to check out the movie clips of the full 50 minute presentation on his website and YouTube page. Though not currently available on DVD, it may be in the future.

Ralph
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.