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.”
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.
If 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.
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.
But 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.
But, 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.
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.
But 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.
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.
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.
Following 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.
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.
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
It’s quite amazing how much attention the BBC is giving the Isle of Mull of late. As if the marathon wildlife report from the island on last week’s Autumnwatch wasn’t enough, they had even more in this week’s show.
Presenter Kate Humble told TV audiences during Thursday’s programme, “One of my favourite places in Britain is Mull,” adding “and where did you go last week without me? You went to Mull!”. That was the preamble to a further report on Dave Sexton of the RSPB on Mull, not talking about sea eagles but, somewhat surprisingly, the often overlooked garden birds like the little Robin.
You can view the clip here until next Thursday on the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service or download the WMV version and you have up to 30 days to watch it.
Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
It’s been shot a gazillion times before so this is hardly a surprising subject for budding snappers. But perhaps what is, is the unique take by Paul Corica of this oft-taken scene of the ruined old fishing boats on Salen’s shoreline.
Just north of Salen, on the road between Tobermory and Craignure, these decaying hulls on the Isle of Mull’s shoreline are rarely ignored by holidaying cameraphiles. But it takes a special bit of something (I know not what as I do not have it) to take a picture that’s been done to death, yet somehow bring a whole new perspective to it. Taken back in 2008, I only happened across it as the snap was mentioned/linked-to from Twitter.
I think that what Paul’s done here is a really striking take on the two rotting hulls, done in black and white.
As Paul explains on his Flickr profile:
“I took up photography in 2002 when I bought my first SLR (a cheap Canon). At about the same time my wife bought me a Canon IXUS V and I used the two in conjunction (one for serious shots the other for snaps). Although the film Canon was more versatile I preferred the instant feedback from the digital Canon and so slowly made the transition from film to digital.
I ditched film in 2005 and now only shoot in digital. When the Canon 400D came out I decided to make the leap into D-SLR and haven’t looked back.The 400D has subsequently been upgraded to a Nikon D300
I mainly take landscape shots around Yorkshire and Staffordshire, which are the two locations I live and work in, although whenever I visit other UK locations I always take a camera.”
What Paul’s managed to do is capture an image that you just can’t imagine can ever have anything original done to it. So congratulations to him for proving there’s always a new perspective, however hackneyed the subject!
Oh, and if you like the image as much as I do, you can have it professionally printed on various size boards here.
Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
No doubt, if you’re a fan of all things nature-related you probably caught last week’s episode of Autumnwatch on the BBC. Presenters Chris and Martin headed up to Mulll, ostensibly for the sea eagles, but it was actually quite a bit more than that. They also checked out the coastline and other interesting fauna dotted across Mull’s shoreline.
If you missed it, you have seven days to catch it on the BBC’s iPlayer service after it’s broadcast or, if you download the WMV file instead (under the Download button and click for Windows Media Player) you can view it up to 30 days after.
News to me, they mentioned that Pine Martens have been verified as back on the island and breeding, possibly sneaking back on Mull courtesy of a lorry and the CalMac ferry. Unfortunately badgers and foxes are totally absent on Mull, the presenters explaining that they were probably there until they were eradicated in the Victorian era. It’s odd that such recent events as what happened on the island during the Victorian era were never recorded for posterity.
Presenter, Martin Hughes-Games explained why he felt Mull was such a good place to visit for Wildlife watching. “I can honestly say I haven’t see so much wildlife in such a short space of time ever,” adding, “Now is a really brilliant time to go up there and do wildlife watching. There are three reasons for that. One is the midges aren’t there. The other is there are less people so it’s much easier to get around and the third thing is that the days are much shorter and the animals have to pack in their lives into a much shorter space of time. So they’re more obvious. They’re feeding, they’re playing.”
So, if you thought a holiday on Mull was limited to the summer months… well think again. Certainly not if one of your reasons for visiting are to see the raptors like the eagle and hen harrier, plus many other birds, deer and otters.
Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
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.