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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.

The hackneyed hulls on Mull’s Salen shoreline still surprise

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.

Paul Corica has managed what I thought was the impossible and taken one of the most photographed objects on the Isle of Mull and brought a fresh perspective to it. Click to view full size. [Copyright Paul Corica at Flickr].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.

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

Ron’s Red deer rut photos from Mull

Here’s another rather good set of photos from enthusiastic wildlife photographer Ron McCombe. Ron was on holiday on the Isle of Mull for the rutting season, when you can see the male red deer establishing dominance and mating rights.

Based in the Scottish Borders, Ron was out to try to capture these events on camera. I think he’s done a pretty good job.

Ron McCombe captures a Stag in mid-bellow, creating a steam cloud in the air.As Ron explains, “I have been on the Isle of Mull all week looking for the red deer rut. The deer were all around and as the day ended they could be heard roaring as the rut took place. The challenge was to find them during daylight hours roaring and fighting. I concentrated on the south side of the island, Grasspoint, Pennyghael, and Carsaig. I encountered most of the deer I came across in these areas. Grasspoint was the main site and in particular Achnacraig. I visited the same sites every day. the best day for seeing action was Monday 18th.”

We’ve been fortunate in being able to see and hear the ruts right from the front of Beach House armed with nothing more than a pair of binoculars and a hot cup of coffee. Roughly evenly between Pennyghael and Bunessan, Beach has about eight acres of grounds surrounding the house with a pine forest to the west, which acts as a windbreak and a convenient sheltering area for local wildlife. From our vantage point we’ve been able to see all the action laid out before us, as if it were a play which the deer were personally putting on for our enjoyment.

Of course, it’s not like this every year as the deer can roam far and wide. But we’ve been lucky that the deer have literally come to our front door on many a rutting season. So full admiration to Ron for clearly being persistent. The results speak for themselves.

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

The Isle of Mull’s hidden history

I’m not a prolific reader these days. Having two small kids tends to drain away the time I once devoted to piling through novels. When I did read though, it tended to be factual tomes rather than fiction. I’ve always had a preference for books on history or science.

When on holiday on Mull you will pass many ancient archaeological sites which this website helps you to discover.Fortunately we’re on holiday at the moment, and it’s on these rare occasions that I make the effort to catch up on some reading. That brought me to one of my favourite authors, Bill Bryson, and his new book “At Home – a short history of private life“. In his usual style, he starts off focusing on a very specific topic, in this case the history of the home, but somehow manages to range all over the place, incorporating lots of interesting snippets of historical information.

In the introduction he mentions how his Norfolk home is next to a church that appears to have sunk some three feet into the ground. In reality the ground has risen due to the thousands of people buried there over the last 1,000 years. It’s the sort of historical tidbit that catches your imagination and also brought me to consider some of the many hidden archaeological treasures dotted around the Isle of Mull’s countryside.

To the casual observer on a holiday to Mull, it wouldn’t be immediately obvious that the island is covered in archaeological sites from pre-history right up to the modern age and the tragedy of the highland clearances. You can read a quick synopsis on Mull’s history here.

But even if you’re not trained in the field, there are some excellent resources that can make a visit to Mull a much more illuminating experience… if it’s your kind thing of course.

One website I recently happened upon is The Megalithic Portal and Megalith Map. Now this website isn’t about to win any awards for being pretty on the eye, but what it does do is deliver a wealth of geographical information about ancient sites all over the UK, Europe and the wider world. I came across it when someone tweeted about visiting a megalith not far from Salen at the centre of Mull.

It was on this website that I discovered a detailed interactive map which pinpoints a wealth of interesting historical sites all over the Isle of Mull. The map embedded in the website uses Yahoo Maps, but I prefer the Google Maps version.

Usefully, you can also extract the latitude and longitude information, thus making it a whole lot easier to pinpoint sites which would otherwise be masked by time and plant growth.

So, whether you want to holiday on Mull for the wildlife, beaches, or scenery, you can now add a little bit more to the history of the island and the peoples who once lived there, thanks to this handy website.

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

Isle of Mull… not so off the beaten track

OK, so it’s fair comment that when it comes to entertainment Mull can’t compete with what’s to be found in our big cities. Yet, despite Mull being just a little off the beaten track, there are still a surprising range of entertainment opportunities for holiday-makers.

Ed Byrne is playing An Tobar on the Isle of Mull this November... sadly it's already sold out :(I was just perusing the An Tobar website this morning when I was reminded of this fact. This November the comedian Ed Byrne is on Mull for a stand-up show, which, much to my disappointment, is already sold out. Ed’s probably best known for his regular appearances on the BBC’s ‘Mock the Week’. That would have been a definite excuse for a trip back up to Beach House to catch that!

Once you start to do a little digging though, it quickly becomes apparent that you can find quite a range of shows dotted across the island, using as venues the various village halls to be found from Fionnphort and Bunessan to Dervaig and Craignure.

The listings website I generally find has a good cross-section of events and shows on offer around Mull is The List, though there are others such as Wild Isles which covers a wider area, but focuses exclusively on outdoors events and activities.

Oddly though, when I checked The List website for the Ed Byrne show in An Tobar, it was nowhere to be found! Can’t win them all…

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

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