Tag Archives: weblink

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.

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
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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:

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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.

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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.

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Isle of Mull Xmas Ideas… it’s such a puzzle

OK, OK… so it’s only the start of October, but my local supermarket has already pushed all its Xmas nonsense into the aisles. So I was thinking, what to get people that have been up to Beach House, our self catering former farmhouse which we restored some 20 years ago? It’s a tough one.

By artist Terry Harrison this painting has been turned into a 1000 piece jigsaw. But you could just as easily use your own images.Then I came across this rather simple, yet quite fun, idea. Why not give people a jigsaw of a scene taken on Mull? The thought was triggered by a recent link I probably found on Twitter to a website that is selling jigsaws made from a reprint of a painting showing Tobermory harbour and the colourful buildings that populate its seafront. The same puzzle’s available from a bunch of online retailers, including Amazon.

Of course, you’re not tied to using ready made images like this, pretty as it is. It’s now ridiculously easy to take your own treasured photos of various places you snapped, be it Iona Abbey, Torosay Castle, or any other location on Mull that captured your imagination, and have it turned into a very personal present.

A quick search on Google UK using the term ‘make your own jigsaw‘ spat out a bunch of companies specialising in this area. Snapfish, Prinster and Myphotopuzzle were some of the first to catch my eye. Though I’d definitely recommend doing a little research. You can get them made for less than a tenner or go overboard with a 1,000 piece monster for three times that price.

And once you start to investigate it’s apparent you can do other innovative things, such as make up special occasion jigsaws for people’s birthdays or important events using any snap of your choosing.

All I need to do now is work out which of the many wildlife and location photos I’ve taken over the years of various places dotted around Mull, I want to turn into a jigsaw. That’s possibly the hardest part of the whole exercise…

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Mull’s new(ish) swimming pool on Britain’s Best Buildings

Britain’s Best Buildings is a website that pretty much does what it says on the tin. A variety of commercial, industrial, public and domestic buildings are listed on the site and you can select the number of stars you want to give to each.

Isle of Mull Community Pool, CraignureI spotted that the pool that was built in Craignure and opened in 2008, just next to the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferry Terminal, is now listed on the Britain’s Best Buildings website. Go take a peek and click some stars — it’s currently at 3 out of 5.

There’s a lot of history behind this project. Islanders spent nearly three decades trying to raise funds to make the idea of a public pool a reality. They raised many thousands but it just wasn’t quite enough. The Pool cost £1.8 million to build and quite probably would never have happened if there hadn’t been financial support from the Argyll and Bute Council, Argyll and the Islands Enterprise, SportScotland and a hotel group which also uses the pool’s facilities as an amenity for guests.

Perhaps because it is a shared use facility with the hotel, it’s of a very high standard. It’s not just a pool but also has spa facilities, hair salon, steam rooms and more. It’s definitely not your typical council-style affair. That said, it’s only 16 metres in length so if you’re a serious swimmer you might find it a little frustrating compared to a standard 25m pool.

But, that criticism aside, it’s in an ideal spot, pretty much exactly half way between Bunessan and Fionnphort to the south and Tobermory and Dervaig to the north of the island. And with the weather never a certainty on Mull, it’s a great fall-back plan if you are on holiday with kids and at a loose end.

You can see exactly where Isle of Mull Community Swimming Pool is located on our map.

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Blogging: How Mull leaves its mark on Nigel

Nigel Cooke, aka monkeyleader, is an Irishman currently living in Cambridge who happens to be on holiday on Mull right now. He may just be one of the best real-time bloggers I’ve come across of late. He’s written an engaging entry in his blog about a quick return trip to Mull after a visit earlier in the year, which made him and partner Nicola fall in love with the place.

Copyright Nigel Cooke aka monkeyleaderAs he’s only just recounted on his blog (he’s writing this as it happens whilst on Mull… not like days of yore when you’d be lucky to get a picture on the telly!) “Highlights for us included a pair of Golden Eagles, a pair of White Tailed Sea Eagles, Buzzards, Hen Harriers, Osprey, Otters, Kestrel, Northern Gannet, Shags, Great Cormorant, Common Seals, Grey Heron, Curlew, Rock Dove, Rock Pipit, Hooded Crows, Ravens, Red Deer and a Little Grebe.”

Seems Nigel’s a bit of a polymath, not only having a rather good writing style but also some excellent photography skills to boot.

I am jealous 🙂

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British Sea Power reports on recent Mull Trip

According to Last.fm, “British Sea Power are a four-man indie rock band based in Brighton, England, although three of the band hail originally from Kendal in Cumbria. Their style encompasses sweeping and often epic guitar pop with more visceral, angular and esoteric noises and instruments. Critics have likened their sound to a variety of groups, from The Cure to Pixies. They have released four albums and a number of EPs (most on Rough Trade) since they formed in 2000.”

Post Gig at An Tobar Arts Centre, British Sea Power and pals gathered at The Mishnish as illustrated by Tony HusbandThe band were up on Mull (and then Eigg) to perform at An Tobar, Tobermory’s 60-seater Arts Centre, last September. For any followers of the band, there is now an entertaining two-parter about the trip up to the Isle of Mull on the music website Drowned In Sound… presumably that’s not a literal reference to a tragedy in the Sound of Mull! 🙂

It’s an entertaining tale of drivers getting lost on the wrong side of Scotland, comic scenes, such as losing recording equipment over the side of a CalMac boat and a gig where the band premiered their new eight track CD ZEUS after having consumed one too many whiskies beforehand. It was then rounded off by a trip to the Mishnish to carry on the important work of whisky sampling into the small hours.

The jaunt has now been recounted, not just in words and pictures, but also through the eyes of the cartoonist Tony Husband. Well worth the few minutes of your time that it will take to read the two-parter.

If you’re unfamiliar with the band and you’d like to know what they sound like, you can visit their MySpace page to hear a few of the new tracks which they performed at An Tobar.

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Derek Fogg’s images of Mull

Derek Fogg, a landscape photographer based in North West England, runs the website British Landscapes. He’s recently added a new set of pictures called the “Isles of Mull and Iona” which contains some beautiful landscape images captured during his recent visit.

As Derek explains in his blog, he started out with about 600 images from all over Mull and Iona, but he’s now cut this down to 40, some of which are now live for others to appreciate.

These latest photos are part of his wider project to journey around the British Isles capturing landscapes. But, whilst he had some pretty challenging conditions during his stint on Mull, he’s managed to capture some really evocative and beatifully composed images.

Salen is on the east coast of the island, on the Sound of Mull, approximately halfway between Craignure and Tobermory. Copyright Derek Fogg @ britishlandscapes.comYou often see photographs from Mull which, perhaps inevitably, represent familiar subjects that crop up again and again. The three rotting fishing boats on the Salen coast road to Tobermory are pretty iconic with everyone who passes by with a camera. But Derek has managed to take those old hulls and place them in the context of their surroundings beautifully, with a backdrop that follows the line of the Sound of Mull northwards and thus gives a great sense of overall place.

Check out his other photos. It’s well worth the visit.

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Mull’s Torosay Castle featured in Guardian’s ‘Snooping Around’

Just 40 minutes from Beach House, we’ve had some fun times with the kids at Torosay Castle over the years. The kids always love the railway and the Shetland Ponies. That’s why the Guardian’s mini-feature on the house in it’s Snooping Around section caught my eye. It’s a beautiful building but you can imagine it would take some effort to maintain the sprawling house and gardens which are just a short mini-steam engine ride from Craignure ferry terminal.

Torosay Castle is up for sale after being in the same family since 1865. Image copyright Savills.Then there’s the 880 acres that go with it. That’s possibly why anyone who has been on holiday on Mull and has a hankering to lay down some roots, might think twice about forking out the seemingly modest £2.8 million asking price the current owners are seeking. That probably doesn’t tell the bigger story of trying to maintain a property like this, built to the needs of a very different era.

It was completed in 1858 with some 60 odd rooms in a building built in the Scottish Barionial Style. The current owner’s family has lived there since 1865. Now in the 21st century, Torosay needs to pay for its upkeep and that’s been through providing tourist  access to the Castle, grounds and steam railway for many years.

Still, if you relish a challenge, rather like the many unique things that Mull has to offer and you happen to be loaded, then check out the sales particulars.

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