Tag Archives: Website

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

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

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

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

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…

Ralph
Twitter: mullescape

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 🙂

Ralph
Twitter: mullescape

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.

Ralph
Twitter: mullescape