An t-Eilean Muileach
(written by Dugald MacPhail)
An t-Eilean Muileach, an t-eilean aghmhor,
An t-eilean grianach mun iath an saile
Eilean buadhmhor nam fuarbheann arda fountains,
Nan coilltean uaine, ‘s nan cluaintean fasail mountains.
(The Isle of Mull is of isles the fairest
Of ocean’s gems ’tis the first and rarest,
Green grassy island of sparkling fountains,
Of waving woods and high tow’ring mountains.)
As explained in Pt 1, a trip to Mull to activate Ben More was proposed a few months earlier but remarkably little planning had gone into doing anything else in our near 4 day stay except we planned a day trip to Iona….
After filling Roddy’s Discovery, we left Port Glasgow heading to Oban and a date with the ferry just before midday. The weather was like the forecast, changeable as we first headed north then west along the Pass of Brander through Connal, past the Falls of Lora and down the hill into Oban and an obligatory visit to Tesco to stock up on some last-minute essentials.
As we stood on the pier, Mull was showing itself to the west standing proud over the nearby island of Kerrera, cloud obscuring the high points…
The car was booked in, tickets bought and as we parked inside the car deck of the ‘Isle of Mull’, we headed up to the upper deck to take in the sea air and say goodbye to the mainland for the next few days.
A non eventful crossing with flat calm seas and as we neared Craignure, our ‘camp’ site appeared high on the shore…the white ‘Sheilings’.
We drove off the boat and less than 5 mins away was the camp-site but as we were too early to book in, we decided a trip to Dhiseig to see and plan our route for Sunday.. If you have ever driven on Mull, you will know that single track road is the norm so a gentle drive through various hamlets(or is it clachan ?) with scenery going from lush green to barren hillside at every turn of the road. Roddy had visited Mull on many occasions so a running commentary was helpful to us two Mull virgins…
Driving through Gruline, we noticed an intriguing orange sign so we stopped and had a closer look at the sign which points to Lachlan MacQuarrie‘s Mausoleum, a bit of Australia on Mull.
I have mentioned the pre run in part 1 so I will skip that in this post.
We left Dhiseag to drive the long way back to Craignure, we stopped and marvelled at the cliff face above the road at Aoineadh Mor then as we drove into Gribun we stopped and looked across to Inch Kenneth and noted the large house on the island, later I Googled and found out the history of this island and found a short film with the remaining Mitford sister HERE. A place steeped in a much varied history.
Leaving Gribun and heading back through wild landscapes until we reached Loch Scridain and its Loch Beg where we stopped and took a look at Ben More from the ‘opposite end’. I have included the panoramic photo of Ben More and it’s sister hills in the Gallery below.
Heading back through Glen More we passed forest and high hills on both sides then passing the shores of Loch Spelve before eventually reaching Craigure and our ‘shieling’
Sadly I never took a photo of the view from the camp-site where you could see Ben Nevis, the twin peaks of Beinn a’Bhleither, Bidean Nan Bian, Ben Starav and to the east, Ben Cruachan. I had hoped to catch this view later in the visit but the cloud base was always low…
We spent Saturday evening on the camp-site exploring…firstly we headed down to Craignure station where the Mull Railway ran from, the station building preserved as it was, railway article HERE. Sadly or for the better, the railway is in the process of being sold and is possibly heading for Loch Lomondside HERE. We later settled in the ‘common room’ and whilst Patsy and I watched some TV, Roddy made contact with Robin PKT through the repeater at HI which was literally on top of the hill above us. A look on Google for mobile phone availability gave us a negative for most of the island but surprisingly we had signal on most of the island, Internet connection was pretty good except for my attempt to post an SOTA alert on the Sun morn but a quick call to Neil NCM soon sorted that. Thanks, Neil.
The hill was activated, see earlier blog post for this HERE.
The plan for Monday was a trip to Iona but we had woken to heavy rain and high winds but off we ventured taking the road to Fionnphort where we first headed down to Fidden where there are some fine walks, we headed back to Fionnphort and parked the car to walk down to the ferry pier. The sea was pretty rough and after a short look across to Iona it was into the local pub and had a coffee.
Heading back we reversed our journey through Bunessan passing through mixed farmland and moorland until we reached Loch Scridain, drew into a lay-by and looked at the mussel farm layout and the views once again to Ben More.
Passing through Pennyghael we noticed some amateur satellite dishes and antennas, the road was reasonably busy, the road manners were admired as each person would either draw in or beckon to the oncoming traffic, imagine this on the mainland. With Pennyghael passed we now turned on to the B 8035 and headed back to Gribun taking in the views to Ulva, Staffa and Inch Kenneth and beyond. Roddy and myself had noticed later in an article online that if you stand on the shore in the Gribun area, the sandstone rocks are the same sandstone which was laid down at the same time in history in certain Middle Eastern desert areas.Article HERE….The geological history of Mull is an interesting subject and if interested please just google ‘Mull Geology’….
Next stop was our previous day parking spot at Dhiseig and a quick look at a cloud shrouded peak before heading alongside Loch Na’Keal to the road junction at Gruline. At the junction we took the B 0873 road westwards taking in the views of Eorsa and Ulva whilst passing through varied scenery. The sea which had been glass like the previous day now was showing the occasional white top as the wind had strengthened overnight. Every corner, every turn of the road meant there was always something different to look at and finally as we turned NE at Ensay, the sight of waves crashing over rocks and cliffs at Calgary Bay was impressive, a quick stop to admire the views and to take some photographs
Calgary Bay has a white beach with machair surrounding it on all sides and is an oasis in such a rocky coastline. An excellent place to walk and take in the crisp sea airs and yes, there is a Canadian connection HERE Onward we headed inland again slowly rising up in height again to moorland interspersed with forest, passing through Dervaig before dropping down to Tobermory or Balamory it is more affectionately known due to the popular BBC children’s series.
Eventually we deciphered the cryptic diversion signs and parked the Discovery and went to find the well known Fish and Chip van at the pier and after a short walk looking at various points of interest, it was meal time and the reputation of this chip van was added to by having a freshly cooked Haddock Supper, excellent battered piece of fish and freshly fried chips, superb……
It was now time to leave Balamory and head to our base at Craignure, we left and within 30 mins we were back at our ‘sheiling’, it was time for a quick cuppa and to pack some stuff away as the next day, it was to head home.
Interesting note on our impromtu ‘Round Mull Tour’, Mull has 300 miles of coastline, poor Roddy had driven quite a few of them.
An early rise, breakfast then everything packed and stowed into the Discovery and off we set for the nearby pier.
The ferry left at 11am and I made my way to the top deck to have a last look at Mull as it disappeared behind us.
45 mins later we docked and disembarked to first go and fuel up in Oban, we had decided on a trip to see McCaig’s Tower which dominates the higher part of Oban, we made our way and parked then walked round what is an impressive granite folly with great views over the town and harbour of Oban.
We soon left Oban behind passing through Dunbeg then Connel, I had hoped to stop and see the Falls of Lora at Connal Bridge but the tide was wrong, next time ? and when at Taynuilt, we took the road towards the old Bonawe ferry pier. We sat and admired the Etive views and attempted later to visit the Iron Furnace but it was closed. Tourism at its best….
Leaving Taynuilt we quickly headed through the Pass of Brander, mulling over routes up Ben Cruachan whilst heading to what is a hidden gem in this part of the world, the B 8074 road through Glen Orchy. The recent wet weather meant that the River Orchy was at a good height for salmon to run the river and a few anglers were seen out trying to tempt the occasional grilse. I spoke to one angler who had earlier returned two fish of just under five pounds, we had stopped at the ‘shoogly’ bridge at Catnish. It was encouraging to see the anglers were fishing the fly and that the policy on the river beats were to return each fish to help build and preserve stocks.
Looking at the steep slopes rising from the glen floor, mist showed on these higher parts whilst occasionally a steady drizzle fell. A further stop at a man-made weir to see if any fish would attempt jumping but none were seen. We headed onwards to reach the main road, stopping occasionally to take photos or admire the views. The autumnal colours added to the scenery.
The road is a classic single track so allow time for travelling if you visit.
We reached the junction with the A82 and had a look at the mist covered tops of Beinn Dorain, Beinn an’Dothaidh, among others, we headed south past Meall Odhar and passed through Tyndrum, the weather improved slightly at Crainlarich where we turned on to the road to Loch Lomond, we stopped in the lay-by where we had in May left to climb Cruach Ardrain then it was off down Glen Falloch to familiar roads and home.
Four days and as you will see, we managed to pack in a busy itinerary which was made up as we headed along.
The weather was typical autumnal fare and the high point weather wise was the hours we spent on Ben More. We could not complain.
Please feel free to click on the images in the Gallery as they link to the original size ( except one or two)
Many thanks go to Roddy for the McCaig Tower photos…
Just as an aside, I found this intriguing page of the information about bare ersed walking….if interested, look HERE
I think it is one I’ll pass on
My thanks go to Roddy and Patsy for both their company and lastly, Roddy for driving.
If interested in the ‘Sheilings’, their website is HERE