Like any good adventure story exploring Mull and Lochaline had its thrills and descents. There were moments where I was gripping the seat before me so hard I feared I would pierce the fabric. Cliffs veered down to hungry waves and I quivered at the idea of skidding out of control. Memories of last winter’s car accident in Sweden ate at my nerves as I imaged a similiar scene here, but with a different ending. When we stopped and I spilled out onto the beaches, the ferries and the small patio of our borrowed cottage relief flooded in. Among the same scenes whizzing by only moments ago bliss was always patiently waiting.
When you talk with Scots they will always bring up the two things they are very proud of in their homeland: the highlands and the islands. It’s easy to see why. These lands have been inspiring tales, poems and music for centuries.
The ancient mountains bent low in their old age but standing proud nonetheless. Lakes gorging on the water rejected by the overly saturated ground bursting their banks and spraying waterfalls down the cliffs. I fancy I can see an old man or woman’s face in each mountain–their veins the water spilling down, the snow and stone signs of balding heads.
Probably ‘get off my toes’.
Mull was my first Scottish island. After hearing about the exquisite natural beauty of the isles I couldn’t wait to visit one. At the advice of a native Scotswoman (J’s mom) we were off.
The first two days were glorious. The sunshine was the stuff of legend here in Scotland. It had just snowed over the week (a blizzard even) but when we arrived in Lochaline, a tiny village with Mull in sight across the way, the flowers were primly dressed in their petal gowns. Buds too were straightening their backs and cherishing the sun.
Even the stones and debris were shining as J and I explored little Lochaline’s borders.
Across the way Mull’s snowy caps were glimmering. We couldn’t wait to get across the water and onto Mull’s back.
I love ferries. Why? Because we have few of them on the prairies of my homeland. There are not many bodies of water too large to build a bridge over you see. And the ferry between Lochaline and Mull held my fascination for the entire trip.
“Is she only going to take pictures of the ferry?” J’s father teased.
I grinned sheepishly.
Home to a mere 2,800 people Mull’s most metropolitan zone is Tobermory, which is home to about a third of the isle’s population. We decided to make our way there because the colourful houses of its bay had attracted our interest. Oh and a restaurant brewing with positive compliments, called Cafe Fish, had also attracted our attention. With zealous delight we wiggled our way down the one-lane highway to the isle’s humble capital.
What we found was exactly like the pictures: small, picturesque and vibrant.
We even peeked into the Mull Museum! The cool thing about small museums is that they haven’t really had the chance to pick through their collection for the “best pieces”. So you get to see EVERYTHING. It was like a curiosity shop. You really didn’t know what was around the next corner. Photos of modern school kids visiting digs and artsy hand-crafted models mingled with the museums prizes–a bronze pectoral crucifix from the 11th century and the shapes of two 8-reale “pieces of eight” which were salvaged from the wreckage of an ancient Spanish ship.
You might ask why I wrote “the shapes of” two 8-reale pieces of eight. Well the real ones aren’t there anymore. Why?
Some jackass stole them.
WHO STEALS FROM A COMMUNITY MUSEUM!????
I have a sneaking suspicion this girl was a psychic and predicted the coins would be taken. She KNOWS.
After filling our minds with Mull’s history we decided to fill our tummies with its food.
My food was delicious and J enjoyed hers too. Unluckily, the two people with a penchant for good food (J’s parents) excitedly cut into their fish only to find them uncooked on the inside. They notified the staff and to their credit the waitresses and (apparently new) chefs did the best they could, but since they decided to re-make the dish J and I were long finished before J’s parents could dig in.
J and I decided to leave them to it and go for a walk, where we then managed to lose J’s parents, somehow, on a one-road main street. No idea how that happened haha and a short burst of rain and no cellphone coverage didn’t help the situation (Tobermory only has coverage with some companies).
When we finally all met up it was time to scope out the place that inspired the name for a city near my hometown in Canada.
Calgary. Meet Calgary Bay.
The best part about this is the idea of a land-locked city (then fort I suppose) being named after a tiny-tiny village on a tiny-tiny Scottish island.
Outside of the “urban” centres the only thing humans were competing with for space was sheep, sheep and more sheep. With a dash of highland cows.
The old farmhouses were relatively frequent, but distant.
The last great thing we saw on the journey was a massive waterfall carrying water from the top of Mull’s snow-capped hills to the sea.
Funnily enough, despite seeing all that snow we never actually ran into any when we were driving around the island. It’s true that we stayed close to the coast-line, but there were some points where we were taken far up the mountainside by corkscrew roads.
There was a mad dash back to catch the second-to-last ferry to Lochaline. Unfortunately to our dismay the ramp was up and we thought we’d have to wait an hour…but the crew was awesome and lowered the ramp to get us loaded!
Flopping out of the car I dashed up the stairs to watch Mull’s shores blend into an abstract form of itself as distance formed between us.
It was like slipping through a magic curtain. Why hadn’t we seen any snowy peaks from the island itself? Where were all the lively people and animals now?
The only answer was the murmuring of the ferry engine.
Budget: Various. There were hostels, hotels, guesthouses and more. You can explore on your own or book tours.
Age group: Any.
Clothes: Be ready for rain. So I’d suggest rain-pants, a good coat and boots if you are hiking. If not just a good coat since you have to drive to get around any way. We went at the end of April so it was jeans and shirt weather. I hear it gets quite warm in summer though.
Culture: Relaxed. WAY relaxed. Like board games, puzzles and fireplaces relaxed.
Food: Bring snacks. It is a tourist island so there are pubs and restaurants everywhere along the routes but they can be sparse at places on the island.
Transport: Drive. There may have been buses but I think they are über rare. We did see some cyclists though and were debating coming back to do that ourselves since it must be a glorious ride in some places!
Time: I hear summer is very busy on this island and from what I saw that would be horrendous. With thousands of tourists traversing these tiny roads you would not get anywhere fast. The bumper months April-May and September-October are probably not bad but don’t quote me on that.