Scotland is in the privileged position of boasting numerous villages, towns, cities, beaches, islands, lochs and National Parks which could easily and legitimately be described as the country’s ‘jewel in the crown’. But if any of the plethora of candidates is, in fact, more worthy of that title than any other, then the Isle of Mull is the extra special part of a jewel which sparkles as the light catches it.
Snuggled just off Scotland’s west coast, the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago, the Isle of Mull provides a dreamy recipe for a UK escape, bestowed with bountiful jaw-dropping scenery, breath-taking wildlife and a generous sprinkling of culture. Not to mention an intriguing history involving Vikings and the Spanish Armada.
As Great Britain’s fourth-largest island, boasting 300 miles of coastline, Mull’s diverse landscape is spectacular – featuring beaches, mountains, lochs and moorland. It is also home to more than 261 different species of birds – including several birds of prey – and nearly 2,400 species of plant.
Sealife lovers in particular will fall head over heels for this beautiful island, with basking sharks, dolphins and minke whales all residents of the surrounding waters, but there’s plenty to see and do to keep those of all ages and interests dreaming of a return visit.
Whether you’re looking to walk on the wild side by enjoying some active outdoor adventures or wildlife spotting, looking to kick back with a relaxing or romantic break away, or simply on the hunt for somewhere new to explore, with delicious local produce to sample and a spot of history and culture thrown in, the Isle of Mull is guaranteed to be right up your street.
Separated from the Scottish mainland by the Sound of Mull, south of Fort William, the Isle of Mull can be reached from several ferry ports. The most popular route connects Craignure on Mull’s east coast with Oban, with car ferry services operating every couple of hours. Oban can be reached by train or bus from Glasgow in around three hours, for those travelling without a car. Due to the popularity of this ferry service, it’s best to book well in advance.
The company which serves this route, Caledonian MacBrayne, also operates ferries from Lochaline on the Morvern peninsula to Fishnish. A bus operates to Lochaline from Fort William. Alternatively, you can dock directly at Tobermory – the Isle of Mull’s most popular destination – by catching the Isle of Mull ferry from Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. To reach Kilchoan, a bus can again be caught from Fort William, taking just under three hours.
For those who fancy a bit of island hopping, a ferry service also connects Mull and its neighbouring island, Iona. Head to Fionnphort on Mull’s south-west coast for a 10-minute journey over to Baile Mor.
Whether your idea of a blissful break involves enjoying outdoor pursuits, soaking up glorious scenery, relaxing on a beach, delving into local history or enjoying some fresh produce in a pub or restaurant, the Isle of Mull will prove a snug and cosy fit.
Tobermory, the island’s capital, is the island’s most popular destination. Its colourful houses are picture-perfect and the town also boasts Mull Aquarium, with informative and interactive displays, a cinema room, a touch pool for hands-on experiences, and opportunities to learn about RNLI and the
Mull coastline, as well as local sealife. While the aquarium is great for kids, adults can be catered for at Tobermory Distillery. Established in 1798, it’s among Scotland’s oldest commercial distilleries, producing two different single malts. Towards the south of the island, on the northern banks on Loch Scridain, you’ll also find Whitetail Gin Distillery.
The Isle of Mull is also well known for its beautiful beaches, some of which wouldn’t look out of place adorning the coastline of the Caribbean. Calgary Beach is among the most popular, thanks to its white sands and nearby Iron Age forts, but don’t miss out on Traigh Ghael Beach, Port na Ba Beach, Laggan Sands, and Langamull Beach, to name just a few. You might even spot some of the island’s resident Eurasian otters close to shore.
But if you’re after something a little more active than a day at the beach, you’ll be spoilt for choice as well. Ben More is Mull’s only Munro, attracting keen hikers wishing to scale to its 3,169-ft peak. A challenging climb, only to be tackled by experienced mountaineers, on a good day you can be rewarded with views of Ben Nevis, the Outer Hebrides and even Ireland.
On Mull’s south coast, another challenging walk can be tackled at Carsaig Arches, which includes vertiginous drops. MacKinnon’s Cave, not far from Ben More on the west coast, is of interest for not only its spectacular scenery, but also as a spot which has a mysterious air thanks to being one of the deepest caves in the Hebrides. Whisky Cave, just a couple of miles from Calgary Beach, is another good area to explore, while for something a little more gentle, there are several lovely walks around Tobermory, including Aros Park. Managed by the Forestry Commission, it offers stunning views across the Sound of Mull and Ardnamurchan Peninsula. Further breath-taking views can be enjoyed at Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse, which looks out across Tobermory Harbour and over to the mainland.
While out and about on Mull, you’re also bound to come across some of the island’s gorgeous wildlife. We’ve already mentioned the resident Eurasian otters, but keep your eyes peeled for other beauties including red deer, two small herds of fallow deer which can be found at Lochbuie and Knock, kestrels, short-eared owls, common seals which are often found around Salen Bay, puffins, and porpoises. At Tobermory, boat trips also head out to spot minke whales, bottlenose dolphins and basking sharks. The island is also the best place in the UK to see golden eagles and white-tailed eagles, so pack your binoculars.
History buffs will be keen to head to Moy Castle, a 15th century relic located at the tip of Loch Buie. But to combine history and spectacular views, there’s no better spot than Duart Castle, the ancestral home of Clan MacLean. Close to the ferry port at Craignure, the 13th century castle offers not only restored dungeons and state rooms, but jaw-dropping vistas across the Sound of Mull. The island has four further castles – Torosay, Glengorm, Dun Ara and Aros.
The best way to travel around Mull is by car, but if you arrive on the island on foot, there are plenty of options to help you get to the different sights. Bus services, operated by West Coast Motors, will transport you around the island, with buses running from the main ferry port, Craignure, to Tobermory – via the Fishnish ferry port – and Fionnphort. A bus also operates from Tobermory to Dervaig and Calgary in the north-west of Mull. Alternatively, taxis are car hire services are available on the island.
Whichever way you choose to reach the Isle of Mull, you’re guaranteed to find a spot or two worthy of a pit-stop. Mull is easy to reach from Glasgow, making Scotland’s second city ideal for squeezing two holidays into one. Alternatively, if travelling from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Dundee by car, you’re
likely to pass through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to reach the ferry at Oban. Here, outdoors enthusiasts will find an abundance of spectacular places to hike, bike or simply park up and enjoy the scenery.
If travelling from the north of Scotland, you’ll likely pass Ben Nevis – Great Britain’s tallest mountain – and the neighbouring town of Fort William, known as the outdoor capital of the UK. As well as climbing and hiking, skiing is also a possibility in these parts. If active pursuits aren’t on the agenda, make time to stop by Ben Nevis Distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest licensed distilleries. Nearby Lochaber Geopark is a stunning area which is guaranteed to take your breath away or, if you have a bit more time available, take a trip on the Jacobite Steam Train. The 84-mile round journey takes passengers past numerous truly spectacular sights, including Loch Morar – Britain’s deepest freshwater lake – the shortest River in Britain, River Morar, and Loch Nevis, the deepest seawater Loch in Europe.
If you do plan to drive during your holiday on Mull, be sure to read up about the island’s roads in advance, many of which are single-track, and the local expectations. The main road runs from Tobermory in the north to Fionnphort in the south-west, which is a mixture of single-track and double-track. The journey will take around two hours in peak times. Across the rest of the island, the single-track roads mean drivers are often limited to around 25mph, but there are plenty of passing bays, so be sure to remain alert and pull over when possible to allow faster vehicles to pass. The scenery on your journey will be so stunning that a leisurely drive is idyllic anyway.
Along with a plethora of delightful pubs, restaurants, cafés and coffee shops which rival any across the British Isles, Mull is also chock-a-block with mouth-watering, fresh, local produce which simply has to be sampled. From cheese and chocolate to veg, island-reared meat and, of course, plenty of sumptuous seafood, the Isle of Mull is foodie heaven. And to (night) cap it off, Tobermory boasts a wonderful whisky distillery which produces not one but two single malts.
Many AirBnBs will accept pets if you let them know in advance you plan on bringing your furry family member. Mull is a fantastic place for dogs, with so much outdoor space to explore. Many of the pubs will welcome well-behaved dogs too, making Mull the perfect family getaway.
The contents of your suitcase may well depend on the time of year you choose to visit the Isle of Mull, and the activities you’d like to undertake while there. For walks, especially anything as challenging as Ben More or Carsaig Arches, proper hiking boots, outerwear and equipment will be necessary, while if you’re looking forward to a day on the beach, be sure to make room for swimwear, a beach towel and a good book or two.
Whatever time of year you visit, a jumper will be a necessity – and likely some waterproofs as well. Even in the height of summer, temperatures only average 16 degrees Celsius. Midges can also be a problem in the summer, so you’ll want to cover up.
But whatever your plans, a good camera and a pair of binoculars are a must, to ensure you make the most of the wonderful wildlife and spectacular scenery the island has to offer.