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Eagles, otters, and Balamory!
Isle of Mull (Scotland)
Member Name: markos9
Isle of Mull (Scotland)
Advantages: Scenery, wildlife
Disadvantages: High prices, weather can be poor
The Isle of Mull is the second largest of the Inner Hebrides, off the West Coast of Scotland. Despite having an area of over 800 square miles, only about 2000 people live there, most in the capital Tobermory. During the summer, the population swells considerably due to tourists visiting the isle. Mull is a mountainous, rocky island, with its largest mountain, Ben More classed as a Monro (Scottish mountain over 3000 feet high).
The rocky coastline and mountainous interior make Mull an island of stunning scenery. There seems to be a jaw-dropping view around almost every corner. It truly is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. If you're 'into' photography, you will be spoilt for choice.
Getting to Mull is relatively easy, with a ferry crossing from Oban to Craignure taking only 45 minutes. Other ferries travel from Kilchoan to Tobermory, and from Lochaline to Fishnish. The ferries are operated by Caledonian MacBrayne and are not cheap. It cost me £70 for a return from Oban to Craignure last summer. 'Calmac' do have some offers available, however.
Tourism on Mull has expanded greatly in the past few years, mainly due to two television programmes; Balamory and Spring Watch.
Balamory is filmed at Tobermory, with the bright, multicoloured houses of its main street providing the exterior set. When I went there, I did not see any of the cast (but being 42 years old, was not TOO disappointed!).
Tobermory is a lovely place to visit. It's small, but quaint and full of character. There is even a Balamory shop for the kids to buy stuff. I was more interested in the restaurants of which there are a few. Being a coastal town, some of the restaurants specialise in fish dishes and are well worth trying out. Try Café Fish (thecafefish.com), they have their own boat so the fish are very fresh.
From Tobermory, you can sign on for a whale and dolphin watching cruise. The waters around Mull are one of the best places to see cetaceans in the British Isles so, whilst you're never guaranteed to see whales, there's a good chance. Several different tour operators are based at Tobermory, so you should be able to find a trip that suits you (prices and length of cruise vary).
As I said above, the other program that has boosted Mull's popularity is Spring Watch. Several episodes of this annual series have featured Mull's wildlife, particularly its White-tailed Sea Eagles. This eagle is the fourth largest in the world, has an eight foot wingspan and is described as a 'flying barn door'.
The White-tailed Sea Eagle became extinct in Britain in the early 20th Century. A reintroduction programme in the 1970's commenced on the Isle of Rhum, this was successful and many of the eagles moved to Mull. There are now more sea eagles on Mull than anywhere else in Scotland.
The RSPB run a sea eagle watch point during the nesting season. There's a small charge, but you get the chance to see these magnificent birds of prey at their nest (hopefully) with chicks.
Apart from sea eagles, there's plenty more amazing wildlife on Mull. One of the best ways to see it is to go on one of the many wildlife day tours that operate on the island. These tours cater for up to about 8 people and are run by real experts who know exactly where to go to see the wildlife that you want to.
I went on a tour run by "Wild about Mull" (www.wildaboutmull.co.uk). We were taken to see sea eagles, golden eagles, mountain hares, common and grey seals, puffins, and (best of all) otters. This was a fantastic day, seeing a female otter with a cub at close distance was amazing!
The golden eagle sightings were also brilliant. We had lunch on the side of a hill overlooking a waterfall. We did not realise that Bryan our guide had chosen this place specifically to see golden eagles. We were treated to a pair of eagles soaring over our heads as we ate our meal, incredible!
There are a couple of downsides to Mull. Firstly, the prices. Everything from food and accommodation to petrol seems more expensive (tip: fill up your car BEFORE going to Mull; at the height of the petrol price increases last year, we saw unleaded petrol for sale at £1.30 per litre!).
The other downside is the weather. Being coastal and mountainous, Mull gets a fair bit of rain (actually, it's one of the wettest parts of Scotland, which is not exactly the driest country to being with). This just has to be tolerated. Make sure you pack waterproofs and the amazing wildlife and breathtaking scenery will make you (almost) forget about the rain.
If you like beautiful scenery or wonderful wildlife (or Balamory!), Mull has something for you. I can't wait to go back.
Summary: A beautiful place to visit
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