Please note that we visited Mull just before Coronavirus advice would have suggested we should not travel. Had the trip have been planned for a day or two later we would not have gone; it is unfair to enter small rural communities with the potential of transferring a virus to an area less well equipped to cope with the consequences.
Mull is a large, small island. It isn’t a particularly populated place and has the feeling of an island much smaller except that it takes ages to get from one side to the other. Our accommodation was under the shadow of the ruins of Aros Castle. The imposing stonework, rather overrun inside by cotoneaster, sits on cliffs above the small estuary of the Aros River. Here wigeon, curlew, a pair of mute swans and oystercatchers saw out the daily changing tides and weather.
From Salen either route to Fionnphort and the ferry to Iona is a long way but the western route chooses a path between cliffs and sea – impressive but not a road to travel in a hurry. The road passes through Bunessan, a small village tucked neatly in a sheltered bay. Beyond Fionnphort itself appears to be a bit of an accident of location, a place to get to Iona but an exposed hillside leading to the sea and quay. Here we waited in the wind, rain threatening, for the ferry over to Iona, slightly uncertain as to whether it would run but a little more concerned that it might not bring us back. In the event it did both and we finished the day with food in the Keel Row pub.
Our other two days on Mull took on a similar pattern, a dry and bright morning followed by rain, and a lot of rain. The beach at Clagary Bay was enjoyed under greying skies, a fresh wind from the west. The Art in Nature walk (or part of it) was seen in the pouring rain, the shelter of the trees a welcome help as we ventured deeper into the woodland. A willow woven red deer, metal profiles of oystercatchers mimicking the birds themselves, and a cliff top figure made entirely from discarded nylon fishing rope all drew us around the trail but not out onto the exposed open hill.
The rain persisted and we dropped into Tobermory in search of shelter and a hot drink, and perhaps a piece of cake. Here the colourful houses battled valiantly against the pouring rain and grey skies, little shops selling all manner of items clustered around the harbour. Here there was a hint of unease as the impacts of coronavirus began to form in people’s minds; still only a vague concept from something that seemed so remote from the wild hillsides and secluded villages of Mull.
As we left Aros Castle an eagle soared overhead, briefly circling above us before disappearing back over the hill from where it had appeared. We had a morning to occupy before our ferry back to Oban so headed to the south coast at Lochbuie where we parked outside the small shop that was a building site, a new building was slowly emerging but won’t be open for some time. The rather muddy track, the start of a longer route through to Carsaig, passes below cave pocked cliffs, dark volcanic rocks that have once been churned by the sea but now stand a little back from the current shore. Sections of woodland were protected by deer fences while around them a scattering of sheep ate what they could. Optimistic frogs had laid spawn in track puddles, a golden eagle flew south and a great northern diver swam just offshore.