After the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Mull is the second-largest island of the Inner Hebrides, an archipelago off the west coast of Scotland. Many visitors catch the ferry from Oban, but it is also possible to catch a boat from either Kilchoan or Lochaline after a long drive across spectacular countryside. What lures people to this Scottish island? Here we find out what there is to see and do on Mull.
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This is the main town on Mull, instantly recognisable to anyone who has seen the children’s TV programme Balamory. Tobermory is especially attractive if you arrive on the ferry from Kilchoan, which docks here. The pretty painted houses along the waterfront are just the start, though; Tobermory has several attractions despite its small size. The excellent Mull Museum is based here, and there are great options for food in the town, including Café Fish or Mishnish, the latter of which also has rooms.
Established in 1798, Tobermory Distillery is, as the name suggests, also based in the town. Originally known as Ledaig, the distillery has had its ups and downs, closing on a number of occasions, but over the past 20 years, it has gone from strength to strength. As with some other Scottish distilleries, you can tour Tobermory, with three different tour levels to choose from.
The ancient seat of the Maclean Clan, Duart Castle is built around a 13th-century keep with later additions. Abandoned in 1751, it was eventually bought and restored in 1911. Today it is possible to tour the castle as well as visit the tearoom, which uses ingredients grown in the castle garden to provide tasty and seasonal fare. The local area is stunningly beautiful, and the castle has appeared in a number of movies, including Entrapment starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery. It is also possible to hire the castle for a wedding. As with other areas of Scotland, Mull has several castles, including Dun Ara, Aros, Moy and Torosay.
Lochbuie Standing Stones
As old as Duart Castle is, there are remnants of a far older time on Mull. One of the best places to see evidence of prehistoric activity is at Lochbuie. Here you can find a circle of standing stones dating from the Bronze Age. This is a peaceful place to visit and can be combined with a wildlife tour, as the area around the circle is full of things to see. Mull has several other standing stones to explore, along with other archaeological remains of earlier times, including ancient cairns and cists.
Tobermory Golf Club
The golf course above Tobermory is not the easiest course, partly due to the distracting view, which is exceptional. With nine challenging holes, this course should not be underestimated (and not just because of the view). This course is a perfect example of how clever thinking can create a truly memorable game – it is not large, but it is perfectly formed. You will find the price a true bargain and may well be tempted to add a little more cash to the honesty box. If you are a golfer and are visiting Mull, do not miss this.
Mull only has one Munro, or a mountain over 3,000ft (914m). It’s called Ben More, which is also the only Munro on a Scottish island other than those on Skye. This is a relatively straightforward climb and well worth the effort, as on a clear day the views from the top are outstanding. If it is not clear, it should be noted that the mountain contains magnetic rocks, so your compass may not give an accurate bearing.
Dolphin and whale watching
The waters around Mull are some of the richest in the UK and attract a vast array of marine wildlife. Due to this richness, boat tours from the island sail in waters that are among the best to spot cetaceans in Europe. Minke whales, basking sharks, orca, dolphins, porpoises and seals can all be found here. Tours leave from both Tobermory and Iona.
The coastline on Mull is exceptionally varied, with rocky shores, pebble beaches, dunes, machair and stretches of beautiful sands. With so much coastline and so few people, you can often find a place to rest or picnic all to yourself (apart from the odd sheep or Highland cow). Expect to see lots of wildlife too. With so many options available, it is difficult to single out one or two for special mention. Calgary Beach is perhaps the most famous, situated on the north of the island and featuring white sands and blue seas. Even Duart Castle has a small beach of its own; just walk down past the tearoom.
Mull is full of wildlife. From the high mountains to the seabed and everywhere in between, there are wonders of the natural world to be found. This is one of the best places in the UK to see otters and white-tailed sea eagles, often referred to as “flying barn doors” due to their size. You can find both of these on your own just by sitting by the coast and waiting, but there are also boat tours available with local guides who know exactly where to look, or walking tours lead by exceptionally knowledgeable staff. For many people, these close and wild encounters are the principal draw of Mull.
This one is perhaps cheating a little, as Iona is an island separate from Mull, but you first need to go to Mull to get to Iona (unless you have your own boat), and from there you catch the ferry from Fionnphort. Iona is a mystical place, made all the more magical by travelling across Mull first. Here you will find the famous Iona Abbey, burial place of dozens of kings of Scotland and other nations. If you visit Mull, you really should take the chance to visit Iona, as there is something rather special about this ancient little island.
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