Mull October 2011

Friday 30th September

With the rest of the country baking in temperatures of 28 degrees it was time for us to head off to Mull for the second time this year. It seemed a pity to leave the nice late summer weather behind but as we travelled up the M6 we found that the sun followed us and our day at Leighton Moss RSPB reserve turned out to be very hot and sunny.
Highlight of the day was the sight of two Marsh Harriers fairly close and two swans who kept chasing each other around the lake.
After this break of a few hours we set off once again for the second part of our journey – this stage would take us to Glasgow and our Travelodge in Braehead. We were ready for tea and we were looking forward to visiting Wetherspoons as it is always good value for both food and drink.

Saturday 1st October

Not such an early start today so that we can recover from our 5 o’clock morning yesterday and we were ready for the final part of our trip to Mull – this began with a lovely breakfast (Wetherspoons again!) and a wet drive along the banks of Loch Lomond. We saw the start of the England v Scotland World Cup rugby match but had to listen to snippets on the radio during our journey. On arrival in Oban the rain stopped and it became a warm but still overcast day. Shopping in Tesco – a quick fill of petrol (expensive this time) and then on to the ferry to Mull which departed on time at 2pm. The weather even allowed for some photographs on the journey over to Craignure. Sighting the Lismore light is always exciting for me as it signifies that we are nearly on Mull.
After disembarking we had some time to spare and so we stopped en route in Salen to see our favourite old boats (still there but looking a little dull this time). There was also some bird life around including some oystercatchers a curlew and a heron.
We then travelled onwards from there to our holiday accommodation along a very good road for Mull (Aros to Dervaig) and arrival at []Bruach Roineach[/url] at 16:30. We had a wonderfully warm and friendly welcome from our hosts Joan and Ian and a quick tour of our holiday cottage for the next week.
After unpacking we decided to take a walk down to Calgary Bay as it looked like it should be a nice sunset. We were not disappointed even though it looked at one stage as if it would just fizzle out into grey sky. We had just decided to walk home when the sky turned red! We stayed for another half hour and saw the most fantastic sunset – hope the pictures do it justice!
We then walked home to the sound of tawny owls in the woods and a well-earned dinner! Early to bed and rest after a lovely and interesting day.

Sunday 2nd October

A dull start to the day but we had decided to take it easy anyway so had a nice relaxing breakfast and coffee while the weather brightened. Amazingly the day was fantastic – sunny, bright, and warm and virtually no wind. Two consecutive days on Mull without rain must be some sort of record!
We decided to walk down the lane at the side of the house which wound its way for 3 miles to the shoreline and Caliach Point. From here you can The Small Isles (or Inner Hebrides) – these being the islands of Canna, Rhum, Eigg, Muck and one of the last manned lighthouses in the UK called Oigh Sgeir. Beyond the islands of Coll and Tiree in the West lies the Atlantic separated only by the Hebrides or Western Isles a chain of islands some 40 Nautical Miles away. After a brief detour to see if we could get to the sea we walked through a small herd of highland cattle and found a nice little rocky inlet where we could stop for a picnic. We also saw one of the first Brent Geese to arrive on Mull and some Rock Pipits.
Still sunny we walked back to the cottage and arrived back for a drink and rest – looked at our photos and waited for the sunset. Well after such a lovely day it was bound to be good wasn’t it! Wrong – after waiting for around 20 minutes the sunset fizzled out into dull grey clouds and it began to drizzle – welcome back to Mull weather!
A quick drive back to Bruach Roineach for another lovely tea and a relaxing evening. Tomorrow we are off to Craignure to meet Pete Hall of []Mull Wildlife Tours[/url] for our holiday highlight which is a day out finding local wildlife. We are hoping for mountain hare, eagles, otters and deer as it is the start of the rutting season.

Monday 3rd October

What a change in the weather! Monday dawned dull and very very windy but we set out for our meeting point at Craignure never the less. It was not actually cold and not raining – yet! We parked and had a coffee while waiting for Pete to arrive (we were early). After the introductions and loading the gear into the vehicle we set off north to Craignure to see what we could find. Almost immediately we saw an otter just offshore – then it began to rain. And the wind increased in strength. Oh yes and it got dark! We saw the otter for a little while longer and then it disappeared, maybe sensing our presence though how in the wind and rain I shall never know!
We searched the hill tops for deer (there were some) and eagles (there were none) and then moved a little further and took the road to Loch Na Keal (where we saw our first otter back in May). Not so lucky today so we turned around and turned off towards the south side of the loch. This looked a really promising bit of coast line but in the rain and wind there was not much around. After a lovely lunch break we continued around Ben More amongst some wonderful scenery with some amazing waterfalls towards Loch Scridain. We did see a white tailed sea eagle sat in a tree which took off and flew around us (sadly out of camera range) which was lovely to see and then along the loch side we spotted two more otters one of which came close enough to the shore for some good views.
All too soon we were on our way back to Craignure to say good bye after a very enjoyable day.
Tomorrow we have booked for the RSPB eagle hide at 10 and we are all looking forward to that.

Tuesday 4th October

Got the wrong end of Loch Frisa! Arrived at the northern end as the leaflet said and called the RSPB warden Debbie to check we were in the right place but she was not available. When we finally did get through to her we had come to the wrong place. Never mind – we had to rebook for Wednesday at 10 and this time to go to the Aros end of the loch. So we decided to go to Tobermory instead and had a coffee in the []Chocolate Shop [/url]and after a little walk and browse in the shops we drove south to Salen. Stopped and walked back up the coast towards Aros pausing for another lovely picnic on the shores of the Sound of Mull. Wildlfe all around us – we saw rock pipits, curlews, oystercatchers, seals and an otter (not within easy sight but there never the less). Another highlight was a dolphin jumping right out of the water just off shore.
We then drove along the road that passed along the shores of Loch Na Keal and tried to find our otter. Sure enough after spotting a seal playing close to the shore the otter appeared on his island – sadly briefly but a nice sighting all the same. Plenty of curlews, oystercatchers and also some highland cattle which we photographed thinking they were behind a fence – they then just walked onto the road (there was no fence) and we struggled to get past in the car!
On the drive back to Bruach Roineach we did see some deer on top of a hill and a golden eagle gliding along the top of the ridge. Back for another very nice tea and a relaxing evening thinking of our trip to the eagle hide.

Wednesday 5th October

Weather wise this was the worst day of the week so far. Very windy and rainy – so much so that when we got to the Eagle watch meeting point we were informed that as there was nothing to see our meeting was being cancelled. Disappointed we decided to drive to Craignure, have a coffee and get some information about indoor places. It was still windy and wet so we headed home via Loch Na Keal with the intention of waiting for the weather to change (ever the optimist!). The drive along the west cost of Mull around the Killiechronan campsite and then past Ulva Ferry to Calgary has to be the most beautiful drive in Mull if not the entire UK. Weather started to dry up, then it rained again and then it dried up. Still windy but at least you could see something. Stopped for our picnic at Ulva Ferry and watched the waves of rain coming in and the waterfall at Eos Force which was spectacular in the distance. Then continued the drive along the coast and over the top towards Calgary and encountered buzzards (lots), hooded crows (seemed like millions!) and some lovely looking rams with curly horns. We also found a hen harrier which flow up from beside the road and there were also lots of kestrels around.
Back to the cottage early today as the weather was so wet but it dried up and there was a nice clear sky for a possible Calgary Bay sunset. Spent some time experimenting with filters to see what the different effects were and came back with a collection of different landscape, seascape and skyscape shots to play with.
Tomorrow we plan to get to Grasspoint near Loch Don and hopefully the wind will have calmed down and the rain dried up.

Thursday 6th October

No it hasn’t! Still very windy and wet but undeterred we set out to drive back along Loch na Keal but this time we drove south from Calgary. The road was much easier this way as most of it was downhill. It is still a fantastic road to travel along – wild moorland and mountains on one side with the crashing sea on the other. A little further on we found a buzzard sat on the post – and even when we stopped the car it didn’t fly away! No doors were opened just the window wound down and cameras poked out. Best ever view of a buzzard. Continuing further we reached our otter place but no otter in sight today. There were two white tailed sea eagles sat on a spit of land jutting into the loch looking just like turkeys! Too far for a picture but it was lovely to see them – then one of then took off and we were treated to the sight of an eagle flying over the loch.
Plenty of curlews in a field near the head of the loch (15 in total) but as soon as you try to get out of the car they all fly away. They are easily spooked.
Joining the main road we turned towards Craignure and the south – plan was to get to Grasspoint but the weather intervened again and as the sky was black and full of rain in all directions we turned around and stopped for a picnic in the car park of Duart Castle. The castle looked very menacing in the stormy weather and the mainland opposite vanished while we ate.
No drier after lunch so we decided to drive back to Calgary via Salen to see what was about (nothing) and then back towards home via Aros Bridge. Another nice drive as you travel over high moorland before dropping down into Dervaig before turning left for home. We stopped for some meadow pipits in a lovely setting and then passed the cottage as we went to the tearoom at Calgary for a cup of tea and then walked along the Art in Nature sculpture exhibition towards the beach. We then we walked alongside the bay and ended up at Calgary Pier – lovely old pier made with what appeared to be pink granite blocks.
Back home and then the sky said look at me it is going to be a wonderful sunset! So we dashed to the beach but sadly it rather fizzled out. Never mind there is always tomorrow.

Friday 7th October

Strange object in the sky this morning – round and yellow and we think it might be the sun! No wind, no rain and pleasantly mild. The plan today was to drive to a place called Croig just along the coast towards Dervaig. Off we went and shortly arrived to park at the little harbour still in the sunshine! Cameras and picnic bags at the ready we set off down the river watching herons and curlews – the curlew has a very distinctive cry and it was lovely to hear them. We found a spot to cross the estuary and spent the next 3 hours wandering around. Lots of fungi to be seen and we spotted herons curlews and some rock pipits. Then arriving at a channel between the mainland and a small offshore island we were spotted by some inquisitive seals. They are lovely graceful animals and kept popping their heads up to see what we were doing. We could have spent a long time watching them (or were they watching us?). Then on to the next beach where we saw a snow bunting – a first for us and it was lovely to see it – quite a colourful bird. It was reasonably tolerant of us also which was good allowing us a good view of it.
Then we found a wonderful white sandy beach to have our picnic – what a setting! A lovely Hebridean sky, beach and sea to look at while eating our lunch. A few photos later we headed back towards the car and Croig where we had a look around the lobster pots and then back in the car. Well timed as the heavens opened as soon as we got back to the cottage.
After a cup of tea we walked down the road to Calgary Art in Nature again as we had seen some very photogenic fungi and also found a little boathouse (literally a house with a boat for a roof) with a lovely reflection.
Back home again for some packing and then back to the beach for our last sunset. Not too bad but nothing like the first night when the sky went red!
Then back for further packing and a final lovely tea before settling down for the evening. Tomorrow it is time to catch the ferry to Oban and then home.
During the evening we could hear the stags roaring on the hills and the tawny owl was audible again now that the wind had finally died away.
Saturday 8th October
We woke early this morning to be greeted by rain and low cloud. No problem today as we are sadly on our way home. Once the car was packed we set off towards Craignure in the gloom – however the Red Deer had decided to come out to play and we saw quite a few on the way top the ferry including one magnificent stag who decided to walk across the road in front of us.
Breakfast in Craignure and a quick browse around the tourist information office and then it was time to wave Mull goodbye again and aboard the ferry. Calm crossing to Oban but we did spot some dolphins which was lovely.
Rain in Oban ended the holiday as it had begun but we were left with some wonderfully happy memories of another week on magical Mull.