Is­lands of won­der

Rugged coast­lines, en­chanted caves and se­cret bathing pools are just some of the nat­u­ral trea­sures that abound on Mull and sur­round­ing is­lands. So head off on an en­thralling jour­ney of dis­cov­ery in our ex­clu­sive ex­tract from Wild Guide Scot­land

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - TRAVEL FEATURE -

THE largest is­land in Ar­gyll is a wild and beau­ti­ful one with some­thing to please ev­ery pref­er­ence. Board the ferry from Oban or Kil­choan and discover Mull’s stun­ning sandy bays and beaches, deep forests, dra­matic coastal scenery, high moun­tains and the mag­i­cal is­lands scat­tered around its west­ern seaboard.

The is­land’s 300 miles of wild, rugged coast­line are deeply cut by lochs and con­tain some of the most breath­tak­ing cliff scenery and coastal fea­tures on the Scot­tish isles. Ex­plore a se­ries of spec­tac­u­lar nat­u­ral arches at Car­saig or head deep in­side the myth­i­cal Mackin­non’s Cave.

Mull has earned a rep­u­ta­tion for its ex­cep­tional wildlife, on- and off­shore. Look out for ea­gles soar­ing in the beau­ti­ful Glen More, which lies next to the is­land’s only Munro, or red deer hid­ing in the woods. In sum­mer, jour­ney to the Isle of Staffa and find hun­dreds of colour­ful puffins con­gre­gat­ing on the cliffs. Con­fi­dent swim­mers can dive off the basalt col­umns and into the mouth of the leg­endary Fin­gal’s Cave, al­low­ing the tide to carry them in­side on their back be­neath the cav­ern’s strik­ingly coloured roof. In the south-west there are beau­ti­ful bays like Tràigh Gheal and Uisken, where soft sands are lapped by crys­talline turquoise wa­ters, and fur­ther west along the coast­line kayak­ers glide be­tween the rocky islets at Fid­den Bay and fam­i­lies watch from the pop­u­lar farm camp­site. From here you can walk or swim across to the tidal is­land of Er­raid and wild camp by the de­light­ful cove hid­den in its south side.

Colour­ful build­ings wrap around the har­bour in the lively main town of Tober­mory, which is def­i­nitely worth vis­it­ing – but there are plenty of other places to eat and stay across the is­land. De­vour in­cred­i­ble fresh shell­fish at Creel Seafood Bar, close to the Iona ferry, and sam­ple local dishes in The Boathouse on beau­ti­ful Ulva. Those look­ing for peace and quiet can head to Gome­tra and spend a few nights in a re­mote, off-grid bothy or wild camp by the wa­ter­falls at Eas Fors. BEACHES & WILD SWIM­MING Tràigh Gheal, Knock­volo­gan Re­mote, beau­ti­ful white sand beach hid­den amongst rocky out­crops and shel­tered by the islet of Eilean Mòr. The cove is ap­proached by a trail through a na­ture re­serve, home to much wildlife, flow­er­ing plants and the ru­ined Tìr Fhear­a­gain vil­lage. Fid­den Beach On a sunny day the bay at Fid­den could be eas­ily mis­taken for the Caribbean. The beau­ti­ful west-fac­ing beach with its crys­tal­clear wa­ters and pink gran­ite out­crops is a per­fect place for wild swim­ming, kayak­ing and watch­ing sun­sets over the islets ly­ing in front of Iona. Uisken Bay, Bunes­san Sleepy, rock-en­cir­cled bay with a white sand beach, in­for­mal camp­ing and fine views to Colon­say and the Paps of Jura. Cal­gary Bay Broad, white shell-sand beach, glo­ri­ous machair and bright blue water stretch as far as the eye can see, all framed by low hills and craggy head­lands. Cal­gary Bay is a true Scot­tish gem and one of Mull’s most pop­u­lar wilder camp­ing spots. Make a day of it here and also take time to visit the nearby Cal­gary Art In Na­ture gallery and view some of the sculp­tures in the sur­round­ing wood­lands. Dùn Ara Bathing Pool En­joy a peace­ful swim in a lovely spot shel­tered from the waves, which was con­structed as a bathing pool. The pool, re­vealed at low tide, is by the site of an old me­dieval fort and sur­rounded by strik­ing land and seascapes. There are other in­lets around to the R, and this rugged coast is good for spot­ting seals. Eas Fors, Bal­ly­gown Se­ries of wa­ter­falls with small plunge pools, the final fall plum­met­ing 30m over a cliff into the sea. There are some great places for a pic­nic or take a dip by the mid­dle and up­per cas­cades, and a cou­ple

of wild camp­ing spots for those who don’t mind the midges. MAG­I­CAL IS­LANDS Staffa The “is­land of pil­lars” is home to sum­mer colonies of puffins, wild flow­ers un­grazed by any mam­mals, and of course one of the most ma­jes­tic places in Scot­land, the re­mark­able Fin­gal’s Cave. This sea cav­ern, over 20m high, is formed of fan­tas­ti­cally beau­ti­ful hexag­o­nal basalt col­umns and arches. Dur­ing calm seas there is the op­por­tu­nity to jump into the freez­ing cold sea and swim to the end of the cave. Lis­ten closely to the eerie acous­tics of the waves echo­ing at the back of “the melo­di­ous cave”, as the orig­i­nal Gaelic name of An Uaimh Bhinn de­scribes it. Tu­rus Mara from Ulva Ferry, 01688 400242. Tu­rus­ Staffa Tours from Oban or Fion­nphort, 07831 885985. Staffa­ Ulva This beau­ti­ful pri­vately owned is­land, thickly wooded in parts and with strik­ing basalt col­umns and cliffs, is home to na­tive wildlife in­clud­ing red deer, seals and golden ea­gles. Around 16 peo­ple still live on the is­land and make a liv­ing from sheep, cat­tle, oys­ter- and fish-farm­ing and tourism. The won­der­ful Boathouse res­tau­rant sits just above the pier. Tràig Bhàn, Iona The full name Tràigh Bàn nam Monach trans­lates as “white strand of the monk”, fit­ting for this quiet sandy beach on the north­ern tip of Iona. Per­fect for an ear­ly­morn­ing swim. On the way is Iona Abbey, a re­li­gious site since 586AD, with an­cient high crosses, me­dieval clois­ters and the burial ground for the Lords of the Isles. Er­raid This small is­land fea­tured in Robert Louis Steven­son’s ad­ven­ture story Kid­napped, in which the hero wrecked there did not re­alise that it is ac­ces­si­ble at low tide by a sandy cause­way. Pri­vately owned, it is home to a small Find­horn com­mu­nity in the north, and has a beau­ti­ful cove on its south side. Garbh Eilean At least 10 isles and islets share this name, which trans­lates as “rough isle”. This one is a dome-shaped tidal is­land con­nected to the shore by a won­der­ful arced sand­bar at Kil­vick­eon beach (not named on maps, but the ac­cepted name). CAMP & SLEEP Fid­den Farm Camp­site Won­der­ful large in­for­mal farm camp­site lo­cated right by the beau­ti­ful Fid­den Beach. Great base for kayak­ing and swim­ming. Knock­volo­gan Road, Nr Fion­nphort, PA66 6BN, 01681 700427. Cal­gary Bay Wild Camp­ing Free wild camp­ing by the beach with great views and toi­let fa­cil­i­ties. A very so­cia­ble camp spot and of­ten busy. Large mo­torhomes and car­a­vans not per­mit­ted, no drink­ing water. S end of Cal­gary Bay just off B8073, S of PA75 6QQ. Shiel­ing Hol­i­days Sea­side camp­site with pitches for tents, campers and car­a­vans, large “shiel­ings” (per­ma­nent tent-like struc­tures with ba­sic fur­ni­ture and elec­tric­ity) and two charm­ing cot­tages. Com­mon room with stove and free wi-fi. Craignure, PA65 6AY, 01680 812496. Shiel­inghol­i­ Gome­tra Both­ies Re­mote off-grid cot­tages lo­cated a 7-8 mile walk away from Ulva ferry on the road­less Isle of Gome­tra, it­self practically off any grid there is. Very ba­sic but charm­ing in­te­ri­ors of­fer­ing just a lit­tle more com­fort than public moun­tain both­ies. En­joy the beau­ti­ful views and an abun­dance of wildlife on the is­land. Gome­tra, Ulva Ferry, PA73 6NA, text 07525 751171. Gome­ Lip Na Cloiche De­light­ful B&B housed in a traditional style cot­tage and sit­u­ated amid a beau­ti­ful densely planted gar­den and nurs­ery. Great food at The Bal­ly­gown Res­tau­rant is three houses along. Bal­ly­gown, nr Ulva Ferry, PA73 6LU, 01688 500257. Lip­na­ Ex­tracted from Wild Guide Scot­land: Hid­den Places, Great Adventures & the Good Life by Kimberley Grant, Richard Gas­ton and David Cooper (£16.99). EX­CLU­SIVE READER OFFER: Read­ers can en­joy 20 per cent off and free P&P with code ‘sun­day­her­ald’ at check­out at www.wildthingspub­lish­

Pho­to­graph: Wild Guide Scot­land

Cal­gary Bay Mull: the per­fect place to watch the sunset and share sto­ries around the fire

Pho­tographs: Wild Guide Scot­land

Con­fi­dent swim­mers can dive off the basalt col­umns and into the mouth of the leg­endary Fin­gal’s Cave on Staffa

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