scotland

Iona

We took the ferry to Iona from Fionnphort which is a short 10 minute crossing - mostly passengers and a few vehicles delivering supplies to the island. First we visited the Abbey which is looked after by Historic Environment Scotland and they provide audio tours.

St. Martin's cross
St. Martin's cross
Abbey from Abbot's mound
Abbey from Abbot's mound
Maidenhair spleenwort on well
Maidenhair spleenwort on well

The monastry on Iona was founded by Colomba and his 12 companions in 563. We started the tour by going up Tòrr an Aba (Abbot’s mound) - the site where it is understood Colomba’s writing hut originally stood overlooking the Abbey.

Stained glass of Colomba
Stained glass of Colomba
Sea spleenwort in church
Sea spleenwort in church
Carved pillars
Carved pillars

Inside the abbey church there are a number of clumps of rare Sea Spleenwort (Asplenium marinum) growing around the walls. These enterted the church whilst it was open to the elements and the remaining presence of them is said to indicate that the restoration was successfully completed and the building is still breathing.

Trigpoint and cairn on Dun I
Trigpoint and cairn on Dun I
Eilean Annraidh (Island of Storm)
Eilean Annraidh (Island of Storm)

After finishing the tour of the Abbey we decided to head up to the top of Dùn Ì (Hill of Iona) which is the highest point on Iona. We stopped at the top for amazing panoramic views around the island for our picnic lunch. From here we could also see across to Eilean Annraidh (Island of Storm) and beyond to the Treshnish Isles.

We then headed down and across the island to visit the white sands of Traigh Ban nam Manach (Strand of the Monks) where there the rocks are black granite and the sand is white from crushed shells.

Traigh Ban nam Manach
Traigh Ban nam Manach
Laura & me at Traigh Ban nam Manach
Laura & me at Traigh Ban nam Manach
Kai, Jessica and Laura at Traigh Ban nam Manach
Kai, Jessica and Laura at Traigh Ban nam Manach

We then headed back across the island to get a drink and chips before catching the ferry back to Mull.

Remains of the Nunnery
Remains of the Nunnery
Iona from the ferry
Iona from the ferry

Ulva

Ulva is a community owned island with a current population of 6 people. The first experience visiting Ulva is the ferry which you summon using by sliding the indicator on the ferry board to show red. I didn’t initially spot this, but Kai and Laura did and managed to summon the ferry for us - otherwise we’d have been waiting a long time! This ferry is for passengers only and is a very short crossing across from Mull.

Summoning the ferry
Summoning the ferry
Ulva ferry
Ulva ferry
Sheila's house
Sheila's house

We started our visit with Sheila’s cottage which gave an interesting insight into life on Ulva in the past and then a stop for coffee and cakes at the Boathouse Restaurant. We then went for a walk around the near part of the island taking in some of the sights. It was really peaceful with only a couple of other groups of walkers we saw on the way around the island.

The tracks were good, the paths were well marked and the nature unspoilt.

As we reached the higher points on the route, there were fantastic views across to Mull and around the surrounding area.

Livingstone croft window
Livingstone croft window
Livingstone cave
Livingstone cave
Old ferry sign
Old ferry sign

Highland cow and Sound of Ulva
Highland cow and Sound of Ulva
Highland cattle on the path
Highland cattle on the path

We headed up to Tobermory early on Tuesday morning for the StaffaTours Staffa & Treshnish Isles wildlife tour which is only available during the summer until the Puffins leave Treshnish. We were fortunate to catch them as the guide told us it would likely only be a few more days before the pufflings fledged.

Tobermory coloured houses
Tobermory coloured houses

After we’d headed out from Tobermory the crew were alerted to a pod of dolphins a little off our route, so we took a slight detour to see them. It was amazing seeing them so close to the boat. We also saw a lot of sea birds and an otter bobbing along beside us.

Staffa

The name Staffa comes from the old Norse for stave or pillar island as the basalt columns that make up the island reminded the Vikings of their wood log houses. The island is formed by these 3-8 sided basalt columns giving it a really distinctive appearance similar to that of Giants Causeway.

Staffa
Staffa
Fingals cave
Fingals cave
Tessalating basalt columns
Tessalating basalt columns

We were dropped off at a jetty and then made our way up the stairway to the main part of the island - it was very busy around the jetty as it’s the only way onto the island and a lot of the tours stop here. Me and Kai then headed across to the cairn and trig point at the top of the island on the side of the cliff over Fingal’s cave.

After this we headed back over to meet Laura and Jessica to explore more of the other side of the island and then head down and round the coast to see the inside of Fingal’s cave.

After this it was time to head back to the jetty to reboard the boat to head across to Lunga.

Lunga

Lunga is the largest of the Treshnish isles and the name comes from Norse “longship island”. The boats pulled up against a floating jetty with a small rowing boat attached to it and we were wondering how we’d all get ashore from that, but then realised that the boat would push the floating jetty into the shore proving quite a neat set up.

Boat with floating jetty
Boat with floating jetty
Seabirds over Lunga
Seabirds over Lunga
Lunga landscapes
Lunga landscapes

From there we went up the steep path marked with a helpfully painted upward arrow to the cliff top where we found ourselves a spot to sit and have lunch just back from the puffin burrows in the long grass on the cliff edge. There we spent the rest of the afternoon puffin watching and it was magical seeing so many puffins flying in and diving into their burrows with food for their pufflings.

The presence of humans on the cliff top is apparently good for keeping the skuas away from stealing the puffins food, but we had to be careful to stay back from the burrows to avoid crushing them.

In a few days time the pufflings would fledge by jumping off the cliff in the dead of night and all of the puffins would gone - spending most of the year living out over the sea until they return again to breed next year

On the way back as we were heading in to Kilchoan (the west most village on the mainland) as the first drop off point we saw a pod of bottle nosed dolphins alongside the boat.

Central Mull

For our first day on Mull we decided we’d head out and explore the central loop of the island in the car following a route described in the brochure in the farmhouse. This gave us our first real insight to driving in Mull as most of the roads are single track with passing places - although the passing places are very frequent so you can almost always see one ahead of you. The route took us along between the mountains through forests and by lochs as we wound around the hilly landscape of central Mull.

Three lochs
Three lochs
Foxgloves
Foxgloves
Road through Glenmore
Road through Glenmore

We first went along following the valley through Glenmore and came up out of the forest to views overlooking the three lochs - Loch an Eilean, Loch an Ellen and Loch Airde - between Ben Buie and Creach Beinn.

Kai looking over Loch Beg
Kai looking over Loch Beg
Waterfall at Traigh Gheal
Waterfall at Traigh Gheal
Eorsa
Eorsa

We saw rocky shores where could imagine the otters would appear early in the day and majestic waterfalls as the water poured down from the mountains. We stopped for a lunch break near Traigh Doire Dhubhaig overlooking Eorsa and as it started to rain we had our picnic in the car.

Traigh Doire Dhubhaig
Traigh Doire Dhubhaig
Traigh Doire Dhubhaig
Traigh Doire Dhubhaig
Jessica
Jessica

We then headed back to the farmhouse for a bit, but decided as it was such a nice evening to head down the road to the local Duart Castle.

Duart Castle
Duart Castle
Deer by Duart Castle
Deer by Duart Castle