Eagles, beaches and sunsets

When we planned our journey over to Mull, we weren’t exactly sure what the island would have in store for us. But after a week of Scotland’s not-so friendly weather, we were just hoping for a change of scenery. What we got was so much more than that – it was like being in a completely different country.

The morning we were due to catch the ferry from Oban, we were treated to spectacular clear views on the drive over the “Rest and Be Thankful”: a stretch of main road which winds steeply upwards from Loch Long and through a series of stunning glens. Only a couple of days previously, the same stretch of road had been shut due to snow. Prue was a little nervous about the prospect of driving onto a ferry as she’d never done it before, but the friendly staff and the calm seas meant the boat journey was really enjoyable, although we didn’t see any porpoises. We left the ferry and followed the single track main road running round the island clockwise, which meant we started out heading south. Within about half an hours drive of the ferry port in Craignure, both of us were in love with the place. It was like all of the dramatic landscapes Scotland is famous for had been condensed into one small place. Imposing hills on each side of the road gave way to sweeping valleys and crystal clear rivers winding through ancient forests.

We were both really keen to see some wildlife, and our first day didn’t let us down. Our first bird sighting was unexpected to say the least: a pair of peacocks sat next to the road. Not quite eagles but still pretty majestic. As we headed off the main road towards Lochbuie bay, we saw deer – red and fallow – and dozens of herons. We learned later that it was their breeding season so they were all out in force. That evening, we wild camped in the bay and had it all to ourselves, apart from a few very friendly locals walking their dogs.

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The following day, we continued west, and Mull continued to spoil us. We had our first eagle-spot; a pair of golden eagles soaring over the craggy face of a nearby hill. Having never seen eagles before, we’d both thought maybe they might be easy to miss, but they really are unmistakably huge. We watched them elegantly drift through the sky for a couple of minutes until they swooped out of sight. We drove on, elated. Each time we turned a corner, it felt like the bar for “best scenery” was being reset higher and higher. After a particularly hairy drive, we saw seals relaxing in the sun on some sea rocks at Carsaig point. We could have stayed longer, but the light was fading so we prioritised our search for somewhere to safely park up and sleep.

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The next morning, we decided the best way to take advantage of the unseasonably beautiful weather was to head to one of the island’s famous beaches. We had heard that Calgary Bay on the north east coast was the one to go for, so we pushed on North. The single track road followed the coastline, taking us alongside pebbled coves and towering cliffs. We rounded the final cliff and began the descent to Calgary bay, and the turquoise waters and white sand beach came into view. We marvelled at the beauty of the place, and how quiet it was, given the glorious sunshine. There’s even a dedicated area where wild camping is encouraged, with flat land, fire stands and toilets available. Parked up, we took a walk to the end of a headland and watched the Atlantic smash into the cliffs below us. After dinner, walking along an empty beach which looked like it belonged to a tropical island, we decided we could happily have spent the rest of our days there. That night, several owls chatted amongst themselves as we peeked out and saw the clearest view of the stars we’ve had so far on our trip.

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Our penultimate day on the island was a Sunday, so pretty early the beach started to fill up with other visitors. We followed a tip we’d had from a lovely local lady called Fiona about an alternative beach, ignored by most tourists due to the mile and a half walk through a forest necessary to access it. It really was beautiful and well worth the trek for us, as it was completely deserted apart from ourselves and some seaweed-munching sheep. Of all the things we had thought might happen to us in Scotland in March, sunburn wasn’t one of them! (Not that either of us complained)

As the sun rose the next morning, we got up at 6am, wrapped up warm, grabbed a thermos of tea and made our first proper attempt at otter-spotting. ย Fiona had given us some advice on a good place to see them having their breakfasts, so we headed up there and sat quietly with our binoculars and waited….and waited… and waited. After about an hour and a half with no otters, we were forced to admit it was pretty bloody chilly and we both wanted our own breakfasts. Never mind, half the beauty of seeing elusive animals is that they’re tricky to spot. We reluctantly left Calgary Bay and drove to have a look around the pleasant town of Tobermory. Our ferry back to the mainland was early the next morning, so we camped up near Duart Castle and reflected on the past five days.

We both agreed Mull had been really very kind to us, and we didn’t really want to leave. But the north was calling us, and the prospect of seeing Glencoe’s famous mountains was probably one of the few things that could’ve persuaded us leave this amazing little island.

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