We spent Hogmanay on the Isle of Mull. A winter retreat to a remote part of the country. Not too remote, we stayed in Tobermory, a relatively busy place as Island settlements go. Mull businesses do close for the winter but there are a few open. Crucially there were a few restaurants and pubs open which suited our needs though we cooked in our Lodge 4/6 nights.
The North or Mull is wild, with Ardmore and Glengorm in the North East, Dervaig and Calgary further west. There’s plenty to explore for a week even when the weather is bad.
I managed to run a few times and we cycled and walked too.
This is a lovely walk along the coast from Tobermory. Starting near the Ferry Terminal the path hugs the cliff as it winds its way to a clearing near the lighthouse. The wind was southerly and we were sheltered most of the time.
The lighthouse commands views across to the Mainland and the Ardnamurchan Peninsular- the most westerly part of mainland Britain. The sound of Mull is all that is between the island and the mainland. This would be good run too, 5km round trip. It was nice to walk and take it easy though, walking off the beers from the night before.
I took a run from Tobermory heading North on the Glengorm road, it rises steeply out of the village and eventually descends to a Forestry Commission carpark. From here the run is simple, follow the red markers, at a junction take the left fork, eventually returning from the right as the route loops around after you reach the coast.
At first you’re on a track, but eventually you turn off onto a path. The path down to the coast was muddy after heavy rain but the views straight ahead were awesome. The wind was behind me and I was flying. When you reach the coast a broken boardwalk is the most treacherous part of the route but there is a bird hide and a lovely coastal loop along the top of the rocks.
The return sees you pass the abandoned settlements and remnants of houses and sheep folds (Fanks).
You eventually come out on the track you’d turned off but it is all uphill until the carpark.
I’d recommend this route as a walk or run, interesting settlements and lovely coast.
The lodge we rented was right at the top of the village. A wee road went north and eventually turned into a track / quagmire as cattle and rain had mixed up the ground. Eventually, jumping a gate you get into a forest, still heading due north. It was 2pm and it was gloomy, a storm was coming in and I was getting the first rain.
The path was intermittent as I meandered through the forest and bog hopping. I’d already resigned myself to wet feet and the roclites were ok but could have done with longer lugs.
The plantation ended at a deer fence, I passed through the broken gate which had been leant against the post as best it could be and came out into heather. Now I was on top of a hill looking out to the land that dropped away eventually to the cliffs. In the near distance an old Croft stood dark and proud. Two chimneys remained but no roof. I ran through the dead bracken to get there. The wind wild was making the place feel even more eerie. I’m fascinated by the ruins. Who lived here and what was it like? I’d imagine where they’d get fresh water, where they’d keep their animals and where they’d fish. The walk back into Tobermory would have been long and arduous and they wouldn’t have any electricity.
I lingered as long as I could but the gloomy day was turning into night fast as we approached 3pm.
I returned via a track to the east of where I came down. I had to jump a few streams which the track forded and made my way up back toward Tobermory.
This is a wild run with sections of no path but it is marked on the OS.
Aros Park- Coast walk
We’d spent the day reading, something I do little of and it was good. We were relaxed and chilled. The rain had been on most of the day and it was still windy. But I had itchy feet and wanted to get out.
I pulled on my kit and head torch and headed down into Tobermory and south along the bay. Just past the aquarium the coastal path starts. It hugs the cliff much like the lighthouse path does on the other side of the bay. My head torch was lighting up the way as the path undulates. The streams were in spate and were deafening in the quiet of the night. It was only 5pm but it had been dark for an hour. The path rises steeply and up stairs. I was careful here and took my time. At the top you get views across fields as the wood stops. Though it was only a black expanse as the last fade of light was in the distance.
You enter the wood again on a sharp downhill section, a movement caught my eye and I pointed my head torch toward it. An owl perched high on a silver birch tree. Looking down at me, no doubt dazzled by my strong light. It was a large one and I’ve no idea what type. Perhaps a tawny Owl.
My watch beeped and I decided to head back and had done about 5km by the time I returned to the lodge.
We returned the next day to Aros park to walk this time we’d cut off the coastal section to drive to the car park but we both agreed we should have walked it.
There is a loch there which a decent path circumnavigating it as well as a lovely water fall path too. The small harbour was busy with folk swimming and I was jealous of their endeavour. I’d wanted to get in the water but when we’d visited Calgary Bay- a must visit- the wind chill was cool and I only was brave enough to paddle. By the time I got out it took me a couple of hours to get the warmth back so the thought of going fully submerged wasn’t a good one!
Aros park isn’t large so walking there from Tobermory would be a good addition.
Parking at the NWMC car park just west of Dervaig a track points you to the beach at Langamull and a settlement
The wind was now a strong westerly but this beach was north facing and in a bay so my hope was it was going to be sheltered. The photos showed a sandy bay but with rocks on either side.
I wore my tri suit under my clothes as we walked down the track with thoughts of actually getting in the sea.
It was the 3rd January, 7°C and the rain was intermittent.
We reached the beach after a few zigzaging on the track. We’re the only ones there, others put off by the changeable weather presumably, in summer I imagine this would be a busy spot. On first look the tide was out and the main beach had rocks exposed. It wasn’t going to be possible to reach the water especially barefoot.
However on the west side the high rocks had disguised a bay that after a little exploration we found. The rocks on either side were about 2m high but made a wee bay. The sand steeply dropped down to the sea. The swell was high with waves coming in fast and strong and withdrawing equally fast and strong. I found a rock on the west side, sheltered from the wind and undressed. Tentatively walking toward the sea, broken shells under feet, sand cool and wet.
I stood where the tide line came to and walked a couple of metres after the waves pulled back. On the next wave my legs were submerged up to my thighs. The waves brought in seaweed and rocks that I could feel on my legs. The seaweed getting trapped on the return adding more force to my body wanting to drag me into the sea. I stumbled back. Almost falling.
I had a choice to retreat or try to make my way in further. The steep drop meant it would be a quick entry into the water and the wave height meant I would be under water with each wave. I weighed up the risk. Andy was the only person here with me. He was on top of the rock recording my stupidity. There were no lifebuoys and no rope. The nearest people a good 20min run up though there was phone signal at least.
After weighing the risks, I decided not to swim as the waves and swell were too much. I needed to keep my feet on the ground at all times. I decided to walk in a little further and at that point I was fully submerged though with feet still on the ground making sure that the seaweed didn’t build up too much.
The water wasn’t too bad temperature wise and I reckon I could have lasted longer.
Alas I didn’t want to risk it further so I jumped out after only a few moments.
After trying and changing the weather changed. Hailstones pelted down and I regretted wearing shorts.
We returned via the settlement which was last inhabited in 1759.
This walk is on the walk highlands website.
Loch Frisa cycle
We’d brought the bikes and I was determined to use them. We’ve hybrids and so can go on road and track. The route I chose was to head south out of Tobermory on the main road. Early so as to miss any ferry traffic and get to Salen quickly. From here we entered the track to Loch Frisa which heads in a NNW direction. The wind was at our backs which was great and the road down from Tobermory was fairly sheltered so we were onto a good run.
The track is decent, wide and not too rocky. It undulates but traffic free and quiet made it perfect.
The sun was shining this day with blue sky.
There are said to be eagles nesting around here but we saw none. After having lunch by the side of loch Frisa we headed to the junction of the road to Tobermory. Instead of following the road we felt good enough to tack on a trip to glengorm following a track just across this main road. Initially it’s a muddy track but gets better after 400m. Signs point to Glengorm castle and the cycling is rough but easy on a hybrid.
Reaching Glengorm we took the main tarmac road back to Tobermory. However we’d forgotten how much hill there was on this stretch and it was a slog at the end of a long cycle. 35km in total. You can miss out the road and follow forest tracks to Tobermory joining the run I did to Ardmore.
The road descending into Tobermory was now frosty after a clear day especially in the shade making for sketchy cycling and being glad to meet no cars on the descent. Getting into the lodge we made soup with soft white bloomer bread. No better way to warm up!
Tobermory at Hogmanay
What a surprise. After a chilled day there was time to make dinner and have some wine. Eventually we left the warmth of our lodge and log fire and ventured to Mishnish the local pub. The party was well underway and lively. Before midnight we all exited the pub and made our way drink in hand to the clock tower where we watched the fireworks across the bay, dancing to the music and the rest of the locals.
In summary, Mull in winter delivered.