Last updated on September 21st, 2017 at 04:25 pm
The Isle of Mull is a fantastic weekend getaway if you’re looking for some island hopping, sea views and boat adventures. Check out my Isle of Mull guide to help you plan your own trip!
I thought we’re going off the beaten track?, I thought, when I searched for available accommodation on the Isle of Mull for early August. It turns out, off the beaten track does not equal off the beaten track. While international tourists hardly find their way onto this beautiful Scottish west coast island, it is a popular summer getaway among the Scots. Luckily, it was still early days, and eventually I scored a good deal for accommodation not far off the ferry terminal.
The adventure could begin!
When my brother & sister-in-law announced they wanted to visit Scotland again (they first came here in 2013), and were interested in the Isle of Mull, my heart started racing. Despite having never been to Mull, I knew it would make for the perfect weekend getaway for the four of us. Oban was my favourite town in Scotland ever since I first visited and Staffa had been on my bucket list for ages. A trip to the island of Mull would allow me to (re-)visit both and show off some of the most beautiful corners of the West Coast to my family.
How to get here
The Isle of Mull can only be reached by ferry, and if you want to bring your own (rental) car across – highly recommended – you better book early!
We ended up with a spot on the 6.10pm ferry – a few hours later than anticipated. At least that gave us plenty of time to take the scenic route to Oban (via Rest & Be Thankful Inveraray & Kilchurn Castle), have a vegan lunch at the Little Pot Shed cafe and take in some of the sea views from McCraig’s Tower!
Half an hour before the ferry, we parked in line at the ferry terminal, picked up our tickets and got ready to board! Note that you HAVE to be at the ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before the departure time to ensure that you get on!
Related read: Where to go instead of Isle of Skye
How to get around
There are a few local busses on Mull, but they are really not designed to cater to travelers or backpackers. Without your own car you will have to rely on guided tours, expensive taxis or hitchhiking. I would therefore highly recommend to bring your own (rental) car across to the island!
Note, that the vast majority of roads are single track roads, something to keep in mind when you calculate how long it takes to drive around. Be mindful on these roads, let cars behind you pass, watch out for oncoming traffic and be always ready to stop and reverse into a passing place.
Related read: Driving in Scotland
Where to stay
There are a lot of B&Bs on the island, but they are fairly expensive especially when you travel in a group. Add to that, that we were 2 vegans and 2 vegetarians traveling together, and you can imagine that we wanted to have accommodation with kitchen facilities. Unfortunately most holiday cottages require a minimum stay of one week during the summer, so we ended up with a third option: a bunkhouse.
We booked a room at Craignure Bunkhouse, the last full room available – 6 bunkbeds, private bathroom and full access to the kitchen. The bunkhouse is located a stone’s throw away from the ferry terminal, which was not only convenient when we arrived, but especially handy on the day we left – there was no way, we would be delayed on one of those single track roads!
The bunkhouse is an extension of the neighbouring Craignure Inn, and is really new and modern. There is a cozy lounge area and a fully-euqipped kitchen. The bunkbeds had a comfortable size and each bunk comes with its own night lamp and plugs. Windows in the ceiling, both in the room and the bathroom ensured that enough daylight flooded the space. With 6 people and luggage the room would have been quite crammed, but for the four of us it was just perfect!
We had done a big shop in Oban and brought everything we needed across to the Isle of Mull. There is a Coop supermarket in Tobermory, but that’s 45 minutes drive away from Craignure, and the small Spar in Craignure only sells the bare necessities.
My culinary highlight was the BBQ we had for our first night – with a single-use BBQ from the shops, veggie burgers, portobello mushrooms and grilled bananas with melted chocolate for dessert!
What to do
You could spend all your time on the Isle of Mull just hanging out on different beaches or hillwalking your way around the island. Here is what we did to pass the time.
Treshnish Islands Tour
The Isle of Staffa had been on my bucket list for ages, and this was the perfect occasion to finally visit! As we also wanted to see some puffins, we booked the extended version with Staffa Tours, the Treshnish Islands Wildlife Tour.
We started by independently exploring the Isle of Iona (this stop is included on the Treshnish Islands Tour everyday except for Sunday) and catching out Staffa Tours boat from there. The two other stops of the tour are the Isle of Lunga (one of the Treshnish Islands) and the Isle of Staffa, home to the famous Fingal’s Cave.
On Lunga we had a close encounter with the local puffin colony, which comes on land only between May and early August. We saw groups of puffins hanging out, parents coming home with a beak full of fish and even a baby puffin curiously checking out what was going on outside it’s cozy next!
Before heading back to Fionnphort on mainland Mull, of course we stopped by the Isle of Staffa, which is frequented by quite a lot more tourists than Lunga. Fingal’s Cave is just a short walk away along the bizarre basalt rock shoreline, but you should also spend some time at the top of the island to take in the views across to the Isle of Mull and the Isle of Iona.
The Treshnish Islands Wildlife Tour will set you back £60 and takes around 5 hours starting and ending in Fionnphort.
Isle of Ulva
An insider tip from a colleague at uni brought us to the Isle of Ulva, a small island off the west coast of northern Mull. The journey there is an adventure in itself. After mastering yet another narrow single track road, we arrive at the ferry port across to Ulva. The island is privately owned and so is the boat that brings you across – which explains the slightly more expensive ticket than what you might be used from Calmac ferries. Ulva is definitely worth the £6 return though!
To summon the boat you have to slide across a wooden panel sign above the pier, so that a red square appears. Once you see the boat approach from Ulva, slide the panel back and hop on board.
After a quick coffee at the Boathouse (where you also pay for your ferry ticket) we decided to explore Ulva along one of its many walking trails. We picked up a brochure at the cafe and set out to follow the Woodland Walk, which would take us around 2.5 hours. Leading first along some quaint meadows and a fairy-tale woodland, we eventually reached the coast and followed the trail along the shoreline. We even took some time to pick up some of the plastic rubbish that was washed upon the shore by the sea. You could spend weeks doing just that, and probably wouldn’t manage to pick up all the tiny pieces of plastic that have found their way into the ocean…
Apart from that, the Isle of Ulva is a true paradise as far away from it all, as it could possibly be!
Back at the Boathouse we sat down for some lunch – a soup and a sandwich; vegan options available!
Back on the Isle of Mull, we drove north towards Calgary Beach, a wide stretch of white sandy beach in the north of Mull. The beaches of Mull have a reputation to look Caribbean, and while the wind was slightly too strong to allow the water to be calm enough to turn turquoise, it was still a pleasure to take in the sea breeze and dip my toes into the cold Atlantic ocean.
Related read: 5 Beautiful Scottish Places for Wild Swimming
To end out day we stopped by Tobermory, the island’s biggest town – although town might stretch it a little… We had a quick coffee at the cafe at An Tobar theatre and explored the shops along the main road. Just before we got back to our car, the sun poked through the overcast sky and dipped the colourful waterfront into a golden hue. What a finale!
We had booked the 1.30pm ferry back to Oban, which gave us enough time for a wee nosey around Duart Castle, before lunch and our 5-minute journey to the ferry port.
The castle hadn’t opened yet, so we explored the trails surrounding it. The views across the Sound of Mull and pack up to the castle are best when you walk all the way down to the sea!
A weekend on the Isle of Mull feels more like a week. There is so much to do and new things to explore every day – I wouldn’t mind spending a bit more time on the island next time!
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.