Looking for a seaside getaway in Scotland, island hopping without a super-long ferry ride and drop-dead gorgeous views of Scottish mountains, beaches and rugged coastlines? The Isle of Mull is all you need – a brilliant alternative to other, more touristy Isles and a destination packed with activities and places to see. This guide includes all the best things to do on Mull and lots of information about getting there, where to stay and where to feast!
Scotland has almost 800 offshore islands. Some are inhabited while others are pure rugged wilderness. That makes for endless opportunities of island hopping and while the majority of international visitors are drawn to the likes of Skye or Orkney, the islands off the coast of Oban are among the most popular weekend destinations for local travellers.
The Isle of Mull is the fourth largest Scottish island and offers something for any type of traveller. Hikers and Munro-baggers will get their fix on the trails up Ben More – the only island Munro apart from the Black Cuillin on Skye. There are white sandy beaches perfect to build sand castles or go wold swimming in the North Atlantic. The colourful harbour of Tobermory boasts quirky shops with local produce and crafts, while the small villages dotted around the coast of Mull offer solitude and the opportunity to disconnect. Mull is surrounded by a plethora of smaller islands that are great for day trips and there are many companies that offer outdoor activities from bird watching to sea kayaking.
In short, Mull is a perfect Scottish island to include visit on a short vacation from the cities or to include in your Scotland road trip itinerary! It is also a great place to experience glamping in Scotland!
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 skipped a beat. Despite having never been to Mull, I knew it would make for the perfect weekend getaway for the four of us. Oban – the Gateway to the Isles – is my favourite town in Scotland and doing a boat trip to Staffa to see the mythical Fingal’s Cave had been on my bucket list forever. Once I looked into other places of interest on the Isle of Mull, I was convinced that there could not be a better place to visit.
How to get to the Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull can only be reached by ferry. The main connection from Oban to Mull is the Calmac ferry that runs to Craignure in the north-east of the island. In the summer it is essential to book your preferred ferry crossing well in advance – I tried to book one or two months before our trip and could only get a spot on the 6.10 pm crossing as all earlier sailings were fully booked. There are multiple crossings per day, but they are less frequent in winter. You can find the summer timetable for the ferry to Mull here, and the winter timetable which is valid from late October to March, here.
The ferry is big enough to bring a car across and I highly recommend doing so, as driving is the best way to explore the Isle of Mull.
You have to arrive at least 30 minutes before your booked crossing, but I recommend planning a bit more time for Oban as there is plenty to see in this wonderful coastal town too. Head for vegan-friendly lunch at The Little Pot Shed Cafe, enjoy the views from McCaig’s Tower or learn about the art of whisky making at Oban Distillery.
The Little Potting Shed Cafe
5 John St, Oban PA34 5NS.
Monday to Sunday, 9 am – 5 pm.
Telephone: 0044 1631 358150.
Oban PA34 5NH.
Monday to Sunday, 12 – 4.30 pm.
Book tours here, admission fee £12, children welcome from 8+ years.
Most visitors will leave Mull via the same ferry crossing, but if you continue your road trip into the central Highlands, you could also board the Tobermory to Kilchoan ferry. This crossing is much shorter and on a smaller boat. You can’t book in advance, but spaces are sold on a first come, first served basis – so be there in good time to reserve a spot. Driving north from Kilchoan leads you to Lochailort on the Road to the Isles from where you can either turn west to Arisaig and Mallaig for ferries to Skye and others; or east towards Glenfinnan and Fort William.
If you want to spend more time in this beautiful region of Scotland, why not combine your Mull adventure with my 3-day Argyll itinerary?
How to get around Mull
There are a few local buses on Mull, but they are really not designed to cater to travellers or backpackers. Without your own car, you will have to rely on guided tours, expensive taxis or hitchhiking. I would therefore highly recommend bringing 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. I use Google Maps to calculate distances and driving times, but always add at least 30% to the suggested driving time to allow plenty of scenic spots. On single-track roads, I’d add a little extra as you have to drive slower.
Be mindful on these single-track roads and follow the local traffic guidelines. Let faster drivers behind you (most likely locals) pass when you reach a passing place, stick to the left side of the road even when the passing place is on the right – oncoming traffic will use it to swivel around you – always watch out for oncoming traffic or sheep on the road, and be always ready to stop and reverse into a passing place if you must. Check out my driving tips for Scotland to drive better and safer!
The upside of the single track roads on Mull is that they are incredibly scenic!
Where to stay on Mull
There are a lot of different options for accommodation on Mull. You can find hotels, mostly concentrated around Tobermory, countless B&Bs dotted around the coastal villages, holiday rentals and cottages, and a few hostels for budget-friendly accommodation. AirBnB is increasingly popular on the Scottish islands too and of course, there are campsites as well as plenty of locations suitable for (free) wild camping.
The earlier to look into booking, the greater is your choice. Mull is incredibly popular among local travellers and accommodation is limited, which is a dangerous mix for visitors who think they can just take the ferry across and wing it during the high season. I recommend booking your accommodation as early as possible, but definitely by January/February of the same year you’re are planning to travel.
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By the time we started looking (a couple of months in advance of our August trip), a lot of affordable B&Bs were already fully booked. Many cottages were out of the questions because they are often let by the week. Travelling with 3 other vegans, it was important to us that we had access to self-catering facilities to prepare our own meals, and so we ended up at Craignure Bunkhouse.
We booked the last room that was available at Craignure Bunkhouse – with 6 bunk beds, an en-suite bathroom and full access to the kitchen and common areas. 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-equipped kitchen. The bunk beds had a comfortable size and each bunk came 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 gone shopping at a large supermarket in Oban and brought everything we needed across to Mull. While there is a Coop supermarket in Tobermory, consider that that’s a 45-minute drive away, and the small Spar in Craignure only sells the bare necessities like milk bread and of course snacks and booze.
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!
Things to do on the Isle of Mull
You could spend all your time on the Isle of Mull just hanging out at different beaches or hillwalking your way around the island. Here is what we did to pass the time.
1. Window shopping in Tobermory
Tobermory is the largest town on Mull, but don’t expect a metropolis! The small quirky seaside town boasts everything you might need on your island trip – a colourful waterfront promenade, a handy supermarket, gorgeous views, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
Swing by An Tobar, a cultural community hub with exhibition spaces for local artists, artist studios, a performance and live music venue, small shop for local crafts and music and a cafe that offers light vegan-friendly bites. The local shops at the promenade are perfect for window shopping or to pick up souvenirs and island essentials. I can highly recommend the Isle of Mull Soap company for a long-lasting takeaway from the island.
Argyll Terrace, Tobermory, Isle of Mull PA75 6PB.
Monday to Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm.
Cafe website – opening times may vary.
Isle of Mull Soap Co.
50 Main St, Tobermory, Isle of Mull PA75 6NT.
Monday to Sunday, 9 am – 6 pm.
2. Learn about Whisky at Tobermory Distillery
The history of whisky on Mull is characterised by ups and downs. While whisky was produced by private and secret distilleries all over the country for centuries, it was actually illegal until the early 19th century. It is said that in 1780 there were only 8 legal distilleries in Scotland and 400 illegal ones!
The distillery in Tobermory was established as Ledaig Distillery in 1798 and has shaped the whisky production on the island ever since. Distillery tours are available year-round. They last about 45 minutes and include a dram of Tobermory 10yo at the end. Tasting tours with a wider range of drams are also available.
1 Ledaig, Tobermory, Isle of Mull PA75 6NR.
Monday to Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm.
Book tours here, admission fee £8.
3. Go wild swimming at Calgary Beach
There are many beaches on the Isle of Mull – more below – but Calgary Beach might just be the most famous one. This wide stretch of white sand lies in the north if the island, a short drive from Tobermory. It is a popular holiday destination with plenty of cottages and B&Bs nearby and a large campsite.
The beaches of Mull have a reputation to look like the Caribbean – all that is missing are the palm trees. Unfortunately, the wind was too strong to allow the shallow waters to turn turquoise, but when the sea is really still, you can witness this spectacle of colours from the cliffs above the bay.
Calgary Beach is popular among wild swimmers and snorkellers, but even if you find that too cold, you will enjoy building sand castles and sunbathing on the beach.
4. Check out the beaches near Fionnphort
Speaking of beaches – some of the best Mull beaches can be found in the far south-west of the island, near the small coastal settlement of Fionnphort. Most of them can only be reached on foot, so leave your car behind, pack your swimsuit in your backpack and set out for adventure. The Isle of Mull tourism group offers a great overview of picturesque sandy beaches on Mull here.
Fidden Beach lies 2 miles south of Fionnphort. There is a car park and campsite from which it is a short walk to the beach. You will find bizarre pink granite rocks, picnic benches and you might even spot some seals basking on rocks.
Kilvickeon Beach can be reached after a 10-minute walk from the car park at the Old Kilvickeon Parish Church. You might spot seals or sea eagles and if the tide is out you might be able to reach the small tidal island in the bay. Find a walk description here.
Traigh Ghael means white beach in Gaelic, and that is exactly what you will find here! A tropical-looking white sandy beach with turquoise water framed by pink granite and colourful wildflowers. The walk to the beach takes 2-3 hours and leads through the Tireragan Nature Reserve. Find a walk description here or book a guided walk with Mull Magic – direct enquiries to [email protected].
5. Visit Duart Castle
If you took the ferry from Oban you will have already spotted Duart Castle towering high above the sea. The former home of the Clan MacLean overlooks the entrance to Sound of Mull the Lochs Linnhe and Etive and theFirth of Lorne, ensuring that no ship could try to sail to these places without the Clan Chief’s knowledge.
The castle was abandoned and fell to ruins in the 18th century, but was bought and refurbished in the early 20th century. Today, Duart Castle is open for visitors and is an interesting place to see on Mull before catching the ferry back to the mainland. Admission to the castle allows you to visit the Great Hall, staterooms and an exhibition about the Clan Maclean of Duart.
There are also several walking trails leading around the Keep and down towards the sea and to access these, you don’t require a ticket.
Isle of Mull PA64 6AP.
Monday to Sunday, 10.30 am – 5 pm.
Website, admission fee £7.
6. Visit the Isle of Iona & Iona Abbey
Iona is a small island off the southwest coast of Mull. To reach it, board the passenger ferry from Fionnphort to Baile Mòr which takes only 10 minutes to cross the sound. Despite its size, Iona has played a huge role in the history of Scotland. In medieval times it was a vibrant centre of Christianity after the Irish missionary Columba arrived here in the 6th century. The monastery he built survived until the 12th century and around 1200 a Benedictine Abbey was founded here.
The importance of Iona and its abbey faded in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation, but the island attracts spiritualists and Christian pilgrims until this day.
During a trip to Iona, you can visit the Benedictine Abbey Church (for an admission fee) as well as the Augustinian Nunnery (free), learn about the island community at the Heritage Centre, enjoy a bowl of soup in a local cafe or for for a walk to explore the rest of the island. There are two circuits to choose from – northern Iona or southern Iona.
Isle of Iona PA76 6SQ.
Monday to Sunday, 9.30am – 5.30pm.
Opening times vary between October and March.
Website, admission fee £7.50.
7. A Boat Trip with Staffa Tours to Staffa & the Treshnish Isles
There are many opportunities for boat trips on Mull. Many leave from Tobermory and can take you to see the coastline, spot dolphins and seals or some of the sea birds that populate the coast of Mull and surrounding islands. Another great hub for boat trips to nearby islands is Fionnphort and the most famous island to visit by boat from there is without a doubt the Isle of Staffa!
Staffa had been on my bucket list for ages and our weekend trip to Mull was the perfect occasion to finally visit. We booked a tour with Staffa Tours, a well-established wildlife watching and boat trip operator that offers different tours out of Oban, Tobermory and Fionnphort. Since we also wanted to see Staffa but also some puffins, we booked the Staffa and Treshinish Isles Wildlife Tour, which includes two landings on the Isle of Lunga and Staffa, home to the famous Fingal’s Cave.
We spent the morning exploring the Isle of Iona independently and were picked up by our Staffa Tours boat there – when you book, you can decide whether you want to be picked up from Iona or Fionnphort and you can be dropped off at one or the other at the end of the tour too.
Our first landing on Lunga gave us the opportunity to visit the local puffin colony. The birds nest on land between May and early August and spend the rest of the year at sea. 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 Mull we stopped at the Isle of Staffa, which is frequented by quite a lot more tourists than Lunga. Puffins also nest here, but in early August at the time of our trip they had already gone. 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 costs £60 and takes around 5 hours starting and ending in Fionnphort. There are plenty of options for shorter and cheaper tours too – head to Staffa Tours for more information.
8. Bag a Munro and climb Ben More
The vast majority of Munros in Scotland – that’s mountains over 3,000 feet, by the way – are on the mainland. There are only two islands with mountains high enough to qualify as Munros: Skye and Mull.
Ben More is the roof of Mull. At 966 m (3,169 ft) is offers an excellent vantage point for views over the hundreds of islands dotting the landscape and a challenging mountain day.
The distance of hiking Ben More via the A’ Chioch ridge and Beinn Fhada (a Graham at 702 m / 2,303 ft) is 14.5 km (9 miles) and it takes at least 8-9 hours to complete. There are some steep ascents, loose rocky slopes and exposed scrambling to master, so it definitely is a hike for advanced hikers with navigation skills. Find the full trail description here.
There is a more straightforward route leading up Ben More from Dhiseig which does not require any scrambling. It is only 9.25 km (5.75 miles ) and takes 5-7 hours, but uses the same trail up and down. The hike is described in full here.
Of course, there are also many other walks on Mull which stick to lower grounds – you can find them here.
9. Hiking on the Isle of Ulva
The Isle of Ulva is a local hidden gem just off the west coast of northern Mull. The journey there is an adventure in itself. After mastering yet another narrow single track road, you will arrive at the Oskamull ferry landing which connects Mull with Ulva. To summon the boat you have to slide across a wooden panel 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.
The Isle of Ulva 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. However, Ulva is definitely worth the £6 return trip though!
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. Pick up a brochure which contains trail information and a map of the island and plan your route. We decided to follow the 2.5-hour Woodland Walk around the southern part of Ulva. There are also longer and shorter trails and they lead through all kinds of landscape – Ulva might be small, but it’s incredibly varied.
The Woodland Walk lead us past meadows filled with wildflowers and through fairy-tale woodlands before we reached the coast and followed the shoreline. On a little beach, we took some time to pick up some of the plastic rubbish that had been washed ashore by the strong Atlantic currents. 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. It really is a shame!
Apart from that though, the Isle of Ulva is a true paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts!
Back at the Boathouse, we sat down for some lunch – soup and a sandwich; vegan options are available!
10. Visit Eas Fors Waterfall
Back from the Isle of Ulva, there is one final scenic stop you must not miss: Eas Fors Waterfall!
Its name is a joke – eas is Gaelic for ‘waterfall’ and fors comes from foss, which is Old Norse for ‘waterfall’. It’s literally called Waterfall Waterfall Waterfall. But with a waterfall so beautiful, it is no surprise that you have to say it three times to make it true!
It is fed by rainfall and thunders into a river that leads under the road and into the sea. The final plunge of the waterfall before it reaches the sea can be viewed from a stony track north of the Ulva ferry landing. The walk only takes about half an hour, but watch your step here, especially when there is a lot of water in the river, as it can be slippy and fast-flowing.
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Whether you have just a weekend to spare or an entire week – with this list in your hands you should never again wonder what to do on Mull. There is so much to see and new things to explore every day, you could easily spend your entire vacation on the Isle of Mull.
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.