There are few places in my life that I’ve found more ruggedly beautiful than the Highlands of Scotland. The place is magical – it’s so far north, so remote, that sometimes it feels like you’ve left this world and gone to another.Julia London
I have been visiting Mull and Iona since I was a baby and whether it is that or the magical atmosphere, they are places that – to me – feel truly magical. This time, I was lucky enough to take my boyfriend (who had never been before) and my Mammy, to celebrate her birthday.
We stayed at the Isle of Mull hotel in Craignure. Whilst it gets mixed reviews, the rooms were clean and homely and the food was out of this world. We were spoiled with the excellent customer service of the waiting staff and with prosecco and strawberries waiting for us, genuinely were impressed with the care and attention they showed to us.
Our first day, we explored Mull’s capital – Tobermory. Full of shops, bars and restaurants, we chose the infamous Mishnish where I had scallops (amazing) and roasted figs with goats cheese (even better). We visited the Toberymory Fish Co Streatfood festival but when the rain became too much, retreated to the hotel for dinner and drinks.
The next day we woke up to glorious Mull sunshine. We had a day to Duart Castle, Grasspoint and Ulva planned and aimed to make the most of it. I also had a massage and facial booked for the afternoon so we had a lot to get through.
Our quick visit to Grasspoint, where Winston Churchill regularly visited, was held up by a local traffic jam. The area is rich with wildlife, and whilst we didn’t manage to see any deer this time, there were plenty of birds, cattle and midgies to keep us busy.
The next stop on our Mull journey was Duart Castle, home of the MacLean clan. We come every time we visit the island and I never get bored. It has such a lovely feel to it you can only wish you lived somewhere so magnificent and with such glorious views. It is well worth the £7 entry fee as you can spend hours admiring the interior and grounds. The Macleans have famous links with the scouting world. Displays on this and artefacts from years gone by makes for a great morning out. The view below alone is worth it.
Post-castle visit, we drove to the west side of Mull to hop on a boat to Ulva. It is a fairly large island accessible by tiny boat, and recently bought by its inhabitants. We made straight for the Boathouse restaurant where I had the most delicious Lobster Thermidor.
Little did we realise we should have enjoyed a seat and some food and drink, because Phil and I then spent 3 hours lost on the island looking for a cave. It meant after all that I was late for my massage, but I was ever so grateful to get my soaking, muddy clothes off and into a dressing gown. Be warned, visitors. Don’t go off track unless you have plenty time and the correct equipment! Nike trainers will not cut it.
It all ended for the best, however, as we dragged ourselves to the Craignure Inn and had a fantastic evening full of magic, wine and whisky.
Our morning was spent at the beach. Calgary Bay, if you haven’t been, should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is such a stunning place – in the height of summer or winter. It is situated on the North West coast of Mull, close to the pretty little village of Dervaig. A regular haunt for campers and tourists, it is remote but enjoys a buzz of activity from people flocking to see it.
Post-sunbathe, we made our way back to the capital of Mull – Tobermory, where the 80th Mod was being held. It did mean the town was full of children from all over the place singing their wee hearts out, but the sunshine distracted us from how busy it was. We made our way to the Tobermory Distillery where we had an absolutely amazing tour.
We found out how the bay was originally called Ledaig (pronounced Leh-chig) meaning safe harbour and how in days gone by, the whisky was smuggled out of the Island. Highly recommended plus Tobermory whisky ain’t half bad at all.
Our evening was spent at the much talked about Pennygate Lodge. Originally recommended to me by my friends Donny and Raymond at BoysEatScotland, we were pretty excited to be having a three course dinner created by Chef, Jordan Clark. It didn’t disappoint.
I started off with trio of pork, followed by cod and finished with the BEST dessert: honeycomb parfait. I would go back to Mull for this alone. The Lodge is situated in Craignure and is within walking the distance from the Ferry Terminal to Oban. There is no excuse!
On Saturday, we were up bright and early (or pretty overcast) to load up the car and head the hour or so drive to Fionnphort. We were pretty blue at the amount of rain, given we were going to be leaving Mull and spending the day and evening on Iona, without a car, limited clothing and two glamping pods to sleep in.
But, as always, Iona smiled upon us. We were greeted with glorious sunshine as we dragged our suitcases to the Martyrs’ Bay pub and restaurant for a much needed lunch and prosecco.
We then made our way up to our pretty little Iona Pods, situated about a 15 minutes walk from the ferry, past cows, the Abbey and stunning shops. The pictures below don’t do the island justice.
The pod we stayed in was a very reasonable £80 for the night, could fit four comfortably although we opted for 2 pods between the 3 of us. It housed a double bed with linen, a small kitchen and seating area and heating. They were immaculate. Although they didn’t have a toilet or shower as the Loch Tay Lodges do, the washblock was a three minute walk and was again very tidy. The owner was just an absolute joy and we can’t wait to go back.
The highlight of the trip was the afternoon we spent on the North Beach. I have never seen anything more breathtaking – it was like being in the Bahamas. Mum, Phil and I spent the afternoon with our books and wine and wished very much it wasn’t the last day of our holiday.
All too soon, it was over. We had spent five wonderful days showing Phil the sights of Mull and Iona – two islands that are out of this world. Yes, it was drizzly and yes it cost the same as a holiday abroad but with glorious sunshine at points and a rich culture, it is no wonder tourists flock from all over the world to marvel at the beauty of them.
Now, fellow Scots, get booking!