ecological holidays mull
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Everyone has their own favourite island, but Mull has enough going for it to appeal to most tastes: spectacular mountain scenery; 300 miles of wild coastline; castles; wildlife; a narrow-gauge railway; some of the best fishing in Scotland; and some of the prettiest little villages; all in an area roughly 24 miles from north to south and 26 miles from east to west. It's worth spending time on Mull to fully appreciate its pleasures and to take advantage of the great hospitality of an island where people don't even have to lock their doors at night.
Like many of the Hebridean islands, the people of Mull, or Muileachs, suffered greatly during the Clearances, when they were forced off their land to make way for sheep. The subsequent decline in population was exacerbated by the terrible potato famine of 1846, and the population fell dramatically from a peak of 10,600 in 1820. Numbers have stabilized to around 2,500 in recent years, mainly through the replacement of native islanders by English and Scottish incomers, known as 'White Settlers'. This is something of a sore point and the locals sarcastically refer to their island as 'The Officer's Mess', when the resident population rises to around 8,000 during the summer.
With around 600,000 visitors a year, tourism is an important contributor to the island's economy, supplementing the traditional fishing, crofting and whisky distilling. Despite the numbers, Mull remains unspoiled, though the main roads become congested at the height of the season and accommodation can be hard to find, as there are few large hotels or campsites on the island.
Mull is well served by ferry services. From Oban to Craignure (40 mins) 6-8 times daily Mon-Sat and 5 times daily on Sun. CalMac offices: Oban, Tel. 01631-566688, and Craignure, Tel. 01680-812343. From Kilchoan to Tobermory 7 times daily Mon-Sat and 5 times daily on Sun (Jun-Aug). From Lochaline to Fishnish (15 mins) hourly 0700-1910 Mon-Sat and 0900-1800 Sun. Some ferries from Oban to Coll and Tiree call in at Tobermory. The Island of Mull is situated off the West coast of Scotland. Mull is renowned for its dramatic landscape and is one of the foremost destinations for wildlife and nature holidays in the UK.
You can get to most parts of the island by bus. Services given below are for Apr-Oct. Winter services are less frequent. There's a bus from Tobermory post office to Dervaig and Calgary, 5 times a day Mon-Fri and twice on Sat (operated by RN Carmichael, Tel. 01688-302220). The Craignure buses to Tobermory via Salen service runs 5 times a day Mon-Fri, 8 times on Sat and 3 times on Sun (operated by Bowman's Coaches, Tel. 01680-812313, and Highlands & Islands Coaches, Tel. 01680-812510). There's a bus from Craignure to Fionnphort (for Iona) 6 times a day Mon-Fri, 4 times on Sat and 1 on Sun (Bowman's and Highlands & Islands). There's also a postbus service from Salen to Burg (Kilninian) via the Ulva Ferry twice a day Mon-Sat (Royal Mail, Tel. 01463-256200). For bus times, contact the operators or pick up a free copy of the Mull Area Transport Guide at the tourist office in Oban, Tobermory or Craignure. This also includes ferry times.
The island's 140 miles of roads are almost all single-track and mostly in poor condition, so allow plenty of time to get from place to place. The best sections are from Craignure to Salen and the few miles south from Tobermory towards Salen. Petrol stations are few and far between, so it's best to fill up before leaving Oban, on arrival in Craignure, or in Tobermory. Another point worth noting is that the sheep on Mull are even more fearless and stubborn than in other parts of the Highlands and Islands and regard the roads very much as their own, which can slow you down even more.