Mull (Gaelic Muile) is a large island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. It's hilly and thinly populated; most people live on the northeast coastal strip between Craignure and Tobermory. Away from there, it feels very remote even though Mull is so accessible by ferry from the mainland.
You have to travel via Mull to reach the small nearby islands of Iona, Staffa which has Fingal's Cave, and Ulva.
The only non-commercial TIC on Mull is Craignure iCentre next to the pier where the ferry arrives from Oban. Others, eg in Tobermory, are simply marketing tours, which may be what you want.
Towns and villagesEdit
- 1 Tobermory is the only sizeable town on the island, with colourful buildings along its seafront, and it's the obvious base for a stay on Mull. Children will recognise it from the BBC Scotland TV programme Balamory.
- 2 Craignure is the usual point of arrival on Mull, with ferries from Oban. Nearby is Duart Castle.
- 3 Salen midway between Tobermory and Craignure has accommodation. You also come this way to reach the island of 4 Ulva.
- 5 Calgary has a fine beach but few visitor facilities; find these in 6 Dervaig.
- 7 Bunessan and 8 Fionnphort are two small villages on the southwest tip of Mull. Fionnphort has ferries to 9 Iona.
- 10 Lochbuie has the UK's smallest Post Office, a prehistoric stone circle, and a stump of a castle.
- 11 Isle of Staffa (Fingal's Cave). Dramatic sea cave.
- 12 Treshnish Isles. Group of small islands 3½ miles W of Mull. Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Many species of sea birds including a large colony of puffins (Apr-early Aug). The islands are also home to grey seals and include a number of castles (now ruins).
The only public transport is by Calmac ferry, usually sailing to Craignure from Oban, which has trains and buses from Glasgow. Ferries sail daily, roughly hourly Apr-Oct and every couple of hours Nov-March, taking 50 mins. Single fares are £3.70 adult, child £1.85, car £13.75, returns are double. Buses and tour coaches meet the ferries at Craignure, see "Get around"; there's a TIC by the pier.
There are two ferry routes between Mull and the Ardnamurchan peninsula - the crossings are shorter, but Ardnamurchan (though it's mainland) is a long way from anywhere and you'd only travel that way in order to tour it. The two routes are Lochaline to Fishnish on Mull (roughly hourly year-round, takes 15 mins), and Kilchoan to Tobermory on Mull (every couple of hours summer, only 2 or 3 M-Sa in winter, takes 40 mins).
There's also a ferry between Fionnphort on Mull and Iona, but there's no other transport off that island so you have to return the same way. Same goes for the short crossing from Ulva Ferry near Salen to Ulva island.
Ferries to Coll, Tiree and the Outer Hebrides scoot past Tobermory but no longer call, so you have to double back via Oban to reach them.
With your own light aircraft, use Glenforsa Airfield at Salen.
By car: You need a car to get anywhere, unless you take a tour. Fill the tank before you leave the mainland - it's a big island, fuel is expensive, there are few filling stations, and fuel consumption will be high as you make lurching progress along the island roads. Even the "main road" A848 is only a single-track lane with passing places. Observe the usual courtesies: never park in the passing places, and give way to folk who want to overtake and to cattle that just want to stand there all day. (When they're shaggy gormless Highland Cattle, it feels heartless even to honk.)
By bus: West Coast Motors Bus 95 / 495 runs five times daily between Craignure via Fishnish and Salen to Tobermory (50 mins; no Sunday service Nov-March).
Bus 96 / 496 runs four times M-Sat and once on Sunday between Craignure and Fionnphort, 70 mins.
Bus 494 zigzags through Tobermory then runs to Dervaig and Calgary, 40 mins; three M-F and one on Saturday.
Ulva Ferry minibus runs twice F-Su from Calgary along the west coast to Ulva Ferry village, Gruline and Salen, where it connects with the 95 / 495 bus to Craignure. A ferry runs on demand between Ulva Ferry on Mull and Oskamull the landing point on the island of Ulva.
West Coast Motors also operate tours around Mull and to Iona and other outlying islands.
Chris's Taxis (+44 749 3886 237) based in Tobermory do point-to-point journeys within Mull, airport & ferry pick-ups, and tours around the island.
By rental car you're better to hire from Glasgow or Edinburgh airport to take care of the journey north, but Mull Car Hire on the island charge £55 / day or £300 / week for an economy hatchback (tel +44 742 5127900). Mull Camper Vans will likewise meet for pick-up off the ferry.
- Castles: the only one you can tour is Duart Castle 3 miles south of Salen. Moy Castle in Lochbuie is an impressive tower but unsafe to enter. Others are either just scraps (eg Dùn Ara near Tobermory), or Victorian pseudo-castle mansions that are private residences - but you can stay in one at Glengorm Castle near Tobermory.
- Prehistoric standing stones: there's a complete circle at Lochbuie, a group of three at Glengorm near Tobermory, and several aligned standing stones near Dervaig on the road to Calgary.
- Boat trips run to Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa, Ulva, the Treshnish Isles, Iona, and whale & other wildlife spotting around Mull. They pick up from various points such as Tobermory, Craignure by the ferry pier, Ulva Ferry near Salen, and Oban on the mainland. Operators are:
- Climb Ben More, at 966 m (3169 ft) the only Munro on Mull. The simplest ascent is from Dhiseig south of Salen.
- Visit a whisky distillery at Tobermory.
- Diving: the waters around Mull, especially the straits between it and Ardnamurchan, have good wreck diving, see Diving in the United Kingdom. Tobermory is an obvious base, as is Oban or Lochaline. Just don't expect to find San Juan de Sicilia, the Spanish galleon that blew up off Tobermory in 1588. The legend of her treasure has been so pervasive, and 400 years of salvage so energetic, that a marine archaeology survey in 2006 found nothing left on the seabed but a crater.
- Mull Music Festival in late April features folk-rock bands, fiddle, accordion, dance and ceilidh bands. It's held mostly in Tobermory; the next event is 23-26 April 2020.
- Isle of Mull Highland Games are held in Tobermory in late July. The next event is Thurs 18 July 2019.
- The Mendelssohn on Mull Festival commemorates the composer's visit of 1829, when he saw Fingal's Cave on Staffa and was inspired to create The Hebrides overture. It's usually been held in summer but in 2019 will be on 2-7 Sept, with concerts at various venues on Mull and Iona with the closing event in Oban.
Before leaving the mainland, stock up on fuel, cash (ATMs on Mull are sparse and may charge withdrawal fees) and just about anything else you expect to need.
There's a Co-op in Tobermory and Spar convenience stores there and in Salen, Craignure, Bunessan and Iona.
Same goes for Eat and Drink.
Take usual sensible precautions about safeguarding valuables and driving cautiously on the narrow roads, but the main hazards are natural: cold winds and driving rain any time any day, seas that can turn rough, and in summer midges, midges, midges. They don't mind rain, they scorn repellants, the only sure deterrent is a stiff breeze and shut that door before they all get in.
Mobile phone coverage on Mull is poor. As of early 2019, with Vodafone and O2 around the main villages you'll manage a call but probably not Wifi; with other networks or away from those villages the coverage is flat zero.