My week in Mull – June 2022
Van life day 1. The bike nearly didn’t make it after the inner tube exploded just before we left the house and covered the inside of the van with gunk but Oban Cycles saved the day with a new inner tube en route to the ferry. First stop Lochbuie Post Office & Larder for some food and where I got thrown out the van with my bike. This is a great place with stunning views and amazing food! Family headed on down to Kintra whilst I used pedal power. The single track quiet roads were brilliant, only things I really needed to watch out for were the sheep, they don’t know the Highway Code. I saw seals, peacocks, sheep, highland coos, pigs and much more. The wind was the only issue with headwinds and crosswinds but never a tail wind. 60km later and I made it to Kintra. I even timed it so well that the van was all unpacked by the time I arrived .
Day 2 – It’s a really dreich start to the day so when it started to clear we headed to Carsaig. The road there was one of those single track roads that went uuuuppppp and doooowwwwnnnn. I was so focused not putting us off the road I missed the stag. When we reached the end we came across the old pier with waves crashing. I did a little explore and found a path that said ‘coastal path’. It could only mean one thing…some adventuring. The family weren’t up for it but gave me the go ahead so I managed I find a pair of trainers and my cycling jacket in back of van and headed off. It was beautiful, taking through trees, field, rocky shoreline and eventually I came across a waterfall I could get behind. I heard there were caves somewhere but didn’t find them. The path kept going but I knew I’d get in trouble if I was too long so about turned. Eventually back to the van and found the troops. They managed to see seals jumping into the sea. They’d also been chatting to a French guy I’d passed. He said I was ‘courageous’ but the eldest misheard and thought he said ‘gorgeous’ . Definitely not the latter! Now back and studying the OS map, looks like the path goes so much further and does have caves. This means I need to go back .
Pottie – Day 3 adventuring. Today it was a family cycle. Starting at Kintra we made our way to Loch Pottie. There is a smooth path for bikes, people and scooters all the way to Fionnphort. Only obstacles were the gates (no highland cows this time). At Fionnphort we had to stop for a quick refuel of the youngest with some ice cream from the shop. Suitably sugared up and off to Fidden we went. This is a lovely campsite right on the beach. Next stop the junction onto the off road section round to Pottie itself. At this point you can continue to Knockvologan (we went there in the afternoon) where you can park in a field at the very very end of the track with lots of buoys and sheep/chickens/geese in the field and walk down to another gorgeous beach. Trail bike section was fun, we went through a farm, passing loads and loads of sheep and eventually came to a standing stone. Smallest now moaning but a bit of bribery soon brightened her up (along with the downhill) and back to the Pottie path and homeward bound. Great wee loop at only 14km.
Day 4 Kilvikeon – Cabin fever today as the rain was battering the windows and wind gusting up to 40mph. Bike day just wasn’t happening. I found a small window of opportunity mid afternoon and took it. The road to Scoor is one I tried a few years ago but I was on a road bike so quickly turned round. Today I was on foot so headed past Loch Assapol and along the track to see where it went. After a few km I came across Kilvickeon Church and graveyard situated near to Harrison’s Loch. It was really interesting, built in the 13th century, used for commonwealth war graves and inside was the Mariota stone which is believed to date from 1500AD. From here I decided to head down to Kilvickeon beach, a lovely sandy cove, and then up to the view point. I couldn’t get too close to the edge as wind was still pretty strong. As normal in Mull, the only things to talk to were the sheep
Ulva – Day 5 was off to Ulva, a community run island off the west coast of Mull. It’s been a few years since I’ve been here and lots has changed (and is changing), the new carpark, Brew Box van that fuelled the children on danishes and muffins and a new jetty being built. To get onto the island we had to summon The Ulva Ferry using the board. The ferry probably only takes about 12 folk and takes less than 5mins to cross and lands right at the Boathouse. It’s always a fun little journey. We were saving the Boathouse delight until after our walk/run.
Whilst the family were off walking I set off for a run. I’ve wanted to run on Ulva for so many years but never managed it so seized the opportunity. Passing Shiela’s house my first stop was the church (designed by Thomas Telford) . I saw a sign saying ‘Ministers Walk’ so decided to see where it went. It was quality trail with stones, heather, bracken and squelch. I eventually popped out on the path to Gometra. This path covers the length of the island and passes school ruins, Starvation Point and many other interesting things. I thought I saw a mountain biker in orange ahead, then he vanished but knew I wasn’t hallucinating but was very confused until two red deer jumped out aka the biker. As much as I wanted to get to Gometra I knew the family would complain if I was away too long so I did an about turn at 5km.
Heading back I saw a sign for the standing stone, only one thing for it, over the stile and off to find it. Up, down and round about I went but it was pretty elusive, eventually, with the help of the OS Maps app I found it. I worked my way back down into the farm circuit and bumped into the family just as they were getting back to the Boathouse. By now we were all starving and the Boathouse didn’t let us down. Found amazing as normal with fresh fish, langoustines, cheeses and cakes. Suitably fuelled it was now time to head back to the ferry. It was also one of those days that, despite being far from home, I bumped into (separately) two fellow Glasgow Triathlon Club members.
Day 6 was Mull by bike from Kinta to Tobermory. The boys decided to visit Tobermory Distillery for a tour so a big family trip. Instead of driving up I left early and used pedal power (been promised lunch bought for me so making sure I earned a big one)! From Kinta I headed up to Pennygael and then turned left onto the scenic route to Salen. Here I got to see my favourite animals, the highland coos, paddling. If only I wasn’t wearing cleats I’d have clambered down for a better pic. This road had the first big climb up but, having driven this road yesterday, I knew there was a great downhill. Once down the road meandered its way along the edge of the sea, passing the car park for Benmore (I’ve still not managed to see the summit of this munro due to low cloud), lots of twitchers hunting out sea eagles, winding round the sheep and cows on the road. I’ve mastered the art of passing sheep, if the lamb is on the opposite side of the road from its mum I start shouting at it so it moves to join her, otherwise it’s a last minute slam on the brakes as a game of chicken ensues with the lamb darting across. Cows, on the other hand, just don’t moooove, they plod along so easy to get past them.
My only stop on the cycle was at 63km in Salen. I’d heard about this amazing bakery called The Little Bespoke Bakery and it didn’t disappoint! Cup of tea for me and eyed up the cakes for later. They looked the best. From here I knew it wasn’t far until Tobermory but didn’t envisage climb no. 2. It just didn’t stop. With the roads being single track I had to use passing places to get round oncoming traffic and let those behind pass. One driver kindly stopped to let me pass him going up a hill, the pressure to cycle fast uphill was on. I knew the sweeper van aka family in the van must be catching me soon so the race was on. Could I make the carpark before them or the children wave out the window as they pass?? I won, only issue was I got to the car park having done 79.something km so needed to cycle round the carpark a few times to hit 80km. Job done. Sweeper van arrived and I got my change of clothes so I could do into the restaurant not wearing stinky cycling kit. Unfortunately a water bottle had leaked and my jeans were wet…in the crotch! So part changed, jeans in hand to dry them under a hand drier before I could wear them and not look like I’d had an accident. Finally I got my well deserved lunch from Macgochans Tobermory and it was delicious
Day 7 – Last day of exploring so headed over to Iona and was joined by David from Iona Trails for a run around the island (up, over, scrambling, bogs, beaches, fields). Despite being small there is are loads of trails and we managed to cover 13km. We started by heading to the south of the island. Down here you can find the marble quarry, St Columba’s bay, the kelp pits (date back to the 1800’s and was where they used to burn kelp) and the golf course. Next it was to the north of the island, passing the hermit cell, up to the trig point on Dun I then along more beautiful sandy beaches. Finally we found my family who I’d left to do the tourist things whilst I ran. I think this involved eating cake, drinking coffee, looking in the shops, the nunnery, Iona Abby and waiting for me so they could get a scrumptious lunch at St Columba Hotel & Larder, Isle of Iona. Finally it was back to the pier where we came across little coracle boats whilst waiting for the ferry.
Bye bye Mull and Iona. Now back to the real world. Until next time….