Journeys 2022

Iona, Mull and Ulva: Three Islands, Scotland

Date

15th-22nd June 2022

Nights

7

Cost

£1000 single en-suite.
£900 single with shared facilities.
£900 double/twin ensuite

Description

This holiday provides a full week on the large and varied Hebridean island of Mull, with a day trip to each of the two small islands of Iona and Ulva, which lie a short distance to the west of Mull.

The Isle of Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, being reached by a ferry from Oban. We will have the sole use of a lodge (high grade hostel) on the coast of the Sound of Mull, a few miles south of the only town, Tobermory. This is a good base for exploring the island, which has a great variety of scenery, both coastal and inland. We will visit the remains of a number of abandoned crofting villages, in beautiful, remote locations, from which the people were forcibly evicted in the "clearances" of the 19th century, and which now stand as poignant reminders of what cruelty and greed can achieve.

Iona is a small island, some four miles long and less than two miles wide, to the west of Mull. It has been a holy place since the days of Saint Columba. We have the opportunity to allow its atmosphere to imbue us with its sacred charm, to the extent that we are open to it, visiting the modern abbey and the little settlement which links the abbey with the ferry landing-stage, or by venturing further afield, away from the crowds, possibly to St Columba's Bay, on the far side of the island, where the Saint is said to have landed in 565 AD.

Ulva is of a similar size to Iona, it is in community ownership, and is well off the beaten track. It is reached by a small, foot-passenger only, ferry. It is a haven of peace, with several way-marked walks. It has a number of curiosities, notably a restored crofter's cottage, a cave that was inhabited at various times between the stone age and the 19th century, and cliffs with basalt columns.

Walks and Excursions

In June we will benefit from the long daylight hours. Walks and visits will be offered each day. While we hope for sunny days, the island is in the path of the Atlantic Gulf Stream, so of course it may well rain! It is essential to have warm and waterproof outer clothes, waterproof boots and plenty of layers. Our excursions will all be weather permitting. There are a few indoor places to visit, such as Duart Castle, and some heritage centres, where we will go if there are wet days.

Plans for Mull: To visit at least some of:

  • Crackaig and Treshnish Point: Crackaig is a ruined crofters' village in a beautiful setting overlooking the sea. We find it via a seldom-trod path, and continue around the headland, with amazing views of the Treshnish Islands, Ulva, Gometra, Iona, and Staffa. Walk Grade: Length - medium; Terrain - moderate; some very steep slopes and boggy patches.
  • Calgary Bay and Caliach Point: Calgary Bay has a gently sloping beach of white sand. If you like to swim in the sea, this is the place on a warm day, so bring your swimming costume. Also, we can walk around the headland on the north side of the Bay, and enjoy views of Coll in the distance. Walk Grade: Length - medium; Terrain - moderate; some steep slopes and boggy patches,
  • Cille a' Mhoraire and Cnoc na Cuairtich: On this inland walk we may possibly not meet anyone else. Cilla a' Mhoraire is an abandoned village on the shoulder of a hill with views over a wide valley. Cnoc na Cuairtich is the hill behind the village, with grander views. Walk Grade: Length - medium to long; Terrain: moderate, with some steep slopes.
  • S'Airde Beinn: This is the crater of an extinct volcano, which is now filled by a pretty lake. Walk Grade: Length - Short. Terrain: moderate, with some steep slopes.
  • Sorne Point: This is a delightful, gentle walk from the tea-rooms at Glengorme Castle down to the shore. A small detour takes us to the remains of a Neolithic stone circle. Walk Grade: Length - short; Terrain: not difficult.
  • Tobermory: You will have time to explore the village, which is the only settlement of any size on the island, and there will be options for walks in nearby Aros Park, which has two waterfalls and a charming pond, and to take the path to the lighthouse, from which there are good views of the Sound of Mull. Walk Grades: Lighthouse path: Length - short; Terrain: not difficult. Aros Park: Length - medium to long; Terrain: moderate, with some steep slopes.

Plans for Iona:

  • It's difficult to get lost on this little island! You will be free to roam as the spirit takes you, whether remaining in the little settlement around the abbey, going into the abbey, or further afield.
  • Saint Columba's Bay. This is the spot, on the southern shore of the island, where, according to legend, Saint Columba landed from Ireland in 565. It is a haven of peace, as there is no road access, being reached by a rough track and path. The adventurous can climb the hilltop which flanks the bay, to find the spot from which the Saint gazed back towards Ireland, and made his decision to found his settlement on Iona, because he could not see Ireland from there, and he wanted to be in a place from which there could be no looking back, and no turning back. A lesson in fortitude for us all! Walk Grade: Length - medium; Terrain - moderate; rough track and path.

Plans for Ulva:

  • It is up to you how far you go. The restored crofter's cottage, known as Sheila's house, is very near the landing stage. A short walk will take you to the gardens of Ulva House, which is no longer lived in. There is a selection of walks, colour-coded on a little map, of varying length, which will take you as far as you wish, through woods and open country, along the coastline and inland, as far as the western tip of the island, though only the most intrepid walker will venture that far. Another option is to find Livingstone's cave, which was inhabited at various times between about 10,500 BC and the 19th Century, or to view the basalt columns which rise vertically from the sea.

Accommodation

We will have the exclusive use of Arle Lodge, a good quality hostel in which all rooms are for single occupancy, or for shared occupancy by a couple or two friends. Most of the rooms are en-suite. Arle Lodge is located on the north-eastern shore of Mull, between the villages of Salen and Tobermory. There is a large lounge and dining area. Our evening meals will be catered, breakfast will be self-service, and the ingredients to make a packed lunch will be provided each day.

Getting there

There are good train and bus services from Glasgow to Oban. They are similarly priced, and both take about 3 hours. The train journey is a delightful scenic route. See the Scotrail web-site for train times, and the Scottish City Link web-site for bus times. Alternatively, you could drive your car to the ferry port at Oban and leave it there for the week. We will meet you at terminal on Wednesday 15 June to take you on the 2pm ferry to Craignure, on Mull. (Exact ferry time to be confirmed.) There are hotels and guest houses in Oban, where you could book overnight accommodation before or after the trip, if you wish. We shall have the use of two large cars for the whole of our stay.

Arrival: Wednesday 15 June: We meet at Oban Ferry Terminal at 1.30pm for the 2pm ferry to Craignure. (Ferry timetable subject to confirmation.) Morning bus and train services from Glasgow connect with this sailing.
Departure: Wednesday 22 June: We plan to take the Craignure Ferry at 11am which reaches Oban Ferry Terminal at 12 noon. (Ferry timetable subject to confirmation.) Bus and train connections to Glasgow.

Contact

Steve Evemy 02380 332940 steveevemy@gmail.com and Karen Garrett