An Introduction to Visiting the Isle of Mull in Scotland

The Isle of Mull is the largest island in Argyll within the Inner Hebrides of Scotland and is easily reached by ferry from Oban or Kilchoan or a more adventurous drive using the Lochaline ferry. The island has something for everyone from sandy beaches to dramatic mountains as well as an abundance of wildlife. Mull is surrounded by a myriad of smaller islands including Iona with its historic abbey and Staffa with the magical Fingal’s Cave.

All of the Mull posts have been written after multiple visits to the islands in every weather conditions possible – beautiful balmy summer days to harsh hail and snow driven winter nights, there isn’t a season or weather condition that hasn’t been experienced on our research trips to Mull.

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Visiting the Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull has a varied landscape which means that if you are looking for sandy beaches or snow capped mountains, somewhere on the island you will find your ideal adventure. Colourful buildings wrap around the harbour in the main town of Tobermory in the north of the island. Sure to bring back childhood memories of the small imaginary town of Ballamory, Tobermory has lively bars and the distillery all overlooking the Sound of Mull towards the Scottish Mainland.

To the south of the island are sandy beaches with crystalline turquoise waters and tiny islands all steeped in myths and legends. The islands are perfect for a day of escape, exploring alone and away from the modern day.

The wildlife on Mull has a reputation for all the right reasons. White tailed eagles soar high above the rugged cliffs while red deer hide in the shadows of the woodlands across the islands. Everywhere on the island you have a chance of seeing a fleeting view of an otter fishing along the rocky shores.

If your time is limited local guides can introduce your to the islands and share wildlife encounters that you may not see otherwise.

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Planning a Road trip To the Isle of Mull

A road trip to Mull is good for a short road trip or an extension to the Argyll coast road trip. The roads are well maintained and while being single track there are plenty of passing places. With good planning it is possible to visit ‘most’ places on Mull with a larger campervan although as always things are much easier in a small car or van.

The size of the island makes it perfect for a wildlife or photography tour and it is easy to move with the weather even within one day. A circular route around the island will take you along 123 miles of roads that are suitable for all but the biggest of camper vans and motorhomes.

Ben More and Loch Na Kael

How to Get to Isle of Mull

The Isle of Mull and the surrounding islands all rely on ferries for links to the Scottish mainland and other islands. Unlike other Scottish islands there are no flights to Isle of Mull.

There are three ferries to Isle of Mull from Mainland Scotland and they are all run by Calmac Ferries

  • Oban to Craignure
  • Killchoan to Tobermory
  • Lochaline to Fishnish

Oban to Craignure is the main ferry service which needs to be booked well in advance. It is the closest port to Glasgow and Edinburgh and has good roads all the way to the ferry terminal. The ferry crossing is however longer and more expensive and can be cancelled in bad weather before other options are cancelled. This crossing allows you to see Oban from the sea and the stunning mountains on Mull as the ferry cruises up the Sound of Mull. You will pass a number of castles and lighthouses during the crossing which is stunning at sunrise and sunset.

CHECK TIMETABLE AND BOOK HERE

Oban from the Mull Ferry

The Kilchoan to Tobermory ferry is the perfect way to arrive if you are coming from the north and have been exploring the area south of Mallaig. The drive is beautiful but has a number of hills and tight corners. The ferry does not need to be booked but can be busy at peak times. Being out on deck as you arrive into Tobermory allows you to see the lighthouse on the headland and then the coloured houses as the ferry comes in to dock.

CHECK TIMETABLE HERE

The Lochaline to Fishnish ferry is another option when approaching from the north and is easily accessed from Fort William. This route involves the Corran Ferry and the route is narrow in places. Lochaline is a small pier and booking is not needed in advance. The drive is about 45 minutes further than Oban.

CHECK TIMETABLE AND PRICES HERE

It is possible to get to Mull by public transport and in the summer months there is a regular train service from Glasgow Queen Street and a bus service from Glasgow Buchanan Street Bus Station. In the summer months a coach runs directly from Glasgow International Airport.

Getting Around Mull

Once on Mull the roads are well maintained. Other than a few main roads between the main villages, most roads are single track with passing places. Some balance on the edges of lochs while others wind across open moorland.

Driving times on Mull are much longer than you expect.

  • Craignure to Tobermory is 21 miles and takes about 40 minutes
  • Tobermory to Dervaig is 7 miles and 20 minutes drive time
  • Craignure to Fionnphort is 35 miles and takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes

If you don’t have your own vehicle but do not want to take a tour there is the option to hire direct from the ferry terminal at Craignure or in Tobermory.

There are three bus routes around the island with regular services although you may need to carefully plan your days out if you are relying solely on the bus services.

Isle of Mull Maps

While exploring Mull is easy having a map is the best option. The best maps for the Isle of Mull are the Ordnance survey maps.

Map of Isle of Mull East – OS Explorer Map 375 (Craignure)

Buy from Ordnance Survey Direct | Amazon


Map of Iona, Staffa & Ross of Mull – OS Explorer Map 372

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Map of Isle of Mull North & Tobermory – OS Explorer Map 374 (Ulva, Staffa & Treshnish Isles)

Buy from Ordnance Survey Direct | Amazon

If you prefer to use google maps then the Isle of Mull map can be found HERE

Driving on the Isle of Mull

The roads on Mull are great to drive and are really safe. There are just a few things you need to remember when you are driving around.

  • Drive with care, especially on one of the many blind corners that are found on the single track roads. Keep your speed low as you approach a corner
  • Take the Google driving times with a pinch of salt. They are based on speed limits and not road conditions
  • Stay on the road when something is coming towards you. It is easy to have an off road experience but many of the verges while looking solid can be boggy or have hidden walls within them
  • Use your common sense when driving, if someone catches you up, indicate left at a passing place and pause so they can pass you
  • Keep to the left in passing places even if the bigger space is on the right. Stop within the passing place so the driver coming towards you can use the extra space. If you are in a passing place, indicate left so the approaching car knows you are letting them pass
  • Do not park in passing places. They are there for a reason. Most of the photography and attraction stops have parking areas which are big enough for multiple vehicles. However stunning the landscape may be, keep going until you find a parking place
  • Watch out for wildlife on the roads. This can be anything from sheep to otters and buzzards. They can dart out or change their mind at any moment so wait until they have decided what they are doing before carrying on with your journey.

driving a camper van on mull

As a nervous SWB camper driver, Mull was not a problem even for me. You need to plan your route to avoid the narrow roads, but these are clearly marked on the visit Mull and Iona map. If your vehicle is over 6m then there are some roads that really aren’t suitable and you need to plan an alternative location.

Use the passing places when you see something ahead so you are not the one having the reverse (you are ready in a passing place!). In parking areas always make sure you reverse in so you can drive out forwards. I also prefer to park at the front or back of a parking area so I am not trying to manoeuvre onto a main road. Anything to make my life and other road users life easy!

Visiting Iona, Staffa, Ulva and other islands around Mull

The smaller islands around Mull can all be reached by ferry but the size of the ferry and the timetable vary.

Iona Ferry

Iona is reached by a CalMac ferry from Fionnphort in the south of the island. The Mull to Iona ferry runs throughout the day and you don’t need to book. While it is possible to take vehicles over to Iona, you really don’t need it. Everything is within walking distance of the ferry and it is a beautiful area to explore on foot. There is a large car park close to the quay where the ferry comes in.

CHECK IONA FERRY TIMES HERE

Iona Ferry at Fionnphort

Ulva ferry

The Ulva ferry is a much smaller ferry and runs from a small jetty south of Lagganulva and is signposted from the B8073. It runs every weekday throughout the year and then on Sundays in the summer months. There is an interesting sign system to call the ferry when it is moored on the opposite side of the small stretch of water. Uncover the red panel when you arrive to call the ferry and then just as it arrives switch it back to green ready for the next passengers. the crossing takes a few minutes but is worthwhile as the island is beautiful.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE ULVA FERRY

welcome sign for Ulva ferry

Boats to staffa

Staffa can only be reached as part of a tour. These run when weather conditions allow from Fionnphort and Oban. There are a number of companies that run these trips and your choice will depend on whether you want time in Fingal’s Cave, a chance to visit some of the other islands or to swim with seals and wildlife watch.

To get you started have a look at this Mull tour that includes a trip to Staffa.

Erraid and Garbh Eilean Crossings

Around the coast of Mull are a number of tidal islands that can be explored. Two of these are Erraid and Garbh Eilean. To visit you need to ensure that you attempt to cross to the islands on a dropping tide and ensure you cross back over to Mull, giving yourself enough time to make it safely before the causeways are covered.

TIDE TIMES FOR MULL

Staying on Mull

There are a range of options of where to stay in Mull from larger hotels to small Bed and Breakfasts. There are also lots of holiday cottages where you can come and go as you please. We have used Isle of Mull Cottages to book and have found their cottages to be lovely.

However, Mull is perfect for camping year round and has a number of small campsites dotted around the island.

Isle of Mull Camping

Whether you bring your own campervan or tent over to Mull or hire a campervan on the island you will be limited with where you can camp. You should always camp at one of the 12 recognised campsites and in the high season it is essential to book ahead.

The campsites on Mull all have stunning views and allow you to explore every corner of the island. Wild camping is not allowed on Mull unless you are cycling or walking, so always make sure you use a recognised site.

Campsites on Mull can be found HERE

Weather on Mull

Mull is one of the more protected islands around the Scottish coast and this is reflected in the weather. While it experiences winter storms like many other islands the winds aren’t as ferocious and the seas do not become as angry and huge.

CHECK ISLE OF MULL WEATHER HERE

The temperature does not drop below freezing too much although in harsh winters it can be as cold as any other part of Scotland.

Weather blows through the islands fairly quickly so rain passes over and it can go from heavy rain to sunshine in a matter of minutes. When planning each day have a look at the forecast for different parts of the islands because quite often the weather in Tobermory is very different to the weather in Fionnphort.

There is no answer to the question of ‘when is the best time of year to visit the Isle of Mull?’. Every season is different and special in its own way. The winter brings less visitors, wild exposed beaches and quiet wildlife encounters. In contrast the summer months are busy with visitors but the weather is warmer, the seas calmer and the wildlife more abundant.

Exploring Mull

The Isle of Mull can be explored in a day, but to really enjoy the island it is better to take your time and explore all the tiny corners. With so many things to do on the Isle of Mull, it may take you some time. While nothing is secret any more there are a number of Isle of Mull hidden gems that you can discover if you take your time.

Tobermory and North East Mull

Tobermory is the main town on the island and has some lovely bars and restaurants. Here you will find the whisky distillery, Tobermory Distillery as well as a range of art galleries and artisan food shops. To understand the seas around the island you can visit the aquarium which is Europe’s first catch and release aquarium. Find out more about Mull Aquarium HERE

Beyond Tobermory the landscape opens up with stunning views. A path takes you out to Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse (which can be seen from the Kilchoan ferry). Further north is Glengorm Castle, a 19th century castle with walks out to the ruins of Dùn Ara Castle and the peaceful bathing pool in the rocks below.

South of Tobermory, towards Salen are the remains of Aros castle and the pretty Aros Waterfall which can be found by following some well marked paths

Tobermory Harbour

Dervaig and North West Mull

Dervaig is the centre of this wild part of the island. High sea cliffs plunge into the sea while long sandy beaches and rocky coves merge into a stunning landscape.

From Tobermory the road to Dervaig takes you past the ancient Kilmore Standing stones before a steep and winding road down into the ancient village with its unique white church.

Along the north coast is the beautiful Langamull and Port na Ba beaches as well as the more popular and accessible Calgary Bay.

The road from Calgary Bay to the Ulva Ferry along the Treshnish Headland hugs the coast passing the unusual black beach at Kilninian and the beautiful Eas Fors Waterfall that has multiple drops before vanishing over the edge of the cliff into the sea below.

Eas Fors Waterfall

Salen, Craignure and South East Mull

Craignure is the first place that many people will visit on Mull as it is where the Oban ferry arrives. It is also only a short distance from Fishnish. In the north is Salen, a small town that every road across Mull seems to pass through. Close to the village is the old pier and the wrecked boats that are slowly decaying on the shoreline.

South of Craignure is Duart Castle, home of Clan MacLean that stands on a rocky crag overlooking the Sound of Mull.

From Criagnure the road to Fionnphort crosses dramatic scenery including the stunning Three Lochs Viewpoint before reaching the junction at the pretty Loch Beg Bridge. Along the south coast the ancient standing stones at Lochbuie and the desolate rocky shore at Croggan are worth exploring.

Duart Castle

Ross of Mull and Iona

The Ross of Mull is the long finger on the south west corner of Mull and leads to the magical island of Iona. Some of the best beaches on the Isle of Mull can be found here as well as wildlife including white tailed eagles. At the tip of Ross of Mull is Fionnphort, a small village which is the the starting point for an adventure to Iona, Lunga or Staffa.

Iona is a small island that has a long history. It is known as the “cradle of Christianity” with links back to St Columba. The abbey has a global influence and has a unique atmosphere and calm that permeates across the island.

Fidden Beach

Ben More, Cliffs of Gribin and Loch na Keal

The centre of Mull is rugged and mountainous. Ben More is the highest peak on the island and can be seen from across Loch Na Keal. At low tide it is possible to explore MacKinnon’s Cave, the deepest in the Hebrides and is a beautiful walk out along the headland. If you are feeling more adventurous then it is possible to find MacCulloch’s Fossil Tree, an amazing piece of geology.

The road between Loch Na Keal and Loch Scridain hugs the cliffs under the stunning Cliffs of Gribun before passing through a wide valley past Allt Chreaga Dubha Waterfall. This is the home of white tailed eagles, buzzards and ravens.

Cliffs of Gribun

Islands Around Mull

Off the west coast of Mull are lots of small islands. Most are uninhabited but provide valuable wildlife habitats. The largest and easiest to reach is Ulva which is a short boat trip. Further offshore and harder to reach is Staffa with its famous Fingal’s Cave and basalt columns.

Puffins and sea bird colonies can be found on the Treshnish Isles, a small collection of islands about 3 miles off the coast of Mull. The best known of these is Lunga and in the summer months it is a perfect spot to spend a day watching the antics of the resident puffins.

Erriad and Garbh Eilean are two tidal islands that can be reached at low tide and are perfect for an extended walk and wildlife encounters.

Path across Ulva

isle of Mull Beaches and Wild Swimming

All along the coast, the Isle of Mull has beautiful sandy beaches. Some are easy to access with parking on the shore line while others need a walk across heathland to enjoy. Wild swimming is also a beautiful way to spend time on the Isle of Mull. The gently sloping sand beaches warm up in the sunshine making them feel tropical. Even in the winter months, wild swimming is possible on Mull for those who are used to winter water temperatures.

The best beaches on Mull include:

  • Fidden beach close to Fionnphort with crystal clear waters and pink granite outcrops with sunset views towards Iona
  • Uisken Beach near Bunessan with another white sandy beach and views to Colonsay and Paps of Jura
  • Calgary Bay is probably the best known. There is a large parking area here and in summer a small shop and Art in nature gallery trail
  • Trågh Ghael at Knockvologan is wild and remote, reached by following a path through a nature reserve, passing the ruined village of Tir Fhearagain
  • Dùn Ara Bathing Pool is close to Glengorm Castle and is sheltered from all but the worst winter storm. The pool is revealed at low tide and is below the ruins of the old fort.
  • Eas Fors Waterfalls at Ballygown is a series of waterfalls that eventually cascade into the sea. In the cascade below the bridge there is a rope swing if you fancy a dip. Be careful in the final pools as they waterfalls cascade straight over the cliff edge.
Dùn Ara Bathing Pool

Wildlife on Mull

Mull is like many other islands in Scotland with wildlife encounters around every corner and on every beach. However, Mull is very special in many way which makes it one of the places in Scotland to go wildlife watching.

In the summer months Lunga and the other Treshnish Islands are bustling with puffins and other sea birds who nest on the remote and peaceful islands. However, year round white-tailed eagles and otters are the stars of the show. Mull is one of the few places where encounters with these fascinating and secretive creatures can be almost guaranteed.

To make the most of your time on Mull it is worth exploring with a local guide or taking a boat tour to maximise your chances of an encounter.

If this is not your style of travel, take your time while exploring. Stop on headlands and look for otters on the shore or whales and dolphins off shore in the deeper water. White-tailed eagles can be seen almost anywhere on the islands from the beaches to the higher valleys around Ben More. Often confused with the numerous buzzards, once you look through binoculars you will see their true identity.

diving in the sound of Mull

The Sound of Mull is as beautiful underwater as it is from the surface. The steep hills continue underwater with depths of 20 -30 metres easily reached on some of the wall dives around Calfe Island and Lochaline Pier. These wall dives are encrusted in jewel anaemones, dead man’s fingers and sponges while conger eels and goby’s will hide in the crevices.

For those who prefer history in their dives there are a number of large wrecks. These include the Thesis that ran aground close to Craignure and the unfortunate Rondo that dragged her anchor and actually managed to demolish the lighthouse on Eileanan Glasa before tipping into the depths. She now sits with her stern at 5 metres and her bow at the bottom in 55 metres. My one and only dive to 50 metres!

Further up the Sound of Mull is the Hispania which was initially sitting upright on the seabed but now slants at a jaunty angle and the murky Shuna which is unusual for the Sound of Mull as it can be dived at any state of the tide.

The diving here is cold water diving at its best and should be attempted with a local skipper or extensive local knowledge as the tides make planning complicated.

Everything Mull

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