& this year our Scotland holiday sure did brighten up!
Without a doubt Mull is the perfect road trip destination if you quite literally want to be ‘off-grid’ and away from the hustle of bustle of mainland Britain. No service dominated my phone screen, which as a matter of fact was simply blissful, and we had 7 days of pure sunshine with a little chilly breeze every now and again.
An extremely early 3am set off & 12 hours later we arrived at Fidden Campsite. Catching the ferry from Oban – possibly one of the most scenic ferry rides I think you can take – it’s a quick 45 minutes at a total cost of £8 per person across to Craignure.
Now the journey from Craignure to Fidden isn’t the easiest, you’re immediately onto single track roads weaving in and out of cyclist, sheep, highland cows & the odd pot hole in the road. So understandably when you arrive at the campsite you can feel a little flustered and if your like me a little car sick, but I can assure you that’s soon forgotten about.
Checking in at the farmhouse you simply pay for how many people & how many nights you wish to stay for. Easy. The tricky part is finding that perfect place to pitch your tent. Now then, a little inside information about Fidden campsite. First of all it’s bloody gorgeous. There’s no allocated pitches, it’s a free for all. You pick your spot wherever you like & make yourself at home. It has to be the most scenic location for a campsite in the entire UK.
And where better to pitch your tent than right on the beach edge! We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting.
In regards to what is there to do here and what is on the campsite, well it’s very basic. There’s no WiFi or electric hookups, so it’s not really ideal for any internet whizz who likes to constantly be hooked to there phone or laptop. But that’s the beauty of this place, it’s tranquil & it’s the perfect escape from EVERYTHING.
The campsite has basic, but clean, facilities. A main shower and toilet block for men and women & a place to wash your dishes. But there are also, if I dare say, rather lovely portaloos in the main field which are ideal if you need the loo at night! And that’s about it. It’s most definitely an environment which requires you to be prepared for rugged ‘off-grid’ camping, especially if the weather turns.
How you fill your time is simply up to you. But in my opinion just sitting, reading and relaxing was enough for me. But obviously whenever visiting somewhere new you want to explore the area, and this peninsula has far more to offer than it lets on. Bring your bikes, canoes, paddle boards, walking boots, kites & make the most of them!
Waking up to a chilly, cold air passing through the gaps in the tent, the early morning was still (apart from the distant bleating of lambs).
Looking out, the sea and sky a muted grey colour met blending into one. Compared to the afternoon and evening before it was certainly not what we expected to wake up to. The day began very slowly, one by one we gradually rolled out of bed. After a warm fry up, lots of tea & a hot shower we decided to head out of Fidden campsite to explore the local area. Walking down the single track road we met some friendly hairy faces – my obsession with highland cows is out of control. Along the road and down into Fionnphort we had a wonder around the little village.
In all honestly I expected the village to be empty of life, especially in the foggy weather. But how wrong was I! Massive coaches were parking up and tourists were piling out of the door heading for the slip way and eagerly queuing to jump onto the ferry to take them over to Iona.
After meandering around and walking on the beach we headed on back to the campsite to chill. Of course I had a nap and spent my afternoon reading the rest of my book – which I must say I finished later that night, despite only starting it the day before! The afternoon slowly got a little warmer and less grey. And as the evening came around the sky was blue again and the sunset felt very promising for the next day to come.
Waking up to a bright, warm sunlight blazing through the plastic tent windows is always a lovely way to be woke . After a hearty bacon sandwich & a quick cup of tea we headed out for the morning to Ardalanish Bay. Parking in the little car park we headed along the grassy track, passing some rather odd sights – a line of black birds sat on the fence & wellingtons and trainers hung off fence posts. Getting closer and closer to the beach, the clear blue water set along the sand glistening in the sun light.
Me being me I headed straight towards the rocks and started clambering over them very precariously. Feeling free and with my exploration head on I just kept going, nosying into the little inlets and hitting a new secluded patch of sand every time. With a quick glance back to see how far I’d come, to my amazement mum and dad were following in hot pursuit.
Unable to get any further we stood on the jagged rocks looking out into the vast amount of blue. In the hazy distance we could see the outlines of the mountains which stood upon Islay (well, in all honesty we’re not 100% sure if it is Islay but after a lot of map browsing I’m 99.9% certain it was Islay we could see)
Anyhow my maps reading skills aren’t the finest but it’s glorious to think that’s how far we could see!
Heading back over the rocks we chilled on the beach for a bit before heading back to the car. Noticing a little sign in the car park for Isle of Mull Weavers we decided to take a look. Up the hill from the car park sits a working weaving mill and farm. Welcomed by a friendly lady she happily showed us around and into the mill itself. Two workers were busy at the dobcross looms, one weaving tweed and the other weaving scarves all made from native breed sheep, including their own hebrideans. When the looms were in action the noise was quite unbearable, thankfully we were given ear protectors and could roam the mill freely, but carefully. It was incredible to watch it happen so quickly – saying that it all looked very complicated and I would not like to trap my fingers anywhere in that machine!
On site there is also a mill shop which offers a wide range of their own woven products to the public. Filled with an array of blankets, scarves, shawls, throws, soft furnishing, bags, jackets and skirts everything is unique in its own way and beautifully crafted on site. Treating ourselves to a pot of ice cream we said goodbye and walked back down to the car. In no time we were back at the campsite, with not a cloud in the sky & the hot sun beaming down we all quickly collapsed into a chair. Silence surrounded the camp and in no time I dozed off to sleep under the afternoon sun. ( I’m getting a bit used to these afternoons naps)
I wakened feeling a little crisp but full of energy & quickly noticed mum and dad were no where to be seen. Looking out into the bay I just caught a glimpse of them paddling out and around the rock point. Quickly pulling on my wetsuit and life jacket I grabbed my board and paddled out to find them. Going against the wind was hard and tiring – but a good arm workout which I so desperately need if I’m going to complete my Tough Mudder – and the perfect way to see the coastline and explore the exposed rocks. Heading back towards the little bay was far easier, you just glided along the water with the wind doing most the work.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of sun, nibbles and lots of cups of tea ….. and a bit more sun and a few more nibbles.
Sitting and just staring out into the bay really does give you the time to think about things, in my case probably over think things. But seriously though, camping is really quite extraordinary in itself. I feel like it’s the only opportunity to really shut your self away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just enjoy what’s around you. It’s basic, it’s fun & it’s always a laugh with good company.
For now though, I’m going to sit and watch the sunset disappear and curl up into my sleeping bag.
I’m writing today sat in the warm evening sun with nothing to hear except the calm sea lapping against the bay. It’s been another glorious day, so much so I’ve found the heat unbearable.
We decided yesterday evening we would walk to the Carsaig Arches at Malcom’s point, the question is did we get there?
Leaving early morning our car journey took us through Bunnesan which we had a wonder around for a little bit. There wasn’t much there apart from a small Spar, a tackle shop also selling souvenirs, a bistro, a BNB and a charity shop called Island Castaways. Without hesitating we headed straight for the charity shop which was a great little find. One section was purely books and luckily I found myself another holiday read & the other main building was full of clothes, furnishings, toys – basically everything and anything. With our purchases made we carried on to Carsaig.
To get there was a mission in itself. On the sign it indicated a 4 mile drive from the main road down to the bay. Taking the single track road off the main A849 was nerve wracking at every corner. With approximately 4/5 passing points along the entire road it was a little risky & precarious, but me being me insisted on driving on further, trying to sound as reassuring as possible. A sheer drop welcomed you one side of the road and a steep hill bank the other, so reversing up the hill or reversing down was not ideal, luckily though we met no one going down. Arriving at the bay there was a tiny car park, big enough to fit a max of 6 cars. Following the cobbled path it leads you out onto what must have been a pier/jetty which is now in ruin, which I presume, is from years of rough seas battering against it.
– Now then whilst in Bunessan I found a walking book for the Isle of Mull & in it was the walk to the Carsaig Arches. In bold writing it clearly indicated the length of the walk is a solid 6 hours over a rough, steep, slightly boggy terrain. Notifying ma and pa on this did not go down to well & with them finding it a little hard to walk in general we quickly put the walk to one side for another day, or another year! But nevertheless we still wanted to see the bay and have a roam about –
Finding the footpath in the trees we walked along to the sandy bay and then carried on walking a little past the bay to a jutted out point. In the distance you could see the narrow path continue around the bottom of the cliff face and despite eagerly wanting to see the Arches I knew in the heat it would be too much. Also the horseflies were next level we were getting bitten left right and centre!
After soaking in the sun and eating our snakcs we slowly made our way back to the car and back up to the main road, thankfully meeting no one else on the road again.
We arrived back to camp late afternoon and we’ve spent the rest of the day having a lazy lounge in the scorching sun. And yes you guessed it, I fell asleep again.
Today has most definitely been a long long day, we’ve basically driven around the entire island.
Waking bright & early we set off just before 9 for Tobermory. Along the single track roads with the odd passing place here and there it took us a solid 2 1/2 hours to get Tobermory. But when you’re surrounded by such gorgeous views to gorpe at, you really don’t care & time soon flies by.
Tobermory was the perfect picture town, colourful buildings run along the harbour front and masts on boats tinkle in the wind. What I didn’t realise was that Tobermory is actually Balamory. This quaint little fishing village was once the filming location to the famous children’s television show.
We walked up and down, and up and down the high street wondering in and out of the gift shops all which sold such beautiful handcrafted products made by local artisans. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Gallery Cafe sat in the sunshine overlooking the harbour. All fuelled up we decided to head to the lighthouse, a short 2km walk which starts next to the RNLI shop. A perfect trodden footpath with magnificent views.
On our route back to the car we stopped off for an Isle of Mull Ice cream in a quaint little pink building on the harbour front. It was delicious and the ice cream portions were very generous! Jumping in the car we headed for Calgary.
Now a little word of warning if you intend to go to Calgary bay for the day get there early or visit off peak because the car park is super small for such a magical beach. In our case as we arrived late afternoon unfortunately there was no where for us to park or anywhere safe to even just pull up on the road. So we simply had to see Calgary bay from the road above and even still it looked beautiful. I can’t quite explain how beautiful! Looking down from the windy road you could see the sandy bay so clearly. Engulfed by sweeping hills all around, the white sand lit up against the glistening clear blue sea – besides the temperamental British weather you could easily mistake it for the Caribbean.
Carrying on along the B8035 we passed the car park for Ben More – another great mountain I hope to climb one day! TIP: along this road there are some idyllic places to camp for the night in the wilderness whether it be in your van or tent.
Another 3 hours later we arrived back at camp, had a quick nibble to eat before heading back out to Bunessan to watch Edie on the Screen Machine which was visiting the area. Now I bet you’re wondering what on earth is a screen machine? What is it doing on an island like Mull? What does it look like?
Well, I saw it advertised at our campsite in the communal washroom. Basically Screen Machine is a ginormous digital lorry which seats 80 and bring the latest films to rural areas of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
(not my photos)
Now I think Edie is definitely a film you’d only go to watch if your a big lover of the Highlands, love the outdoors & love a heartwarming ending. It’s not for everyone but it was for me. I’ve been wanting to see this film ever since it was released simply for the fact that much of the filming is set in and around Lochinver (the neighbouring village to where we usually stay in the Highlands) & it revolves around this single challenge to reach the summit of Suilven. So when I saw it advertised at the campsite, on a mobile cinema screen, on an island of Scotland I couldn’t not go.
The film has charm & extraordinarily captures the highlands of Scotland. For myself it couldn’t have been more perfect. Except now it’s made me want to climb Suilven far sooner rather than later.
All fuzzy hearted we headed back to camp for a warm dinner and a long snooze.
Very aware that the holiday is quickly coming to and end, I made the most of our lazy day at camp and slept till late morning with the warm sun burning through onto my face.
Today pretty much involved eating, reading, napping, going for a paddle, eating, reading, napping, going for a paddle, eating – ok I think you get the point. We did nip into Fionnphort and bought some gifts from the local craft shop, we also bought & sent a bundle of postcards, fingers crossed they get home before we do!
Today sure did give me time to think about all the things I want to do and want to conquer: Suilven, Ben Hope, Ben More, Snowdon, Carten 100, NC500 & not forgetting my upcoming Tough Mudder which after all the cake and biscuits I’ve eaten this holiday, I’m not sure I’ll even be finishing!
What better to do on your final day than finally visit the tiny island across the way.
Waiting for the ferry I spent my time photographing the highland cattle which were chilling on the beach and eating in the reeds. I couldn’t believe how close I was to them, I was within arms distances at this point.
The Isle of Iona, 1.5 mile wide and 3 miles long, sits a short 10 minute ferry ride away from Fionnphort. Despite a population of around 120 residents it’s an island which sees thousands of visitors descend on each year.
Landing at the harbour we followed the shore road to the left and headed straight for the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. Little visitors know about this charming bay and once again we arrived to find no one else in sight.
Now you may wonder that’s a strange name? The bay is west facing and its name refers to the fact that the next landfall on the other side of the water is Newfoundland in North America!
Another hidden little gem which was well sheltered from the wind was Port Ban. Contained by the sweeping dunes, the pale golden sand is silky soft underfoot and the water a tropical blue – but beware that alluring crystal blue is very deceiving when it comes to the water temperature!
Iona was a beautiful little island to explore and despite the constant descent of tourists being dropped off by the ferry it never felt crowded.
Along the shore front heading towards the famous Abbey there are several quaint little shops & cafes – we had a heart lunch at Martyn’s Bay Restaurant which sits at the top of the slope and over looks the water between Fionnphort and Iona.
Honestly, today’s a crap day because we’re packing up and heading home and of course none of us want to leave.
Mull will undoubtabley remain my first treasured Scottish island adventure and I will definitely return back one day – plans are already being made for next year! But for now I’ll leave you with a few tips for your own adventure on Mull.
- Take cash because ATM’s are few and far between and many shops and small business only accept cash.
- Fill your car up to the brim before descending on mull – as there are very few petrol stations on the island
- Bring your bikes – perfect roads for cycling on
- Arrive in the week & leave before the weekend – it’s the perfect place if you want to do some island hopping & the quietest time is definitely during the week