Kimberley Grant recently took a trip to the Isle of Mull with her campervan. Here she recalls her journey and the best places to visit.
All of my trips to the Isle of Mull have started with either my friend's small fishing boat or the CalMac ferry from Ardnamurchan in the western highlands, and there's always been plenty to see on the journeys over. We've caught glimpses of porpoises jumping in and out of the water, seals bobbing by the boat or lying on the warm skerries with their pups and, one time, a huge sea eagle taking off from the rocks.
On my last trip, we sailed in the late afternoon to Tobermory harbour, which is always a delight the colourful buildings beginning to slowly reveal themselves beyond the masts of fishing boats and the swooping seagulls.
We drove off the boat with all the windows rolled down and were overwhelmed by the fresh harbour smells, further tempting our growing appetites. Like most trips to Mull, this one started with seafood. Usually this means devouring chips outside the Fisherman's Pier van, this time, however, we wanted to try somewhere new.
After a short walk around the harbour, we headed to Cafe Fish, an award-winning restaurant perched above the old ferry waiting room. We clinked white wine glasses, swallowed fresh oysters, scallops and an aromatic Tom Yam seafood broth and enjoyed watching all the activity down by the pier.
A couple of hours later, we picked up supplies in the local Co-op and took to the road. Being so tired and full from dinner, we only managed 7 or 8 miles before we gave in and parked up for the night.
In the morning we woke to a lazy breakfast of cereal and coffee before driving north to Glengorm Castle, where we wandered around the grounds with hundreds of sheep and lambs, some highland cattle and mountain hares.
A couple of miles closer to the sea, we climbed atop the site of the medieval fort Dun Ara and swam in the tidal bathing pools, each with their own spectacular view of the rugged coast and seascapes.
Hungry and with bodies tingling from the freezing cold water, we jumped back in the van and headed a few miles east and inwards, to the Isle of Mull Cheese farm. We visited the piglets and calves in the barns before taking the first table of the day inside the Glassbarn cafe. We tucked into a delicious cheese board, terrine and homemade sausage rolls, admiring the giant vines and monsteras that had climbed all over the glass walls and ceiling.
We joined the single-track B road again and drove west, winding up and down the hairpin bends near Dervaig before taking a right towards the north of the island. Here we parked by the tiny pier in Croig and walked along the landrover track to Port na Ba, a sandy bay overlooked by a striking black house and a charming stone cottage.
By the time we got on the road again, it was late afternoon but we took our time driving southwest along the same road towards the low sun, listening to our newest playlists.
We stopped at the tiny family-fun Ballygown restaurant and managed to secure the last available table, one-hour-wait away. To pass the time, we visited the beautiful Lip na Cloiche gardens and nursery fives minutes down the road. The owner was watering plants in her greenhouse and greeted us as we wandered up her beautifully constructed path, across a small trickling burn and between towering echiums.
When we arrived back at the restaurant, a young boy seated us at one of the four tables in the dining room and showed us the menu - a choice of three starters, mains and desserts written on a series of blackboards with different coloured chalks.
Another three tables arrived, nodding to each other and opening the bottles of wine they'd brought along with them. We went on to eat three courses of delicious, unfussy homemade food. Between us, we had potted crab, breaded haggis, lobster linguine, steak pie, rhubarb crumble and more cheese.
Midway through the meal, we were summoned outside by one of the other guests who has spotted an eagle circling above the small hills behind the house. All guests shot out onto the patio and a series of binoculars and cameras were sharply pointed at the sky. After watching it soar in the golden light for a moment, everyone scurried back inside to finish their meals.
The next morning we set off on a day trip to the island of Ulva. When we arrived at the tiny pier, we slid across a wooden panel mounted on the wall, which uncovered a red square and summoned the ferry over to collect us.
On arrival, we paid the small visitors fee, picked up a map and joined one of the walking trails leading to the south coast of the island. The track led us through a patch of woodland, past some old farm buildings and a water mill out onto undulating open moorland.
After turning a bend at the top of the hill, there were wonderful views over the Treshnish isles and all the way out to Staffa. In front of them, sat the stone ruins and ridges of lazybeds belonging to the abandoned village of Ormaig.
After taking a break to eat some fruit, we continued onto the bothy down by the shore then turned back and retraced our steps to the woodlands, where we picked-up the Minister's path'. We followed it through the dense trees, past the Thomas Telford designed Ulva church before arriving back at the Boathouse restaurant by the pier where we enjoyed a Fisherman's Catch' fresh seafood platter.
We took the ferry back to Mull and joined the road again, this time weaving beneath crumbling sea cliffs towards the south of the island.
We followed the road all the way to Fionnphort where we stopped for a short walk through Tormore quarry, where large pink granite blocks lay in piles next to small glittering beaches.
We decided to spend our last night on a small wild camping site at Uisken Bay on the south of the island. Here we visited a croft house where we were asked to leave £2 in an honesty box and display one of the handmade card badges from a box of tupperware on our front windscreen.
We drove a short distance downhill and parked up at one of the spots right next to the beach. We finished off the remaining food in the van, a slightly unusual combination of cheese, plain spaghetti, red wine and fruit, and watched the sun drop behind the hill overlooking the bay.
In the morning, we drank coffee in bed then took a short walk along the shore and up the small hills before returning to the van to pack our things.
On the drive to the ferry in Craignure we got stuck behind a broken-down van and decided that this was a good thing as we weren't ready to leave quite yet. Sadly, thanks to a helpful local farmer and his small tractor, it wasn't long before the van was cleared and we were on the CalMac ferry back to the mainland, already planning our next trip
Words and images by Kimberley Grant