Published: July 16th 2009July 16th 2009
The Isle of Mull.
The Isle of Mull is an island in the Inner Hebrides, a few miles from the coast of western Scotland. On its northernmost point lies Tobermory, an adorable port town which is the setting for the BBC children’s program ‘Balamory’; at the very south of the island, generations of Scottish kings are buried at Iona Abbey. Between its heralded tips are forty square miles of raw nature: tranquil lochs, moody glens and rugged marshland that are dashing even under grey skies.
My family has travelled to Mull since the 1960s. My grandparents made friends in Tobermory after a chance trip away from the mainland, and came back with their four children year after year. In the seventies my mum worked at a pony trekking centre in her school holidays; in the eighties she and her three brothers had children of their own, and began to bring us to the island every summer. The adults would enjoy birdwatching and the beautiful landscapes - we had a safe place to play. And so Mull has become part of my history, too: the calls of curlews by the shores of its lochs, games of cricket with my brother on its sandy beaches, tantrums
at highland walks that went on for too long, tuna baps, bites from midges and soft-sounding Gaelic place names all remain close to my heart, even as other plans kept me away for years.
My uncles and cousins had plans this summer, but, true to a promise that I had made last winter out of hope rather than certainty, I found a week to drive to Scotland with my mum and gran for the first time in six years. My priorities had changed since the last time we had made the trip together: this year I had a camera under my arm instead of a cricket bat, and after a busy spring in a foreign city a long marshland walk sounded like heaven, not hell. But our holiday cottage, at Killiechronan on the shore of Loch na Keal, was just the same as it had been a decade ago, minus the sea shells in the chest of drawers and with new mugs in the kitchen. There are still ponies grazing the tall grass outside the cottages’ windows, the generation that mum had gone trekking with having been replaced by Balamory’s four-legged extras.
Across the loch, a pair of
white-tailed sea eagles had built a nest in a tall tree, and each morning through a telescope we watched as they raised a chick. English tourists - harmless, beige-clad drips from the south and sociable, binoculared Northerners - have begun to arrive to observe the twenty or so pairs of the rare eagle that have settled on the island, and, along with the Balamory gig, the extra money that Mull is generating is helping to support its people, who live peacefully and contentedly with a lifestyle based on farming. I pitched up at Killiechronan eager to spend my vacation indulging my family’s hobby, and for a week swapped legal cases for eagle chases. *This story is continued in my journal Short stories and photographs from across Europe, a blog which I have recently edited to include some of my TravelBlog pages, and photo galleries from every place I have been to.
There are more photos below