Because of of the abundant series of events that happened on the Isle of Mull, I wrote a 3000+ word recount of the experience, which you can read here. However, most people will probably find it TL;DR, and so if you just want the summary and the photos, read on! A complete series of photos of this trip can also be found on Facebook 😉
Summer is short in Scotland, and there are only a small handful of rainless weekends during the summer months suitable for travelling. Knowing this, I had to take advantage of every sunny weekend, because very soon, we’ll be back to 5 degrees and the sun will be setting at 4 pm. After Perth, I decided to continue my discovery of Scotland by visiting some of the islands in the west, starting with…the Isle of Mull!
My main motivation of going to Mull was to go to the original Tobermory and Calgary. Tobermory is a town 300 km north of Toronto, and Calgary, as you probably know, is one of the largest cities in Canada, located in the province of Alberta. It so happened that the names of both of these places were derived from places that exist…on the Isle of Mull in Scotland! Feeling like an adventure, I was ready to roam around Mull (or well, at least half of Mull), all by myself.
Getting to Mull
Being a ferry ride away from Oban, which is 3 hours away from Glasgow by train, Mull made a perfect weekend trip. As the train headed toward Oban, which began to appear soon after it reached the outskirts of Glasgow, I began to be amazed at the number of mountains (and sheep, elaborated in the next post) in the country. How intriguing you are, Scotland.
As transport on Mull would be problematic without a car and with very limited public transit available, I decided on a method of transportation that is quite new to me – cycling! And it wasn’t normal cycling either – I rented an electric bike on the island, knowing that I would have conquer some tedious hill. Not being the fittest person out there, I definitely needed the extra power boost provided by the battery and in retrospect, I couldn’t have done it without the electric bike! My route is illustrated below (map obtained here):
I began at Tobermory, going down to Dervaig, Calgary, then south and east to Salen and finally back up to Tobermory. Evidently, this was only the top part of the island. I wasn’t even going to get close to Ben More, one of only two island Munros (a Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3000 ft, the other island Munro being on Skye) slightly to the south of the loop. The route consisted of several toiling climbs, but also segments of fantastic freewheeling after the climbs, for a grand total of 42 miles – that is 68 kilometres! Was I ready for this? Did I really know what I was getting myself into?
On the road
What I ended up getting myself into was this – the most strenuous physical exercise I’ve had since…maybe ever. This was rewarded with magnificent views and the thrill of downhill freewheeling sessions. It’s quite amazing how sometimes it would take close to an hour to get through a series of hills that seemingly never ended, and it only took two or three minutes to descend from the very top to the very bottom, without any effort at all. It almost felt as if I was being carried by the wind, and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything. Knowing that I had to experience the pain of the upward climb in order to enjoy the downward hill – that was what kept me going, even though my legs could have collapsed at any moment.
I must say…the thrilling sensation of the wind hitting my face as I descended toward the loch at the bottom of the hill in a freewheel drive – it was heavenly and magical at the same time. I often looked back up from the bottom of the hill and wondered how I got up there in the first place. There must have been some deepest desires of conquering the hills that drove me to do something I thought was impossible for me. Alas, it was possible, after all.
Taking a break in Calgary
It took me around two hours to reach Calgary from Tobermory, where I took a lunch break at the little cafe by the Calgary Art In Nature sculpture walk. Yep, so this was Calgary, my “destination”. Folks from Calgary, Canada – this is the place your city was named after!
The break was much needed as I recharged (both the battery of the bike and my own energy) and rested my legs. It was there that I walked through the sculpture trail, passing by many works of art sculpted out of wood.Via the sculpture trail, I walked slowly toward Calgary Bay, a serene part of Mull with a beach where one could relax. I didn’t stay too long because I had to continue cycling – and there was still a large portion of the loop to go!
On the road…again
From Calgary I continued on to some HORRID hills, possibly the worst ones in the entire route. The consolation to the hills was the ever-changing scenery, which seemed to evolve with every mile. One moment I’d be cycling next to a gigantic loch, and the next moment, after turning a bend on the road, I’d be facing mountain ranges like I’d never seen before, still on the same isle but separated by a body of water. Passersby were scarce, other than the occasional car that either yielded to me or was yielded to, so I felt like I had the entire place, all of God’s creation, to myself. And yet I still pondered – this was an ISLAND?
But yes, the mountains. Oh, those mountains. Those endless, majestic mountains that dominated the landscape. While the island itself was a lot bigger than I had expected, I still found it unbelievable how so many mountains could be gathered in one place. And I was facing them, all alone in the wilderness. The feeling of having Ben More right in front of me across from a loch, that giant that could devour me in one instant – it’s quite inexplicable how insignificant, how tiny you feel at that moment, and it may be just appropriate to stand in awe and gasp in silence.
The entire loop took 8 hours, including an hour to eat and some stops to rest and take photos. EIGHT HOURS. That is a feat on its own and to this day I am surprised that I survived the day without having to call for help (not that I would have been able to, without cell phone reception most of the time). Of course, this is not the end of the adventure. I still haven’t told you about Tobermory, Duart Castle, and most importantly…THE SHEEP. You can of course anticipate that in the next post 🙂