The Scottish Highlands are, simply put, starkly beautiful. From the rugged, looming mountains to the grassy glens and murky lochs shrouded in mystery, it’s no wonder this region is so highly sought after by visitors.
When I first set out to visit the highlands I, like many others, chose to head directly to the Isle of Skye. Not to say its remarkable reputation is unfounded – I was left in awe of its otherworldly vistas and spellbound by its mythical history after visiting for only three days – but Skye isn’t the only island in the Inner Hebrides worth visiting.
The slightly smaller and lesser-known Isle of Mull took me by complete surprise, and I haven’t stopped raving about this underrated gem since visiting last summer.
The Island in a Nutshell
For a relatively small island, Mull’s landscape varies wildly: the West side of the island is dominated by steep cliffs and rocky shore, while the East is softer with lush greenery. The coastline stretches over 300 miles and is rife with rugged bays, sea caves, pristine beaches, and cascading waterfalls.
Tobermory, the charming capital, is characterised by its idyllic harbour-front locale and brightly painted buildings. It’s a placid and picturesque village with little other than a museum, whisky distillery, restaurants and shops, and acts as a great base from which to explore the island.
Things to See & Do in the Isle of Mull
For the adventurous and outdoorsy, there are a number of walks and hikes across the island, which vary in duration and difficulty. Ben More – one of the highest munros in the Inner Hebrides – stands at 3,169 feet, and can be climbed in a span of 7 or 8 hours. With a steep ascent and boggy and rocky terrain, it’s a challenging climb, but the 360-degree panoramic view from the summit is breathtaking (weather dependant, of course).
Duart Castle dates back to the 13th century, and is the ancestral home of one of Scotland’s oldest clans: The MacLeans. It’s open from May to October, with the castle grounds and tearoom free to visit, and a small entry fee to tour the interior.
Unspoiled beaches abound on Mull – beautiful stretches of white and golden sand with clear blue, turquoise and emerald-toned seas. Some beaches – like the popular Calgary Bay are easily accessible, while others are more secluded, requiring a short walk or 2 hour hike to reach. Fidden is known for its pink granite outcrops and and spectacular sunset views, and Traigh Gael is one of the most hidden beaches on the island – you’re almost guaranteed to have the place to yourself.
Wildlife is plentiful on and surrounding Mull; between April and October, whale watching tours run frequently, and Minke Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins and Basking sharks can be spotted.
Bird watching is popular, and the island is often touted as the best place in the UK to see white-tailed and golden eagles. During the summer months, puffin colonies can be seen breeding on Staffa – a nearby uninhabited island accessible by ferry or boat tour.
Sample the delicious farm-to-table food
Fresh seafood is harvested from the island’s clear waters, including mussels, crabs, langoustines and salmon, and Cafe Fish in Tobermory is one of the best restaurants on Mull to sample it. Fresh and locally sourced seafood is their specialty – shellfish is delivered to the restaurant daily from their private fishing boat, and all other fish is provided by local fisherman. You’ll find everything from whole lobsters to rich fish stew and seared scallops gracing the menu here.
Ninth Wave provides an incredible 3, 4 or 5 course fine dining experience, with a daily-changing menu featuring fresh local ingredients. Everything on the menu is hyper-local: various herbs, fruits and vegetables are picked from their kitchen garden and herbarium, and over 70 types of greens and flowers are grown on 7 acres of ‘edible landscape’ located nearby. Island delicacies abound on the menu, such as Mull highland beef, Fionnphort venison, and raw Iona honeycomb.
Isle of Mull Cheese is a small working dairy farm open to visitors. You can take a self guided tour of the farm, check out the underground cheese cellar, or have lunch in their homely cafe.
Head to Tobermory Bakery for homemade cakes and pastries, and don’t miss the renowned fish & chips from Fisherman’s Pier van at Tobermory’s harbourfront.
Essential Information for Visiting
Getting there: Mull’s serene surroundings make you feel as though you’re a world away from Edinburgh, but it’s actually not too far, and getting to the island is fairly simple.
Ferries to the island depart daily from Oban, which is a two hour drive from Glasgow, or three from Edinburgh. Once on Mull, it’s quick a 40 minute drive to Tobermory from the ferry terminal in Craignure.
Getting around: Renting a car is advised as public transportation is infrequent and expensive.
Where to Stay: I stayed at Sheiling Holidays campground – which is a great budget option near the ferry terminal, and I also stayed in Tobermory at the Tobermory Youth Hostel, which is ideally located on the main street. Check this website for a list of additional accommodation options, including bed and breakfasts, self-catering cottages, and hotels.
Have you been to the Isle of Mull?
Or would you like to visit?