Walking the coasts, hills and beaches of five islands of the Inner Hebrides: Mull, Ulva, Iona, Erraid and Staffa. Enjoying history, geology and an abundance of wildlife along the way. Stay in luxury hotel accommodation in Tobermory and on the Isle of Iona.
Hiking near Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Isle of Mull and Tobermory
Mull is one of the largest of the Hebridean islands but it is bitten into by so many sea lochs that the sight, smell and sound of salt water is never far away. This makes for a long coastline and, with its high cliffs, sandy and rocky bays, caves and arches there is always something to draw you on around the next corner.
The island is divided into north and south by a narrow waist of land at Salen. The southern half has a core of dramatic hill country culminating at 3169 feet (966 metres) on the summit of Ben More. To the west the lower peninsula of the Ross of Mull runs out almost to touch St. Columba's holy island of Iona. Northern Mull holds the island's tiny 'capital' of Tobermory (= Mary's Well), where we'll stay the first three nights. The scenery is a stepped landscape of lava flows from eruptions of around 50 million years ago. The vertical edges of these flows give numerous waterfalls, some falling straight to the sea where, to the west, lie the lava islands of Staffa, Treshnish and Ulva.
Iona Abbey and Dun I, the highest point on Iona
Isle of Iona
Perched in the Atlantic Ocean off the Isle of Mull lies the tiny windswept island of Iona; 3 miles long, with a population of around 120 permanent residents. This will be our base for the second half of the holiday. Iona is famed worldwide as one of the earliest centres of Christianity. In 563AD the Irish monk Columba (Columkille) established a monastic settlement that evangelised large parts of Scotland and the north of England. Iona not only became a place of pilgrimage, but also a centre for learning and culture, with its monks producing some of the world’s earliest illuminated manuscripts, including the Book of Kells. Between 795 and 806 Vikings raided Iona on 3 occasions during which the monastery was destroyed and many monks killed.
An abbey and nunnery were established here around 1200 and the island was a focus for medieval pilgrimage. Both the Abbey and the Nunnery fell into disuse during the Reformation of the late 16th century. The Nunnery is still in ruins, but the Abbey was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century.
Mull and it's surrounding islands are famous for it's wildlife along the coast. We will certainly see common and grey seals during our boat trip to the Isle of Staffa and if we are lucky dolphins. During the summer months there is a good chance to see basking sharks. Mull is one of the best places to see otters.
Sea bird colonies are a feature during their breeding season: puffins, guillemots and razorbills. Cormorants, fulmars and many other seabirds can be seen most of the year. If you are lucky you might see a golden eagle and the even bigger white tailed sea eagle - neither is certain, but Mull is one of the likeliest parts of Scotland in which to see both of these magnificent birds.
The programme will be subject to variables such as weather and the abilities of the group and changes may also be made to take account of lambing, deer stalking, etc. Any such alterations will always take into account the need to maintain the overall character of the holiday.
Saturday: Glasgow - Oban - Tobermory
Meeting in Glasgow, travel via the Royal Burgh of Inveraray to Oban for the ferry to Mull.
Treshnish, Isle of Mull
Sunday: Treshnish peninsula
A northwest Mull headland, opposite the Treshnish Isles. The Treshnish peninsula offers abandoned townships, high cliffs and waterfalls and a quiet shore below a raised beach where with luck otters may be seen by the water and eagles above the crags. Amongst several caves is one once used as the site of an illicit still. Everywhere there are stunning views to sea, islands and mountains, including Mull’s highest peak, Ben More.
Our walk rejoins the road at the recently restored building that once housed the local school. Barefooted, the nineteenth century children would have walked by the same path from the houses, whose ruins you have just seen, perhaps carrying a peat to help heat their classroom.
6 miles/9.5 km, 500ft/150m of ascent.
Monday: Isle of Ulva
Ulva lies close to Mull's western shore, and was, for centuries, the traditional home of the McQuarries. Mature mixed woodland and parkland around the big house near the ferry give way to the wilder west end of the island. The south shore leads to the McQuarries' burial ground and a tangle of little islands and bays lined with basalt columns.
The grandparents of the explorer and missionary David Livingstone once lived on Ulva and our walk will take us up to Livingstone’s Cave and to the family croft. In the cave, archaeologists have found flint artefacts and fragments of human bone which can be dated back as far as 5650 BC.
6 miles/9.5 km, 660ft/200m of ascent.
View towards the mainland from the roof of Duart Castle
Tuesday: Duart Castle and Loch Buie
We move to the Isle of Iona for the rest of our holiday. We have seen Duart Castle from the ferry to Mull and it will be our first stop. The castle is the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean – for 400 years the base of their sea-borne power. The castle was abandoned from 1751 until 1910, when what was left of it was purchased by Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 26th Chief, who set about the enormous task of restoring the building to the impressive state we see it in today.
Lochbuie is our next stop. Lochbuie (the tiny community on Loch Buie) is at the very end of a narrow winding road and is one of the most stunning locations on Mull. Our hike explores the head of the loch, taking in a tiny church, a grand house, a medieval castle, a sandy beach, a mausoleum and a prehistoric stone circle - all backed by beautiful scenery.
After our hike we will continue to Fionnphort for the passenger ferry to the Isle of Iona. Only residents are allowed to bring their cars to Iona.
5 miles/8 km, little ascent.
Wednesday: Isles of Staffa and Iona
In the morning will board then a small boat to the beautiful, uninhabited island of Staffa. The island is best known for its magnificent basalt columns. Their effect is most overwhelming at An Uamh Binn (musical cave) or, as it is more commonly known, Fingal’s Cave, which has enthralled and inspired travellers for hundreds of years.
After returning to Iona, we will walk up Dun I and to the beaches in the north of the island.
5 miles/8 km, 360ft/110m of ascent.
On the Isle of Staffa
We will take the ferry back to Mull where we have various options for walks on the Ross of Mull. One is a walk at low tide across the shining sand to the tidal island of Erraid, the setting Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, and a climb to the highest summit on the island for stunning views to Iona and the many other islands.
Another walk we could do is to a beach and an old pink granite quarry.
Up to 6 miles/8 km, 690ft/210m of ascent.
Friday: Isle of Iona
We will start the day with a tour of the restored abbey church and other remnants of the island’s medieval heyday, including the ruined nunnery, intricately carved crosses, dating from the 8th and 9th centuries and carved grave slabs.
Then we will hike to Port a Churaich or St. Columba’s Bay in the south. This bay is said to be where St Columba first landed on Iona.
6 miles/9.5 km, 400ft/120m of ascent.
Walking across the sand to the Isle of Erraid
Saturday: Isle of Iona - Isle of Mull - Oban - Glasgow
We will leave Iona in the morning and we travel via the Isle of Mull back to the mainland. We will drive via the Pass of Brander and Loch Lomond to Glasgow.
This walking tour is an excellent introduction to hiking in Scotland for people with good basic fitness. The holiday combines walking with visits to places of interest. Daily distances won't exceed 6 miles/10 km plus varying amounts of ascent, and we don't expect to hike for longer than 4 hours (plus stops). Most of the hiking will be on paths, tracks or quiet roads, although the surfaces can be wet and rough. There will be some steep sections along the way, but no climbs greater than 1200 feet/365m, even in total.
If you're still not sure whether or not you can cope after you've read this along with the details of the week's programme, please get in touch to discuss it further.
We will stay in small luxury hotels that have a reputation for care and for excellent Scottish food, so you can relax in comfort after your day out walking. Evening meals will be in the hotels and are included in the price.
Isle of Mull: Highland Cottage, Tobermory
This award-winning small hotel and fine-dining restaurant sits above the island “capital” of Tobermory.
Set amidst the quiet elegance of the town’s conservation area, yet only a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of Tobermory’s Main Street, Highland Cottage is a haven of genuine hospitality, well-appointed comfortable bedrooms and exceptional cuisine - every bit a genuine home-from-home.
Isle of Iona: Argyll Hotel
Argyll Hotel on the Isle of Iona is a small owner operated hotel nestled in the village street overlooking the Sound of Iona.
The hotel aims to provide a home away from home with all the comforts of great food and attentive service.
The hotel has been built in the 1800’s and it retains its character with the bedrooms in the main building being all unique and quirky
|Description||8 days (Saturday to Saturday), accommodation in Tobermory, Mull (3 nights) and on the isle of Iona (4 nights) in carefully selected 4-star hotels.|
|Walking||An attractive, well-thought-out walking programme; no more than 6 miles/10km in a day, and mostly on paths or tracks - though paths may be wet and/or rough in places. An equally attractive programme of visits to places of interest complement the walks.|
|LM91||7-14 September 2019||£1855/ €2320||Luxury hotel accommodation, all meals included.
Single room: £200/ €250 extra
|We may be able to book groups of 4 or more on other dates, please ask.|
and most especially
For general information and booking, please click here.