Written on 03/10/2014, Isle of Mull
Like all good things our fortnight on Mull had to come to an end, a concept even harder to accept following one of our most successful and enjoyable trips to date. We’d spent two weeks revelling in multiple Otter sightings, watched up to three Golden Eagles for hours at a time and walked some of the most unspoiled wilderness that I’ve ever had the privilege to encounter. It’s probably no surprise therefore that all who sail on the MV Isle of Mull view her with mixed emotions. At the start of a trip she’s your gateway to wildlife nirvana but just a few days later has the onerous task of transporting you back to normality.
Thankfully we still had one last day to enjoy before our appointment at Craignure and we certainly intended to make the most of it. Yes the weather had once again taken a turn for the worse, although still far better than we could have expected for October, but that didn’t stop us heading off over the hills towards Cruachan Treshnish. As the name suggests this hill sits behind Treshnish farm to the north-west of Crackaig making it a familiar sight but not one we’d ever climbed. Standing at 216 meters the actual gain in height from our starting point was limited but the nature of the terrain made for hard going. Short, cropped grass would quickly give way to heather and bracken hidden amongst which were numerous streams and treacherous bogs. Needless to say my foot disappeared on more than one occasion but we eventually made the peak in one piece.
As can be seen above Cruachan Treshnish is home to another trig point, one of a surprisingly large number which litter the island. Unlike our last ‘bag’ at Quinish this one offered commanding views out to the Treshnish islands, Coll, Tiree and beyond.
Red Deer and Golden Eagles were once again regular companions throughout the walk though this time the only evidence for Red Grouse came through their distinctive droppings. In many ways the birds were to play second fiddle however as I kept my eyes scanning the ground around us, hoping for a glimpse of White Heather. This much rarer form of one of Mull’s most widespread plants is traditionally a symbol of good luck in Scotland and is often woven into bridal bouquets or sold as charms. Apparently Queen Victoria brought the concept back to England from the royal home at Balmoral and today we were hoping for a little bit of luck ourselves. A couple of plants had been reported from this locality earlier in the year but with most flowering Heather looking beyond its best we weren’t entirely sure that there would still be any about. As it turned out those fears were well founded but I did manage to find one small specimen on the lower slopes of Cruachan Treshnish. I probably got more excited about this than I should admit to given my previously stated aversion to all things plantlike.
Coming down off the hill we stopped in at Glac Gugairidh, another abandoned settlement located just up the valley from Crackaig. Here another twelve or so buildings and associated enclosures hint at how many people used to live and work off these lands, a sombre reminder to us all of our fleeting existences.
At this point we had a choice to make. Head back the way we’d come or extend our walk a little by rock hopping around the coast to a large cave. Obviously the second choice was more favourable but with the tide high and a very strong onshore wind I had doubts about whether or not we’d make it without getting wet feet. Emma assured me that there would be no issue so it was with a small sense of satisfaction that I uttered the words “I told you so” a couple of hours later. That’s not to say that our time down by the sea was wasted. Far from it. We got to enjoy a steady stream of Gannets coming and going from Loch Tuath as well as spotting a couple more winter plumaged Black Guillemots. There was also a very good shout for Great Northern Diver but sadly the large swell made confirmation almost impossible.
And with that we really had reached the end of our adventure. As if sensing the occasion the skies cleared as dusk fell giving us our first sunset since arriving. Even better was the reappearance of both Red Deer stags to lend their own inimitable soundtrack to our farewell dinner.
Until the next time.