Mull Trip Oct/Nov 2019
443 miles, averaging 21.2 mpg (the singletrack roads don't seem to be good for getting decent fuel consumption in our motorhome!).
I had a weeks holiday at the end of October so we decided to take the motorhome over to Mull, somewhere we'd visited a couple of times before by motorbike but hadn't been for many years.
I'd booked a ferry on the Sunday afternoon so we decided to wander up to our favourite wild camping spot at Crinan on Saturday, as our dog Ludo loves the Crinan Canal and always enjoys his walks there.
On the way there we stopped to give Ludo a walk at the top of the Rest and Be Thankful pass and had a nice surprise in meeting a friend of ours (and fellow motorhomer) John there. He'd just picked up a very nice Saab car and had decided to take the long way back to his home on Bute.
Our wildcamping spot beside the Crinan Canal is about a mile or so from the dog friendly Cairnbaan Hotel and the walk to there is one of Fiona's favourites - so much so that she's got me keeping an eye out for a potential holiday home purchase there. After a drink in the hotel (which was gearing up for a halloween party with the staff in fancy dress) we wandered our way back to the motorhome for a quiet night.
In the morning we had a nice walk with Ludo towards Crinan, and he enjoyed a dip or two in the canal before we returned and wandered our way up to Oban. We were very early so after a Tesco and Pets at Home shop (we decided to get a Halti harness for Ludo to see if it helped controlling how strong he is on the lead) we hung out for a bit in the car-park near Mossfield Stadium, with a bit of a walk with Ludo to have a look at a rugby game that was on nearby.
The ferry trip from Oban to Mull is pretty short at only 45 minutes or so, which was just as well because unlike other Caledonian McBrayne ferries we'd been on the arrangements for dogs weren't the best for Ludo (who can be a bit reactive to other dogs). From our arrival point in Craignure it was about a 10 mile drive to the campsite at Pennygowan where we'd be basing ourselves for the week. It's a very new site, with lots of hardstandings and very clean facilities, a couple of miles from the village of Salen. We arrived just as it was getting dark so would save the exploring for tomorrow morning.
From the site, which is right beside the Sound of Mull so you can see ferries and other ships passing regularly, it is a short walk down the River Forsa to a pebble beach where Ludo enjoyed a run about and a bit of a splash. There isn't an easy way over the river here (it's probably do-able with wellies) which is a bit of a shame as the foreshore can be followed past the grass airstrip beside the Glenforsa hotel (which was closed for the winter) towards Salen. Instead we headed back up through the campsite and followed the main road into Salen. There isn't a footpath but the road is pretty quiet and it has a broad grassy verge so is safe enough.
The village of Salen isn't big but has a very good Spar shop and a dog friendly bar in the Salen Hotel. It also has a private pier and when we walked down to that we also noticed a very interesting greenhouse which Fiona was envious of.
Off the road down to the pier there is also a very new campsite which I think just opened in the summer.
On the way back to our campsite we diverted down to have a look at the airstrip and crossed that to get to the pebble beach which we followed back to the far side of the river from our campsite.
We followed the lovely river inland for a bit to see if we could cross it back to the campsite.
There is a bridge but it's private and related to the lovely Glenforsa House (which is a holiday rental) however the owner of the house allowed us (as a one off!) to cross it and head through his garden grounds back to the road near the campsite. He told is that the far side of the river can be followed back to the road but it's quite winding so a bit of a detour.
The next morning the weather was still very good so we decided to drive up to Tobermory. The road from Craignure to Salen is double track and so is part of the road from Salen to Tobermory, but I think all the other roads on the island are singletrack - alhough some of them (including the section on the way to Tobermory) are pretty good with decent sightlines and plenty of passing places. Do expect to spend a fair bit of time on singletrack roads if visiting Mull though!
The colourful buildings in Tobermory (which will be familiar to many as the setting for children's programme Balamory) was looking great in the sunlight.
On the way back to Salen we visited a viewpoint over some waterfalls and also stopped to take some photo's of some old abandoned wooden boats which were quite scenic.
The weather was still lovely the following morning so we decided to head out for the long drive to Fionnphort (with 37 miles each way of that on singletrack - although still a very easy drive even with our 7.3m motorhome) to get the short (10 minute) ferry crossing to the island of Iona.
After a quick run on the beach near where the ferry arrives we had a quick wander round the village before walking to the nearby Abbey.
The abbey is £9 per person to visit but well worth it (and Ludo was welcome in the grounds although not in the buildings). Fiona and I took turns walking Ludo around the grounds while the other visited the Abbey and its museum.
Whe then walked up to the north end of the island where there is a lovely white sand beach that Ludo loved, where there are also views looking out towards the Treshnish Islands. That had some memories for me as may years ago I spend a week on one of them (Lunga) doing survival training when I was in the Royal Navy Reserve.
When I posted the last of those pictures of Ludo on facebook most folks thought that was snow on his face, which shows just how white the sand was!
We then crossed back on the ferry to Mull then followed the singletrack road back to our campsite. I took a snap of the sunset over the Sound of Mull as there was ship (a CalMac ferry I think) nicely positioned.
The next day we decided to have quiet one walking Ludo along the pebble beaches near the campsite and visiting the nearby cemetery which as well as a ruined chapel also has a few war graves. We also continued Ludo's essential pub training by taking him into the Salen Hotel for a quick pint!
The next day was our final on the island and our luck with the weather finally ran out as it was pretty wet and horrible. Despite the weather we decided we'd take Ludo to visit a beach we'd been recommended at Calgary Bay, which is about 15 miles away from the campsite on very decent singletrack roads. Calgary Bay was where Calgary in Canada got its name (a Canadian Mounty colonel who'd visited Calgary Bay on Mull where he had family connections give it its name) and the white sand beach there was so nice that we took Ludo for two walks along it, with brunch in the motorhome in between. He doesn't mind the rain and, with waterproofs on, neither did we. He had a lot of fun running in and out of the sea and chasing the seabirds away.
The next morning we wandered down to check in for the ferry at Craignure, arriving early enough to walk Ludo around the village and to take a look at the campsite there. Next time we'll use that for a few of the nights as it's well placed for views over the Sound of Mull and has a dog friendly pub and a Spar shop a short walk away.
As the ferry crossing was only 45 minutes we decided to leave Ludo in the motorhome as we thought he'd be calmer there as he'd got a bit over-excited when we'd taken him onto the ferry on the way there. He also doesn't like the steep stairs heading up to the lounge area. That worked out well and I think we'll probably do the same on other short ferry crossings as he was nice and calm when we got back.
The scenery was lovely on the drive home, with lots of autumnal colours in the trees along the various glens we passed through. We'd planned to have a walk down to the old railway bridges in Glen Orchy but hadn't realised there was an event on there (a 33 mile ultra-marathon) so had to give it a miss, but as Fiona loves those bridges we'll need to do it the next time we're passing by.