Our hols on the stunning Isle of Mull – touring – walking around and sketching (mostly while having lunch and this time in watercolour mode.)
Using a new watercolour pad for me – Aquarelle by Clairefontaine 140lb, 24 x 30 cm. Which proved to be a very nice paper to paint on. My other smaller sketchbook was my more usual A5 Daler Rowney cartridge pad and I carried pencils, graphite stick and Winsor & Newton watercolours.
Sunday
We drove up to the Isle of Mull in two stages stopping at my sister’s​ halfway. Arriving in Oban with about an hour to spare before we had to get the ferry. All through our journey through Scotland, there had been warnings along the roadsides about ‘Heavy Rain – Yellow Warning’, but fortunately, we had no real rain until we reached Tesco’s in Oban and it really threw it down at the Ferry Terminal.
We crossed ‘Over the Sea to Mull’, piped with the lament of the car alarms going off on the ferry. Arrived at Kate’s Cottage, at Aros Bridge – slightly chilly, cooked up some curry and lit the fire. The Cottage is very quiet and comfortable, with a little flock of chickens who lived in the garden and who would sit on the window sill looking in at us. It’s lovely to be here!
Coming to the last pages in my old A4 ‘Arboreta’ sketch pad, pencil and watercolour looking along to Port an Tobire, and the Sound of Mull.
Monday
Woke to wind and rain (Force 5 gusting 7), so had a leisurely breakfast before driving into Tobermory. The fine views along the road were sadly mostly obscured. Dropped into the Aquarium, were our little lad was able to handle starfish, crabs, scallops, sea urchins, etc. Which he thought was wonderful!
Everything was soggy in Tobermory, with lots of Musto sailing gear with bright yellow rain hoods in evidence and all the burns and waterfalls were thundering with all the rain.
Back at Kate’s Cottage the rain finally stopped while we were eating our dinner of sausages. So we ended the day with a lovely evening walk to Aros Castle from Aros Bridge. Along the way, we saw several Greylag Geese, Herons, Oystercatchers and Kittiwakes.
Watercolour sketch looking up at the ruins of Aros Castle from the coast path.
Tuesday
A greyer start to the day than we had hoped, we set out for the ferry to the island of Ulva. Stopping on the way to check if any Eagles were sat at the spot we had had a tip-off for along the side of Loch na Keal, sadly there were none to be seen. Once on the island, we purchased our ferry tickets from the cafe (The Boathouse) and set off for a stroll.
We had picked the ‘Livingstone Route’ of Stanley Livingstone fame, as his grandparents had lived in a little croft at Port á Bháta, so off we set winding through the paths. By now the sun had come out, but with a little wind – which is good as far as I’m concerned as it keeps the midges at bay!
Our route went through a surprising amount of woodland, which must be sheltered on this eastern part of the island. We also came across many little painted pebbles that had left/hidden for children (and us!) to find.
We continued over the moors and down a little path into a steeply wooded valley to the ruined village of Port á Bháta. With beautiful views out across Geasgill Mór, Inch Kenneth to Gribun on Mull. Which I busily sketched whilst we had our lunch. I found this to be a very relaxing peaceful spot, looking out over the sea.
Moving around the coast eastwards we found the cave where an archaeological dig has been undertaken with Mesolithic remains being found. The cave is quite large, set into the hillside and is reputed to have been dated back to 5650 BC, with midden finds including the remains of flint and a human infant. As well as animal bones belonging to the Ice Age (Lemming and Arctic fox). Standing there looking out through the entrance we wondered about that ancient landscape that our human ancestors would have looked on – where would the sea level have been and what was that cold, ice age horizon like that they would have looked upon?
After these heady thoughts, we carried on, up and down, past basalt cliff columns back to the jetty and a well-earned cuppa at ‘The Boathouse’.
We all agreed that Ulva was a smashing island and definitely one to come back to. The walks were all very well signposted too, with no worries about navigation.
On the way back those elusive eagles were still not perched on their tree!
Watercolour sketch looking out over Camas Cuil an t-Saimh bay, on the Isle of Iona.
Wednesday
Today was the day of the long drive around the Island of Mull to catch the ferry across to Iona. On that long winding road through we did spot both sorts of eagle – Hurrah! A Sea Eagle near Lochbuie and a Golden Eagle near Pennygheal, but no Otter’s – so far…
We arrived at Fionnphort at lunchtime, along with everyone else – coaches, cars, and bikes. So it was with many others that we walked along the Ionian road to the Abbey. Oddly though, most people headed straight on past, so it was with relief that we found a quiet spot in the Abbey garden to sit, contemplate and eat our sandwiches.
The Abbey is an amazing place, with all its history, the gravestones of the ‘King’s of the Isles’ and their warriors. Having been found in 563 by St Columba and been restored from dereliction by the Ionian Community in modern times.
After the Abbey, we crossed the island as I wanted to do some sketching in the bay of Camas Cuil an t-Saimh. Again this was in watercolours on a quick pencil drawing. I had also wanted to get down to the Bay of the Curaich’s but alas, we had run​ out of time!
After some Fish & Chips at Salen back on Mull, we headed back over to Loch na Keal to watch the sun slipping down over the water. Another Golden Eagle flew over us and it seemed like a perfect way to finish off the day.
Thursday
Drove back into Tobermory for a sunny walkout to the beautiful Rudha nan Gall lighthouse. As ever lunch and sketching, for me, went hand in hand. Still in my watercolour mode and trying to remember from which direction I had sketched the lighthouse before. Lots of boats sailing down the Sound of Mull, but fewer birds this time around the light.
On our way back we had a very windy walk up and around ‘S Airde Beinn, a classic extinct volcano, with a loch in its crater. We had been here before and it’s always impressive. With stunning views of the North of Mull, Coll, Tiree, Ardnamurchan and beyond to Rhum and Skye, which just looked like rows of mountains without any sea between them!
Friday
It was the usual lunch and sketching situation sat outside in the sun. This time though I wanted to show the brooding, rugged character of Duart Castle, which sits brooding on its promontory guarding the eastern Sound of Mull. This time I used a Graphite Stick with just a little wash of blue and burnt sienna​ watercolour sky.
Not too many people here today, which was nice for us, but probably the Castle would have liked more.
The Castle has massively thick walls and hugely heavy roofing slates to try and keep out the wind, rain and in times past other fellow Scots. Though they seemed to be having to re-double their efforts to keep out the weather, as there was scaffolding up to replace the mortar between the stones, as the huge walls were leaking! (I chose not to add the scaffolding to my drawing.)
A little last A5 sketch, looking out of our ​kitchen window at the ruins of Aros Castle and the Sound of Mull beyond, before ending our Mull Odyssey.
We had rain, driving back all the way home, so Mull might have been a bit soggy again after we left.
Here’s ​another very quick A5 sketch as we drove past Loch Lomond in the mist and rain. This time using a black watercolour pencil.

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