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Review: Tobermory


Isle of Mull, Scotland, United Kingdom


  • By SilverTraveller annette-hall

    21 reviews


  • Jun 2010
  • Family including children under 16

77 people found this review helpful

Usually when we explore Scotland, we fly up and hire a car, but this time we drove, to fit in all the toddler necessities (a first trip with child included!). Went over to B’ham and stayed overnight. Got up very early –was on the road by 4.30am, so that Frances, my daughter could drive through B’ham and up the M6 while it was quiet (the first time she'd driven my car!). Stopped at Charnock Richards services for breakfast and driver swap and I drove up to Gretna. The idea was to stop at the Outlet centre, but we were too early, it didn’t open until 10am. Granddaughter Alice spent time with walking practice and inspected tubs of pansies until we could look round the shops. Frances drove to Moffet, where we stopped for lunch, a look round shops and a walk along river before setting off again. Frances did extra driving turn and we went up towards Glasgow. Ran into our first, and only traffic jam as the motorway was closed due to a bad motor cycle accident. Luckily the diversion was only off the motorway at a slip road and on again at the same junction. Stayed overnight in a travel lodge at Hamilton, south of Glasgow, were Alice practiced stepping up and down a curb in the lay-by. All ready for an early night, then up and a picnic breakfast in room before a latish start. Frances did first stint, the motorway round Glasgow, across the Erving bridge and up towards Loch Lomond. Alice obligingly slept most of the way, so stopped at Tarbet on shores of Loch Lomond, for a walk around and throwing of pebbles into loch – and to find out from information centre where the next petrol station was – not many around!. I drove the picturesque route along the rest of Loch Lomond, found a petrol station, and on to our next stop at the power station visitors centre by Loch Awe. From there, on to Oban, arriving mid afternoon. Hoped to look round the place, but very busy – difficult to cross roads. Alice got a bit stroppy as well, so went to our B&B and then to Tesco for a meal – and an early night. Saturday, had cooked breakfast, and to Tesco to do shopping, which we just managed to squeeze into car. Found nice place for coffee and tried again to look round town. It rained though, and then we saw the Cooks (daughter Alison, son-in-law Steve and children Ellie and Nate) crawling along the main street, so back to Tesco for a rendezvous and lunch in a cafe they thought was good, but was very crowded. Frances and Alice walked to the ferry terminal and I went back to Tesco car park yet again for car – so all ended up in the queue on time! A smooth ferry crossing, and off along the only road to Tobermory. The road started off two lanes, then changed to single track with passing places, then degenerated to single track with pot holes and dodgy sides. I don’t know who was the most terrified- Frances as driver or me as passenger! We were used to single track on the outer Isles, but there you could at least see what was coming. Mull specialised in blind corners and blind summits so it was difficult to anticipate where the road was going! This was the main road to the main town on the island too!! Found the house o.k. and settled in. It was a new build house and we were the first people in, so everything was immaculate. Went a walk into Tobermory to get leaflets from the information centre. Disappointing as a place. We were not far from the main street which ran along the sea, but the walk down to it was seriously steep, so no walks down town with child and pushchair, would have been terrified of the pushchair running away, and incapable of pushing it back. It took me and Frances to push Alice up the hill, and it was an effort! Decided to have Alice in with us, rather than all children together, so some early mornings. The house had wooden floors and stairs, so as soon as someone was up, all were woken. On Sunday we went to Calgory bay, which is hyped up as a glorious beach. Bit small and sea weedy – Frances and me couldn’t resist muttering that the beaches on the Uists were much better. The Uist comparison became a theme of the holiday between us both, in a light hearted way! At least on the Uists you didn’t have to run the gauntlet of the bends and blind summits, with the added interest of hairpin bends. The children enjoyed the sand, rock pools and we had a picnic which included sand sandwiches. Steve did a bit of rock climbing, and I went a walk along the bay, then a paddle with Ellie. There was a small colony of sand martins in a small sandy cliff which amused both me and Ellie. Went on to a cafe and art gallery and a woodland walk, where I stayed with pushchairs and sleeping children while the rest explored. Monday was my day off. I joined a bird watching expedition – man with mini bus and we tootled around island. Two sightings of sea eagles and lunch by a golden eagle nest, where the birds obligingly appeared. Two sightings of otters, my first in Scotland. Lots of being driven down roads which were narrower than the ‘main’ road. Our driver, being a local, not only negotiated these roads with confidence, but could do so while looking for birds out of the side windows. We were told that there are very few accidents on the island. The locals know how to negotiate the roads, even when confronted by coaches, delivery trucks and petrol tankers, and the tourists are so terrified, they drive really slowly. A bit disappointing bird wise, no oyster catchers and redshank on every post ( Uists!), no shoreline birds ( not much accessible shore line), no short eared owls or hen harriers ( bad winter to blame?). Only saw 65 species – and that was all Scotland. Other excursions – had day in Iona, driving to the other end of the island and getting ferry across as foot passengers. Iona is a popular tourist destination. People cross by ferry from Oban, and a fleet of buses take them to Fionnphort where they catch the Iona ferry. The only concession to buses is that the passing places and longer, don’t know how they managed to squeeze through some of the narrow bridges, especially one on a bend! Iona had a church and nunnery, and lots of quite good quality gift shops. We had a picnic and walked around. It was very hot though, so we ran out of energy and stopped at a hotel for a cream tea. Nate, who doesn’t eat much, must have found his appetite, as he went trotting to the hotel muttering ‘high chair’. The beaches looked more like Uist standard, but we were too tired to linger, so came back – with me driving at speed so we would be back before Alice woke up and wanted her tea. Speed defined as more than 30mph in places, and even 5th gear! Had fish and chips for tea, from the fish and chip cabin on the quay, mentioned in tourist literature. Sent Alison and Ellie down for them, the most likely to get back before they were cold. Another day we went down to Craigmure and got the little train to a Victorian house where we liked round the gardens. Unfortunately very midgey and no one had brought insect repellent. The other insect problem was ticks, that attached themselves to Steve, Ellie and Frances. (Don’t get them in the Uists!) Frances had a day to herself, Tall Tales of Mull- ex-policeman with minibus. Covered a lot of ground, some culture, some historic tales and some Island tales with a police insider theme. The Cooks returned to Calgory bay so Steve could do more rock climbing. I had a lazy day with Alice . Drove a short distance till she went to sleep, then sat in a lay by and watched the world go by. Looked round a craft centre and had cup of coffee, then to Tobermory, by car. Looked round shops and bought a newspaper. Back for late lunch, and a small walk, parallel to town, until she was asleep, then back to quiet, newspaper and a relaxing hour, until Cooks returned and she woke up. On the last day, Friday, Alison, Frances and Ellie went on a boat trip-optimistically called a whale watching trip. No wales, but they saw a basking shark and some seals and diving gannets, and they of course enjoyed toddler free day. Steve and I were on toddler duty. Steve drove to Glengorm castle, by which time the toddlers were asleep. I sat with them for an hour while Steve went a walk, then we looked round the craft centre and had lunch. Nate had a sandwich which he moved round the plate and wouldn’t eat. Also some crisps which he guarded with his favourite word ‘Nate’s’, and ate. That , along with licking the jam of a scone, was his lunch. Alice tucked into everything put on her plate!.We went a walk to see a stone circle (small by Uist standards). There was not a smooth path so we had to leave pushchairs behind. Toddler walking was not very successful, they either didn’t like the rough ground, or were inspecting sheep poo. Ended up carrying them, which was very hard work. Ended up swapping children, as Nate, although younger than Alice, is lighter. Went down to Tobermory to meet trippers, making sure Steve was in front of me down the hill!. Went to the ice cream shop for snack, coffee, and ice cream. A shop in the only supermarket, a small Co-op, for food for return journey, and staggered back up hill. An evening of favourite activities – watching the Night Garden video, racing round the patio, and piling all cushions on the floor and jumping on them – a tangle of cushions and limbs – till someone got squashed and squawked. Return journey started early, had to get everyone up, dressed, fed, the cars packed, and the house looking reasonable, in time to get to Craigmuire by 10am. As it was half term, the ferries were booked to full capacity, no stand by places. The road to the ferry was good, every one travelling in the same direction. Locals must avoid ferry times!. Smooth trip over to Oban, and a crawl to get out of town, then a queue for petrol. Met up with the Cooks for lunch at the power station visitors centre, Cruachan. Saw the Osprey this time on it’s nest over loch Awe, next to the fish farm. Parted company with the Cooks, who were on their way to Glasgow airport. The next day, there was a rail derailment by the visitors centre, with the Oban road closed and a 100 mile diversion – pleased we missed that! Our journey continued through Tyndrum (petrol station there) and along Loch Lomond. Hot, and my car doesn’t have air conditioning, so stopped for a couple of hours at Balloch. Marvelled at the Glaswegians in day out mode – overweight and bulging out of skimpy, gaudy summer wear, most pasty as if they hadn’t seen sunlight for a while. Let Frances drive through Glasgow, which was quiet by now, then down to our hotel at Annandale Water. Fish and chip supper, and a walk round the lake before bed. Surprised that Alice has taken to walking so quickly. Before the holiday, she was only taking a few steps, by now she was tottering quite confidently along, usually in the opposite direction we wanted. Sunday was a leisurely journey down the M6, stopping at Kiddlington lake services to let Alice stretch her legs. She was an excellent traveller. We stopped at regular intervals for her to potter, and she slept most of the time in the car. So an excellent holiday, enjoyed seeing the family, had good weather, and my unease about driving was quite unfounded – in fact enjoyed it. With two drivers it didn’t seem too arduous.



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Other Members' Thoughts - 2 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    over 7 years ago
    I was interested by your comparison to the Uists. I've always regarded Mull as a hairier verion of them. Would you agree with this assessment?
  • coolonespa
    over 7 years ago
    Interesting review which I've added to a topic on the Silvertraveladvisor forum about Scotland.