Scotland is home to a wonderful array of wildlife, scenic landscapes and rich cultural heritage, and the Isle of Mull is certainly no exception. Tobermory, the main burgh on Mull, was founded as a fishing port in 1788 and has since become one of the most popular tourist destinations along the west coast.
Coming to life in April for the start of the summer season, Tobermory has an atmosphere as cheerful and vibrant as its technicolour shorefront. A number of events take place on an annual basis, including the Mull Music Festival, Tobermory Highland Games and West Highland Yachting Week. Even as I write this article the island is as lively as ever, with rutting stags roaring around the outskirts of Tobermory, and a few cars roaring in preparation for the Mull Rally!
However, there’s as much life below the water as there is above it, and I’m not just referring to the legend of the Spanish Galleon at the bottom of Tobermory Bay, rumoured to have been carrying gold bullion when it sank. Charter boats are on hand, running regular tours for those eager to spot wildlife in the local waters, whether it’s the comical puffins, soaring white-tailed sea eagles or majestic minke whales. Many others travel across the world to dive around Tobermory Bay and the Sound of Mull, exploring the sea bed and even shipwrecks which now act as artificial reefs for vast numbers of sea creatures.
Occasionally something very special happens, uniting the atmospheres above and below. In September, a pod of around seven bottlenose dolphins visited Tobermory. The group (which included one juvenile) spent over an hour playing around the Bay, performing for the ever-growing crowd of onlookers gathering along the sea wall. This wasn’t the first time dolphins have ventured into Tobermory, and it certainly wasn’t the last time that summer as they were spotted twice more by some fortunate individuals.
But you don’t need to be lucky to witness the wonders of the local waters. In fact, you don’t even need to go to sea. The Tobermory Marine Exhibition showcases the local maritime heritage and the spectrum of fascinating creatures found beneath the waves through interactive displays and catch-and-release marine tanks, providing a hands-on learning experience for all, whatever the weather.
Around 700,000 people visit the island each year, and that doesn’t include the 10,000 visiting boats or even the thousands of passengers aboard the numerous cruise ships that arrive each summer. Yet it doesn’t matter when you visit, because you can always guarantee one thing: come rain, hail or shine, there’s never a dull moment on Mull.
By Sharyn Murray
Tobermory Harbour Association