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davidx Bunessan - A travel report by David
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Bunessan,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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davidx's travel reports

Magical Mull and intriguing Iona from Bunessan

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We took a cottage near Bunessan for a week in June, 2004. We concentrated on the south of Mull, as does this report. Previously we had only seen the east and north from the water, when on a boat from Morvern to the islands of Coll and Tiree.


Ross of Mull, a typical scene
Ross of Mull, a typical scene
Mull is one of the three largest islands off the west of Scotland, the others being Skye and the single island comprised by the so-called Isles of Harris and Lewis. The main car ferry route is from Oban on the mainland to Craignure. From Craignure the road goes north towards Salen and Tobermory or, as we did, west towards the five minute ferry to the Isle of Iona. Bunessan is a few miles before the ferry. Iona is famed as the first Christian settlement on the UK mainland, St Columba having come from a settlement in Ireland, originally founded by St Patrick. It was this Celtic church that later spread to Lindisfarne [Holy Island] in England but it was eventually subsumed into the Roman Catholic Church. After all, there is something a bit bizarre about a king and queen celebrating Easter at different times, as happened! As a result of Iona’s religious fame, it has attracted the vast majority of Mull tourists to see it at least once and just after a ferry has docked at Craignure the road west is filled with coaches heading for the Iona ferry. Other than seeing Iona, far too many, to my mind, try to see ‘something of the whole island’. When attempted in a single day this approaches lunacy and even in the week we thought the long distances involved weren’t justified when so much in the south [and probably other areas] calls for a prolonged look. What’s the point of driving to an area of vast, almost unpopulated beaches, with little trodden footpaths and lonely buildings drawing attention to intriguing footpaths, if you simply turn round and drive away again? By and large the roads from the main westward road, not big itself by mainland standards, to either the north or south shore of the long southern peninsula, the Ross of Mull, are narrow [single track with passing places] and not conducive to demonstrations of your car’s potential speed.

Favourite spots:
Our Jezzie, the collie, and my eldest son's Harry
Our Jezzie, the collie, and my eldest son's Harry
Everybody who has visited Mull will have their own favourite place or places. For us the favourite area was that south of the road to Bunessan, in particular Ardalanish Bay. This involves a drive south along a very minor road towards another lovely beach at Ardchiavaig and then turning right past a hotel with an unbeatable view to a small carpark by a farm and then following the track to the beach on foot. I think we visited at least four times; there was so much unfrequented space and the dogs could tear around to their hearts’ contents. At Ardchiavaig the road goes right to the beach and our puppy was tasteless enough to pursue a police car, barking as if seeking to apprehend Satan; we preferred Ardalanish!

What's really great:
Priory remains, Iona
Priory remains, Iona
Iona attracted far too many people to be our favourite, but it certainly must be considered special in view of its history. I think there were 7 tour buses arrayed at the carpark in Fionnphort, the ferry terminal on the Mull side. Mercifully only vehicles with a permit are allowed on Iona. The principal building, the abbey, is a late reconstruction. I’m no purist and a good imitation can earn praise from me but i couldn’t help a little amusement at those who thought it was all ancient. The irony was that some of them barely gave a second glance at the crosses, which are certainly old enough for anybody. Deteriorating weather deterred us from visiting the less frequented parts of the island. I have a feeling that in better weather the beaches of the west and the islets of the west and south might even have challenged Ardalanish for our own favourite’s spot. The Priory ruins between the abbey and the ferry are worth seeing, though not extensive.

Sights:
St Martin's Cross, Iona, 7th century
St Martin's Cross, Iona, 7th century
A place we rated very high was Kintra, to the north just before reaching Fionnphort. This is almost as unlike Ardalanish as two attractive seaside spots could be. There is practically no beach and the appeal comes from the delightful row of cottages along the front [some for short-term rental and looking ideal for a self-catering break] and its small tidal islet, a wondrously adventurous place to our grandson.
Another was Lochbuie, south of the main west road but much nearer Craignure, a delightful village with the smallest post office in Great Britain, an open and charming Church of Scotland [Presbyterian], a scenically sited castle and a footpath to the west along the shore and under the cliffs to Carsaig.
We did one circuit that took us north of the Ross of Mull, turning left from the Craignure road and towards the striking headland opposite to our cottage. The view from the top of the road over Inch Kenneth was sufficient to justify its inclusion here.

Accommodations:
Knochan Cottage
Knochan Cottage
We stayed at Knochan Cottage, owned by a family now living on the mainland but having made substantial use of the cottage before moving there. To our mind it would be difficult to overpraise it except in one respect, but judge for yourself, by looking at
http://www.blacksh ouse.demon.co.u k/index.htm [no gaps]
Our only problem was that one section of the boundary wall had partially collapsed, no problem with regard to a six year old grandchild but a mighty one with a one year old puppy!
There’s a beautiful headland location for fishing only a short walk away.
A hen harrier came to perch on the nearest lamp post every morning.

Hangouts:
Scene from outside Knochan Cottage
Scene from outside Knochan Cottage
Pub or restaurant? Both, so for a change I put it as a pub. Bunessan is no metropolis nor even a resort. It has only three or more shops than Kintra, which has none at all, one restaurant and this pub/restaurant. I now tell you that both eating places are called the ‘Argyll Arms’. I don’t know the answer to the obvious one-word question.
I know how we chose between two places both well esteemed in the visitors’ book at our cottage. One, which I’ll call the pub, advertised a child’s portion and my grandson was to be one of the group.
Anyway, it was really good. Everything was prepared to order and you could sit with a terrific view over the bay.

Other recommendations:
Lochbuie [Castle of Moy right]
Lochbuie [Castle of Moy right]
On the previous occasion mentioned earlier the ferry had put in at the island capital of Tobermory, well known for its brightly painted and varied houses. Whereas we didn’t want to go that far this time, it is a charming place and this is now enhanced by the proximity of a managed hide for watching nesting sea eagles.

The beach of Calgary in about the north/south centre on the west side is very highly rated but some said it certainly didn’t beat our local beaches. I was sorry, however, to miss a trip to the basalt island of Staffa [shades of the Fingal’s Cave overture] and the bird-rich Treshnish Islands, both possible from Fionnphort or Iona. Whereas it may have been affordable without breaking the bank, the price did seem excessive when there was so much to enjoy free.

The exhibition at Fionnphort about Columba and his times is really good, as well as providing a free parking place.

Published on Sunday February 6th, 2005


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Tue, Mar 29 2005 - 07:27 PM rating by mtlorensen

Seems like the perfect destination for a peaceful getaway. Good stuff, David!

Mon, Feb 07 2005 - 06:58 AM rating by marianne

Jezzi looks beautiful, I loved this report. I lread about all this when I studied Old English Literature (We actually had to read Old English. Love your pictures , looks like good walking country.
Marianne

Sun, Feb 06 2005 - 05:27 PM rating by britman

Lovely report on one of the UK's get away from it all islands. Scotland has everything for the traveller and this report shows how to find peace, solitude and even decent food and grog away from it all!

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