Friday, 4 December 2015

10 reasons to visit Mull in the Winter...

Article published here - www.sharenature.co.uk

Are you looking to escape this winter? Whether it is aspiring for adventure or searching for solitude, the Isle of Mull has something for everyone. Here are 10 reasons to visit the Hebridean island in the winter time...

Tranquillity
During the winter months there are fewer visitors to the Isle of Mull; this increases the tranquillity around the island for winter guests to take advantage of. Immersing yourself in a wild, untamed area is increasingly becoming a rarer opportunity on our crowded planet. The Isle of Mull in the winter time provides you with the perfect chance to cut yourself off from the stress of the modern world and re-connect with nature.
Bed and Breakfast winter accommodation here.

Loch na Keal panoramic by Martin Jones
Cheaper Rates 
From October 2015 the Mull ferry fares have drastically decreased in price due to the introduction of RET (road equivalent tariff). It is now possible to visit Mull with a vehicle for less than £20 return.

Self catering accommodation on the island is also available at a reduced winter rate - Book Here.

Calmac vessel approaching Arinagour
Wild Winterscapes 
As autumn turns to winter, mother nature will introduce you to every colour in existence as Mull's diverse range of habitats seem to change by the hour. Pronounced snow-capped peaks towering over frosted glens and icy sea lochs are some of the wintery sights around the island. 

For the opportunity to explore some of the true wilderness areas on foot, enquire about a winter walking tour with Mull Magic here.  

Lochbuie - Martin Jones
The Wildlife - Drawcard Species 
Most of Mull's iconic wildlife species are present on the isle all year round such as White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Red Deer, Hen Harrier and Otter. Reduced day light hours in the winter time create less feeding opportunity for the raptors, so this can produce an increased chance of seeing them. Less day light and potential disturbance can provide more frequent Otter encounters, actively feeding in coastal areas.

Adult White-tailed Eagle in snowstorm. Guy Broome.

Tawny Owl on Mull, Ewan Miles
You could go for a night drive and see how many owl species you can spot around the island. Mull has four breeding species; Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl and Short-eared Owl.

The island has pure Red Deer populations that have not been hybridised by Sika Deer unlike large parts of the Scottish mainland. These animals show well year round and the sight of one owning a snow-laden skyline is memorable.

Winter migrants can use the landmass of Mull as a fuelling stop or wintering ground. This can create the opportunity to see passage and wintering birds in an increased number. Whether you are looking for rarities or just admiring local species, Mull is an excellent winter birding location.

The coastlines can be very productive in the winter months with a good chance to observe marine mammals. Harbour and Grey Seals are residential animals so they can be seen all year round. Grey Seals have their pups in the wintertime as well which adds to the spectacle. 

Harbour Seal in moult, Ewan Miles
Cetaceans can be seen in Hebridean waters throughout the winter with Harbour Porpoise and Bottlenose Dolphins recorded around Mulls coastline. Minke Whales are occasionally seen in the colder months but no-one really knows their wintering movements, which makes studying the winter seas even more exciting! 

Bottlenose Dolphin calf photographed by Ewan Miles
Join Share Nature for a winter wildlife tour of Mull - www.sharenature.co.uk

The wildlife boat operators do not tend to run tours in the winter so pick a good vantage point from land or go on a Calmac ferry from Oban which provide non-landing trips to a number of Hebridean islands, giving plenty of time to scan for marine life and take in the seascapes. 

Geodiversity
Scotland is the 'cradle of geology' thanks to Edinburgh's 17th century scientist, James Hutton. Mull attracts geologists from all over the world to admire and study the islands unique rock formations. 
Mull has some world class geological sites of interest, which include Fingals Cave, Carsaig Arches and 60 million year old fossilized trees!

Whatever the weather, the rocks are going nowhere in a hurry. Get out and do a geo-adventure, time-travelling millions of years into the island's past!

Local geology books 'Mull in the Making' and 'Mull in the Shaping' provide information and geo-excursion routes, and can be bought from Tobermory book shop Tackle and Books.   

Geology literature - Mull in the Shaping
Dark Skies / Northern Lights
Mull is located below some of the darkest skies in the whole of Europe. A clear winter's night on the island can provide breathtaking views of the wondrous night sky. A satellite image of our continent at night will display the value of the west coast of Scotland and its unpolluted skies. 

Rhubba nan Gall lighthouse starscape, photograph by Ewan Miles
The island's high latitude provides an increased chance of observing the northern lights throughout the dark winter months. With a bit more perseverance, wonderful displays can be had in Scotland. If you are a UK citizen, it will mean more to be be on home turf and will save you a trip abroad! Keep an eye on the UK Aurora forecast here.

Stargazing Tours are now available on Mull during the winter, more information can be seen here - www.sharenature.co.uk 

Aurora Borealis, North Mull, by Ewan Miles
Adventure - Embrace the Elements 
Whatever mother nature throws at you, get out there and brave the wilds. Make use of your outdoor clothing and also remember that it is only rain, your skin is 100% waterproof, fine tuned over millions of years, so don't worry about getting wet! Adventure does not find you indoors, exchange the walls/roof for mountains/skyscapes and create some memories.   
Buy walking books from Tackle and Books, Tobermory.  

Mull Walking literature
Waterfalls!
Rain is not all bad - it fuels the rich, diverse, world class landscapes around the island and it can present beautiful rainbows. The rainfall also produces some enhanced spectacles of water dramatically powering down from the higher ground. After a period of heavy rainfall you can be spellbound by the falling water all around you, finding yourself in a real state of enchantment.  

One of the many dramatic river networks on Mull
Another added spectacle when you get a strong Atlantic wind hitting Mull's west facing skyscraper coastlines are chimneys of reverse waterfalls pointing skyward! Inclined waterfalls being pushed up from the howling winds are a spectacular sight which leaves me mesmerised on every sighting. 

Photography
Winter photography provides the opportunity to capture those different images that have been rarely taken before on Mull. Subjects like Eagles cresting a snow capped peak or Otters foraging in an icy environment will get photographers up and eager at the crack of dawn.
Winter for on Mull, photo courtesy of Martin Jones
Mull's dynamic weather systems and changing light provides endless admiration and beauty which makes it a photographers haven, especially in the winter which traditionally has more changeable conditions, providing endless photography opportunities.

The colder temperatures can increase the clarity in the air and create a better quality of photograph, helping you get those sharper images!

Go on a practical winter workshop to receive expert tuition on capturing the wild elements - Islandscape Photography 
   
Displaying Eagles
As winter comes to a close the early breeding Eagles will be at their busiest as they patrol their territory and perform some wonderful avian displays, peaking and troughing magnificently through Mull's airwaves.The sight of the country's top predators dancing majestically over Mull is not to be missed and will make a February/March island visit well worth it! 
Golden Eagle surrounded by Calluna. Photo by John Hoyes
I hope some of these reasons could encourage a visit to Mull. There is so much to admire, explore and discover on the island during winter and we would be delighted to share it with you

More accommodation options and winter attractions on Mull can be found here - http://www.isle-of-mull.net/

Ewan Miles