I seem to use the word ‘Romantic’ a lot, when I am describng Mull or my experiences here. People of the distant past were the same it seems, with lochs, sea cliffs, islets, forests, headlands, large rocks, rivers etc etc given the most Romantic of Gaelic or Viking names. Even the White Tailed Sea Eagle translated from Gaelic is ‘The Eagle With the Sunlit Eye’. Now is that not Romantic, or what ?
We have maybe 2 acres of land here and I was out fixing damaged fence posts yesterday on a grey and windy day. When above me I heard a Sea Eagle yelping and when I looked up there were at least 6 Sea Eagles soaring, tumbling and showing their talons to each other. And there I was telling myself this is such a Romantic scene. To be in such a wild and wonderful place with huge Sea Eagles enjoying it with me.
Our weather has been very poor with only the shortest pause in the wind and rain but just now I had a Sparrowhawk tussling with a Hooded Crow above our small wood. Lots of Rock Doves fly overhead this Winter, Snipe and Woodcoocks, Woodpeckers on the feeders and actually always something in the air if I have the time to look up !! Clearly I miss lots of things because when I am outside I am just too busy to do so. Have I missed a Gyrfalcon or a Goshawk I wonder ? Probably.
So much better weather here today and we had a good run to Loch Buie. Along the narrow strip of land between the road and the sea going down Loch na Keal we had a young male hen harrier crossing the road in front of us and then going along us down to Killiechronan. There seemed today, to be lots of waders worth looking at, but I didnt have my bino’s with me which was a big mistake !! Going out and coming back we had woodcocks and snipe, red and fallow deer, great northern divers as always and slavonian grebes, but I suppose the treat was another Barn Owl down at Killiechronan sitting on a fence by the road before gliding off.
Winter is still good here with different things and different behaviour at this time of year, particularly in between showers, as it is in Summer. Hiowever at this time of year there is oaccasional snow on the highest mountains to add to the scene and like tonight a clear sky full of stars.
At just 9am we got up to snow everywhere. The fantastic view that we have was entirely in black and white, with no colour anywhere and it was fabulous, as we don’t often see snow here. Now at 10am it is all looking what I can only describe as exotic and crystal clear with the flatest sea all the way to Iona and across Loch na Keal to our main mountain range. The winter red trees are dripping with a million water droplets and are dazzling to look at with the sun now above Benmore and shining everywhere. Below us sheep are searching for grass to eat and I think that in a couple of hours they will be more successful. Our bird feeders are a boon for the smalller birds at such times as this and they are currently going mad for the peanuts.
I am now watching the sun climbing above the mountains and the lush reds, golds and greens are peaking through the melting snow below the house. The foot of Benmore looks like some steaming volcano as mist rises off the sea. I wish everyone could enjoy such moments of sheer beauty.
In my own travels around the World I have never seen such varied and ever changing scenes, such as we get in The Hebriean Islands.
By the way yesterday afternoon I saw Mr Handsome flitting along the rough grassland near Garmony. He was so white that I at first thought he was a Barn Owl. ‘Mr Handsome’ of course being my pet name for the male hen harrier, which is the bird that first started me birdwatching when we lived in North Wales.
Looking out the window in the last few days must be just like living on some Western extremity of Iceland.
The only real plus is that if you do venture out, the colours of the sea and landscape are at times quite sensational. From my office here at 2.30 pm the immediate landscape is red and gold and across the sea all of the cliffs and mountains are dappled with snow.
If I care to step outside, or even look from here, it’s for certain that at some time in the next half an hour a sea eagle will glide over or golden eagles will be showing on the hill behind the house.
I have come a long way from the scene across from my parents terraced house in Sheffield, of blazing red furnaces and shadowy men with huge hammers, beating steel through the archway of the steelworks across the road. Out the back a gigantic gas tank rising into the sky, created a huge shadow across our cobbled yard, and which would rise and fall depending on demand.
I have found that wonderful adventurous place I read about in my childrens story books and where I yearned to to be as a child, who had a lot of imagination and adventure of books !
We are in very poor weather here, after driving rain, strong winds, and thunder and lightning, backed up with heavy hail showers.
Thursday night was the worst I can recall on Mull, with howling wind and very loud thunder and lightning. As I stepped out onto the upstairs hall around 2am there over our land beween me and the sea was a huge white ball. I watched it mezmerised until it suddenly burst apart with an enormous bang and must have been some sort of lightning ball waiting to do its worst. I thought we were gonners but at daybreak and despite no power in the area the building was fine and yesterday evening we got it back again. Clearances in the weather since then have been very rare. However there was such a moment about 20 minutes ago and as I looked out over the sodden grasslands below the house a golden eagle came past the guest quarters windows about 10m away and no more than 3 ft off the ground. It stayed like that until it reached the sea 100m away and then lifted up and was chased by crows all the way back again and above the house.
I think it is exciting always to live in the wild and have the posibility of seeing wild creatures but the last few days have been more than wild and I weakened and wished I was still ambling through the cobbled streets of old Lisbon.
Like everyone else though I know the sun will come out, the wind will drop to a whisper and Mull will be its adorable self and all will be forgiven !
Yesterday was a vile driving wind and rain day with hail showers thrown in for good measure. However on a trip today to the South and its big rugged headlands and white sand beaches, it was sunny but cold and magical yet again in between the occasional hail shower.
I cannot adequately describe the vistas that you get down there on such a day, nor the solitude and human emptinesss of it all. Any normal person has to be inspired on such occasions. After all there is the tangible sensation of there being absolutely no one for hudreds of miles, in any direction !! You are also haunted by the knowledge that despite looking down on a stunning and empty white sand beach there are probably many more that you are never going to find.
Wildlife wise Joy, David, Tim and myself saw lots of rock doves, that seem to have had a very good year and so should peregrine falcon as they are the falcons favourite prey ! We saw one or two golden eagles and lots of hooded crows and revens of course but otherwise nothing but fabulous views of coast, sea and big black and gold rocky headlands. Great !!
I have stated so many times over the years that if you are in Western Scotland and take just about any other road or track west, you will come across some stunning view of Islands and Ocean, or a secret white sandy beach without a a footprint. Mull is like this too and so west it was that we went, on a sunny day today and took a track to Reudle. Immediately you get out of your car or step off your bicycle there are vast sweeping views of dark islands out to sea and undulating twisting and turning golden headlands and the remains of old ruins and melancholy thoughts of how it must have been for those hardy people of the past.
It’s the vast emptiness of it all on the West Coast of Scotland. Sunsets to die for and seemingly hundreds of miles of ocean and islands.
Such days stay in your mind forever, like a stirring painting or a touching poem.
It was the absolute opposite of yesterday, with the most beautiful of days that anyone could wish for here and so we were all off to Loch Buie for an explore and to see Phil and Sue.
Above the house as we set off was a golden eagle, which of course the three grandchildren got excited about. On the way down the coast we saw an otter just before Killiechronan and 100m ahead was a sea eagle sitting on a small rocky islet. It eventually took off and headed down the loch where we found it again sitting with another sea eagle on the shingle, with two other clearly paired up sea eagles sitting 50m away.
Lots of red deer and fallow deer today but I was very very close to a male otter just south of Glenforsa as he shot straight across the road no more than 6 ft in front of my vehicle. A couple of years ago I found a dead male that had been hit by a vehicle in excactly the same spot. If I had hit this one I could never have forgiven myself.
Onward now to Loch Buie and a long but sunny walk following the shore to our friends lodge at Laggan Sands, passing rennovated Moy Castle on the way. It was lovely to have been there with no one about on such a Magical day.
On the way back more otters, golden eagle, great northern divers and more. Altogether a super time with friends and family.
‘Perfection’ is The Isle of Mull on a sunny and calm winters day, with snow capped peaks, a sea like glass and every colour of the rainbow pouring from land and sea on these magical Islands. BUT !!! If you are lucky, as we have been in the last 3 Christmases, to stay for a week in Rome, then Seville and now back from Lisbon, then a bit more of that in winter when the Hebridean Islands might be heavy with wind and rain, has to be perfection I feel. However with climate change now here it’s a fingers crossed situation I suppose.
Two days ago we were again wandering the alleyways and streets of a beautiful European city, searching out ancient churches, monasteries and enjoying world class art collections and historic artifacts on warm sunny days and enjoying lovely food in another of the worlds most stylish capital cities.
The above is not just a good idea. I am also not so sure that it is healthy to spend entire years on any island and not grasp the chance of seeing other parts of our wonderful world.
Now it will almost certainly be a bad idea to stay in these cities in summer when they are full of visitors, but midwinter ? when it is not as hot, is a great idea don’t you think.
I Loved all of it but I know for certain that the Hebridean Islands and Mull in particular is one of the most complete and unspoilt places in the entire world and it is pretty amazing to me that so many people in Britain don’t even know of its existence.
Have a glorious and Happy New Year everyone.