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Places to Go, Northern Mull


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Beaches

Calgary Bay & beach

[grid ref. NM371511 • view WildMap]

Looking out across Calgary beach (May 2010) [Photo © rockwolf!]

Recognised as one of Scotland and the UK's finest beaches, and backed by a wide area of machair grassland, Calgary's beach is also the island's most popular - as well as being aptly named, coming from the Gaelic Cala ghearraidh, meaning Beach of the meadow. There is a car park for at least 16 cars at the northern end; at the southern end is parking for 6 cars, public toilets and an area for short-term wild camping (no motorhomes or caravans). The machair and dunes are fragile habitats and designated SSSI, so please respect the area.

Within a few minutes walk is the Calgary Art in Nature woodland and gallery, and the Carthouse Gallery and Tearoom.

Wildlife: the bay itself is renowned as an excellent wildlife area, with Otters frequent and both species of eagle soaring above the skyline of the low hills that frame the beach and bay, especially to the north. Further out, there can be a good selection of sea ducks and perhaps Red-throated Divers. In winter, the beach is a fuelling point for waders such as Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwit.  Sand Martins nest in the dunes.

The machair is designated SSSI and the vegetation consists of locally scarce grasses and numerous wild flowers; the eastern area is better due to less public and grazing pressure.

More infothe area also has a rich history, with the deserted village of Inivea, a ruined dun, the old Calgary pier and Calgary House.

 

Croig beach

[grid ref. NM407536view WildMap]

This quiet sandy cove at the seaward end of Loch a' Chumhainn takes a little effort to reach, but it's worth it. There is very limited roadside parking near Croig harbour; to reach the beach, walk back south along the road for 400m to the end of the inlet and turn left, initially following the track and then choose your own sensible path around to the cove.

Wildlife: an Otter family inhabits this area and can be seen anywhere along this stretch of coast; the headland just north of the beach is a good look-out spot. Birds here are typical coastal species such as Red-breasted Mergansers, Goosander, Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Ringed Plover; Snipe breed in these parts and can be heard 'drumming' on spring mornings and evenings. Barn Owls might be seen hunting over the rough grasslands as dusk approaches.

 

Langamull beach

[grid ref. NM383540 • view WildMap]

The 35 minute, 2.5km walk to the beach from the NW Mull Community Woodland car park on the B8073 (grid ref. NM395519) ensures that Langamull is much less busy than Calgary, but the walk is worth it: two sandy coves meeting turquoise water and a stretch of white sand behind the rocky foreshore. Perfect for getting away from the crowds and a chance to find the Slender Scotch Burnet moth.

 

Coastline

Aros Estuary

[grid ref. NM561447 • view WildMap]

This small estuary is easily overlooked from the roadside parking area on the south side - there are also excellent views of Aros Castle on the opposite bank - and is always worth a quick scan, especially in winter when Goldeneye, Goosander, Teal and Wigeon can be found sheltering and feeding here. Waders are frequent here on passage, with Greenshank, Whimbrel and Dunlin all regular.

 

Loch Cuin

[grid ref. NM429517view WildMap]

This relatively narrow loch reaches down to Dervaig and provides some excellent viewing opportunities without having to walk too far. Dipper and Grey Wagtail are common around the road bridge over the River Bellart. In summer, a quick scan will produce commoner birds and perhaps young Goosanders or Red-breasted Mergansers. From late summer into winter, wader numbers increase and Greenshank and Redshank are seen alongside Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover and Snipe. In winter, parties of Whooper Swans also drop in.

Behind the loch, across the B8073, lies the largest reedbed on Mull. A patient walk alongside the road can be rewarding. Summer visitors include Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat, whilst Water Rail can be found (most likely heard) all year round. Hen Harrier and Barn Owl hunt the area.

 

Salen Bay

[grid ref. NM571436view in WildMap]

With a number of places to pull off the road, it's always worthwhile stopping to have a scan of Salen Bay. Common Seals regularly pull out on to the small islands offshore and Otters might be around as well. Waders such as Redshank and Oystercatcher feed on the mud close in to the pier at low tide in autumn and winter, and all three diver species can be seen further out into the Sound here at this time of year.

Photo op: the old boats tied up to Salen Bay are a common subject for photographers - so why not see how artistic you can be!

 

Freshwater: lochs, lochans & rivers

Aros River

[grid ref. NM544453 • view in WildMap]

The Aros River drains the south end of Loch Frisa; follow its course on foot as a 7.75km circular route in Glen Aros forest or drive along the Glen Aros road (Dervaig to Salen). East of the A848 at Aros Bridge - a good spot for Dipper and Grey Wagtail - the river becomes the Aros Estuary, overlooked by Aros Castle.

 

Loch Frisa

[grid ref. NM486486 • view WildMap]

Loch Frisa is the island's largest freshwater waterbody and is home to Mull's, perhaps Scotland's, most famous pair of White-tailed Eagles, who have been nesting here since 1998. The area is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission. 

The four-mile long loch is bordered to the east by a ribbon of conifers from Salen Forest and a long forestry track. On the western side is a shorter, deeper forest plantation. Beyond the forest is open moorland.

Wildlife: Whilst the the Mull Eagle Hide and associated guided tours that used to be based here have now relocated just a few miles away to Loch Torr in Quinish Forest, there is more to Loch Frisa than the magnificent sea eagles and the long walk along the length of the loch can be rewarding for those with the time. Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpiper nest along the shore and Red-throated and Black-throated Divers are regular in summer. Goldeneye and Goosander can be found here in winter. Osprey on passage stop regularly in spring and autumn.

The woodland is rich in birds. Great Spotted Woodpecker and even the scarce Jay can be found, with Crossbills and Goldcrests in the tops of the pines. Bullfinch and Siskin are resident, joined by Tree Pipit in summer. Whitethroat and Linnet breed in the scrub and woodland edges. The surrounding moorland is good hunting ground for Short-eared Owl, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Golden Eagle.

 

Lochan na Gualine Dubh

(grid ref. NM526524 • view WildMap)

This small loch, owned by the Foresty Commission, makes a good picnic stop, either by the loch or from the car park with views across the Sound of Mull.

 

Mishnish Lochs

[grid ref. NM479525 • view in WildMap]

These three lochs were joined together as a reservoir through raising water levels and provide year-round bird interest, partly due to the stocking of Brown Trout for fishing. Little Grebe and Red-throated Diver can be seen all year and Goldeneye, Goosander and Whooper Swan can be found here in winter. Stonechat and Reed Bunting are resident in the scrubby margins and Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier use the surrounding land as hunting ground.

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Parks

Aros Park

[grid ref. NM520537 • view WildMap]

This coastal Forestry Commission park on the former Aros Estate is a great year-round visit with its stunning waterfall, lochside and forest walks, views of the Sound of Mull and its interesting history.

The mixed woodland plantations have an understorey of Rhodendron, reminiscent of so many estates, but are well-managed and provide good habitat. A small lochan provides added interest. For the spectacular waterfall, see the next entry below.

There are a range of possible walks, with the short distances, good surfacing and clear signposting especially good for those who are less confident in the wider countryside or with children, and there is a short cycle ride around the lochan (see section 3 of the Forests of Mull leaflet for these). Historic artefacts from the estate's past can be found throughout the park.

Wildlife: the woodlands host Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Woodcock, Treecreeper, Bullfinch and summer visitors such as Redstart, Tree Pipit and Wood Warbler. Siskins and Redpools can also be found here. In autumn, the damp woods are excellent for fungi. The lochan holds breeding Little Grebe and Mallard, and possibly Moorhen, Goldeneye and Kingfisher in winter. The fringing reedbed hides the elusive Water Rail and is home to breeding Sedge and Reed Warblers.

More info: The hanging woodlands on the steep coastal cliffs just outside the boundary of Aros Park are designated as the Sound of Mull Cliffs SSSI.

 

Waterfalls

Aros waterfall

[grid ref. NM516535 • view WildMap]

This stunning curtain of water is on the edge of Aros Park and also has its own car park and viewing tower off the the A848 (map), just under 2km south of the Tobermory roundabout. For more info, see the Aros Park site page.

Aros waterfall, from the viewing tower (October 2011) [Photo © Steve Marshall/Wild Future]

 

Woods & forests

Ardmore Forest

[grid ref. NM474576view WildMap]

This Forestry Commission-owned area is a mixture of conifer plantation and open moor, some recently cleared of trees, sitting on the northern tip of the island. The abandoned villages of Ardmore (grid ref. NM473579 plus Ardmore Farm at NM472582) and Penalbanach (grid ref. NM468579) lie within the forest, victims of the Highland Clearances. There are amazing views across to the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, the western-most point of mainland Britain, plus Coll and Tiree; on a clear day, Rum, Muck and Skye can even be seen.

Wildlife: the coastal stretch along Ardmore Bay has possibilities for Otter on the coast or a White-tailed Eagle soaring overhead.

Walking & Cycling: the forest tracks and quiet roads gives a range of possibilities for exploring the area on foot and by bike.

More info: see the Forestry Commission's Forests of Mull leaflet, section 5.

 

Quinish Forest, Loch Torr & Glengorm

[grid ref. NM434541view WildMap]

Quinish, located just north of Dervaig, is a commercial forest owned by the Forestry Commission and is being slowly harvested and opened up. Picturesque Loch Torr is located at its south-eastern corner and easily visible from the B8073 road and White-tailed Eagles can be seen here.

Glen Gorm is a long glen running north through the forest; the Mingary Burn - an SAC in its own right for its population of the endangered Freshwater Pearl Mussel, which can live up to 120 years - follows the glen from Loch Torr and opens up into the coastal Loch Mingary.

The forest encompasses the standing stones of Kilmore and Maol Mor.

Wildlife: Watch for the area's pair of White-tailed Eagles. Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl are both possible in Glen Gorm and Crossbills and Goshawk can be found in the forest. Loch Torr can provide a variety of bird sightings, especially in winter: look for Whooper Swan, Goldeneye, Goosander, and winter thrushes. Merlin and Golden Eagle can also be seen here.

Walking & Cycling: the network of paths gives a number of different routes through the forest (see the Forestry Commission's Forests of Mull leaflet, section 5) as well as connecting to Ardmore Forest and the Glengorm Estate.

More info: Loch an Torr circular walk (10.25km)

 

Langamull Forest

[grid ref. NM395525view WildMap]

A former Forestry Commission woodland, bought in 2006 by local organisation North West Mull Community Woodland Company. In addition to continuing timber harvesting, the company is also enhancing amenity facilities for local people and visitors. The forest car park on the B8073 (grid ref. NM395519) is also the start of the walk to Langamull beach.

 

Salen Forest

[grid ref. NM542461view WildMap]

Stretching from Salen to Loch Frisa, this Forestry Commission woodland is the starting place to see the most famous pair of Mull's White-tailed Eagles (see Loch Frisa). The Aros River forms the southern boundary to the main body of the forest and the ruins of the Cill an Ailean chapel and burial ground are just a short walk from the car park.

Wildlife: Great Spotted Woodpecker, the island's only resident woodpecker species, can be found throughout the woodland; the Jay, a scarce bird on Mull, has been sighted more in recent years. Localised residents Bullfinch, Crossbill and Linnet and the commoner Siskin and Goldcrest are joined in summer by Tree Pipit and Whitethroat.

Walking & Cycling: the network of paths gives a number of different routes through the forest (see the Forestry Commission's Forests of Mull leaflet, section 4). The short Glen Aros walk, 1km, takes in beautiful views of the valley and river and passes the Cill an Ailean site.

 

West Ardhu

[grid ref. NM424503view WildMap]

Another former Forestry Commission woodland taken on by the North West Mull Community Woodland Company.

 

Places to go, Isle of Mull

Places to go, Western Mull

Places to go, Eastern Mull

Places to go, Ross of Mull

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