Mull is certainly a mighty isle. With its mountainous landscape, high cliffs and wide valleys it’s no wonder it is popular with tourers and wildlife enthusiasts, thrill-seekers and campers. Indeed we got the last place on the ferry when we visited at the tail end of last year – it was almost winter! I have deliberately waited until spring to tell of our adventures as now the days are longer, Mull, whilst never entirely closed, is now re-emerging with summer ferry timetables and hotels and restaurants ready to welcome tourists and travellers again.
That somewhat chilly November day, the ferry was ‘breezy’ but we gaily drove north to Isle of Mull Cheese Company without further thought where we had a great time catching up with Shelagh and Brendan. Such a super place, where the Reade family make and mature their outstanding Isle of Mull truckles and finest Hebridean Blue, all with unpasteurised milk from their own herd. With their dairy, café and farm shop situated in this most idyllic spot with incredible views, it was hard to leave.
Next we headed south towards Fionnphort to catch the ferry to Iona. Now as Tobermory is on the north-east and Iona, the south-west, funnily enough the weather can be different. And it was. We were aware of a bit o’wind but nothing prepared us for the stormy seas and the cancelled ferry at the end of our 90+ minute drive. Owing to lack of mobile phone and internet connections on Mull, none of the warning texts or emails had alerted us so there we were stranded in fast-fading light, a howling gale and driving rain. Given that as the road progresses south, much of the traffic could only be heading for Fionnphort, couldn’t the ferry company place a couple of flashing automated signs to curtail our wasted journey? Not to mention the fuel costs.
At this point, another a wee bit advice for ferry operators – how about a laminated list of contact details for nearby B&B’s to assist the abandoned? Instead, there I am clambering in and out of the car in a pitch black storm (managing not to lose the door to the Atlantic), through farm gates to guest houses with welcoming signage still on display only to discover not one was open – or even answering their doorbells. Enter the wonderful lady at the Pennyghael Post Office – our saviour! She found phone numbers and kindly allowed us to use her landline until we managed to secure a bed in Tobermory. Whew. By this time the lady at the petrol pumps in Salen knew me too.
The remainder of our stay passed without a hitch and included a wonderful – if speedier than planned – visit and lunch at The Argyll Hotel on Iona. Such a peaceful place and with its own walled garden where much of their produce is grown then served along with locally landed seafood and island lamb. We tucked into a delicious platter and look forward to staying longer next time.
We drove past Isle of Mull Cheese Co and onwards to Glengorm Castle (sadly fully booked the night of the storm or we would have been there like a shot as they take B&B guests). Glengorm is a stunning estate with glorious views across moorland and sea and home to Scotland’s ancient fold of Hill Bred Pedigree Highland Cattle, on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. Highlanders are famous on picture postcards, synonymous with Scotland, yet few folk are aware they have become heavier and ‘improved’ to give larger carcass weights and bigger cuts. These Hill Bred Pedigree Highland Cattle are an ancestral strain that has not been developed and solely bred on the hill the traditional way. They have a marvellous long-in-the-mouth flavour and are almost gamey in character. The Glengorm fold features on the excellent film The Steak (R)evolution as among the very best we have. Glengorm also has self-catering cottages and a lovely farm shop with café so there is much to see and do.
Our journey homewards to Fife had its moments as the wind blew and the rain battered. The Corran ferry was thankfully running. Glencoe, safely navigated, always makes me gasp in awe at its splendour and shudder in sadness at its tragic past, in equal measure, whatever the weather. Next, Rannoch Moor where I hit the brakes as the car ahead had collided with a stag. With peak rutting time underway, the stags cared little for traffic and had locked antlers out onto the road, oblivious of the consequences. Thankfully no humans were injured however the enormous stag wasn’t so fortunate and his foe was still highly strung, ready for action and towered over our Mini Cooper. Time to move on as help was at the scene.
After our lucky escape, a pause was called for and we have never been more relieved to see the bright lights of the Real Food Café at Tyndrum. What a welcome sicht! As popular as ever, we were delighted to get a table and presented with the latest in digital ordering systems – impressive and fun. We tucked in to fish and chips by roaring logs and did the homeward leg with new-found energy and high spirits.
Weary but content, loaded with Mull bounty in our travel fridge – amazing Glengorm pies, steak and sausage rolls, along with fabulous cheeses and bacon from Isle of Mull Cheese – what a wonderful time we had with friends and food, landscapes and high seas. It was also a reminder, if one were needed, that Scottish tourism has its weak points and doesn’t always make it easy for a tourist who may be less well-informed than us. Food is not always up to scratch nor signage up to date which is a pity however the moral of the tale is to stick to Scottish Food Guide Members: tried and tested, with superb food and great hospitality, and we wish them all a healthy 2022 and a successful season.
Elsewhere in Scotland, a few competitions well worth considering…
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust has launched the Food & Farming Sustainability Awards. There is a range of categories to choose from and the Sustainable Chef of the Year Category is sponsored by Scottish Food Guide. Entries Now Open. To find out more or to complete the online entry form visit https://lnkd.in/dmPxN-2u I think this will be a very exciting addition to Scotland’s food and farming scene and urge those of you with an interest to enter.
At the Royal Highland Show, there will be the Scottish Bread Championship, sponsored by the Edinburgh Baker’s Trust, Scottish Food Guide and Scotland The Bread, along with Dairy, Honey and Craft Championships, all open for entry in the next month or so. The best of luck to those who enter.
Last but by no means least…
It felt like we won a golden ticket when we had a tour of Jan Hedh’s chocolate factory in Malmö. Follow the link to read the full story.