The Ross of Mull and Iona are noted for pink granite rock, white sand beaches, aquamarine sea and an intense quality of light - all of which are seen at their best in clear and sunny weather, preferably with settled swell conditions. It had been several years since either Douglas or I had paddled on the west side of Mull and this trip had been in our minds for some time before conditions and availability coincided; we were really pleased that Allan, Lorna and Donald were able to make it too. We arranged to meet up on the west of Mull in mid-May with a forecast of a run of sunny but perhaps breezy days to come.
You will be able to follow this trip not only in "Stereovison" on Douglas' blog, but this time in full "Trivision" by also reading Donald's thread here.
Many of the best journeys start with a sea crossing and getting to Mull will involve a ferry unless you paddle there. Allan, Lorna and I travelled from the north and used two ferries, firstly at Corran then a drive over to Lochaline for the ferry to Fishnish. Donald and Douglas travelled from the south and used the ferry from Oban to Craignure. If using the Craignure route with a vehicle it's necessary to book in advance; the introduction of the RET fare structure has made this a very popular route, particularly with motorhomes.
The road from Craignure to Pennyghael is a ribbon of singletrack which follows a route through the hills of Mull. It's not a road designed for fast travel, but does have some tremendous views - especially the first sight of Ben More heaving above the southern part of the island. At 966m/3169ft and in a relatively isolated island setting, Ben More is visible from large stretches of the west coast and has tremendous views. Perhaps because of its island location the hill is a popular choice as a hillwalker's "compleation" Munro, though for my own "compleation" I chose one of the most obscure of all the Munros!
I stopped for coffee at Pennyghael at the head of Loch Scridain and walked back along the road a little way to photograph one of the more unusual mileposts.
Perhaps marginally less pink than when I last visited - it's still a striking sight with Ben More as a backdrop. Cast by Smith, Patterson and Co of Blaydon on Tyneside, the mileposts along the Ross of Mull have certainly stood the test of time - I wonder if modern roadsigns will still be around in 120 years?
The bleached hull of this boat has fared less well though and has deteriorated markedly since I last saw it.
We met up at Bunessan in the early afternoon to finalise our plans. Initially we'd intended to launch from Bunessan and shuttle a car farther down the Ross of Mull in order to make a continuous journey, wild camping en route. The weather forecast which had indicated light winds for several days had altered somewhat and was now predicting some strong winds on our third day. With this in mind we decided to base ourselves at Fidden and to paddle day trips rather than make a linear journey in order that we could avoid the the wind if necessary.
Fidden Farm campsite is a brilliant base from which to sea kayak, to birdwatch, walk, visit nearby Iona or simply to enjoy the setting. You won't find any electric hook-ups, shops or Wifi here, just a lovely campsite with clean, modern shower and toilet facilities.
We set up our tents and by late afternoon.....
....we were at the edge of the sea on white sand in bright sunshine under an intensely blue sky, ready to get out on the water. For photographers the Ross of Mull in Spring sunshine is a great place to be. The intense, clear light and colourful surroundings are pin-sharp; a polarising filter brings out the very best in images.
The clarity of the water gives a sense of flying above a patchwork of ultramarine, turquoise and indigo........
As Capt James T. Kirk (almost) said..... set polarisers to "stun"!