How to catch the Oban to Mull ferry and everything you need to know when you get there
The beautiful Isle of Mull lies just off the west coast of Scotland and is the second largest island in the Inner Hebrides. It's easy to fall in love with this island, you only need to get on the Oban to Mull ferry and gaze at the jagged peaks of the mountains of Mull to fall head over heels. The friendly locals, the delicious food and the whole relaxed and peaceful vibe will have you returning as often as possible.
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In this article you will discover
-How to get to Oban
- All about the Oban ferry terminal
- How to catch the ferry to Mull
- Mull accommodation
- Mull restaurants and cafes
- Things to do on the Isle of Mull
How to get to the Oban
Car from Glasgow to Oban
Whichever way you decide to travel to Oban you are in for a treat, the scenery is breathtaking. Driving from Glasgow to Oban takes around three hours but leave extra time to stop and take photos. You'll spend most of the journey on the Great Northern Road and drive along the banks of Loch Lomond in one of only two National Parks in Scotland, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. You'll be able to spot the top of Ben Lomond if it's a nice day before passing both Loch Awe and Loch Etive. For a detailed route see the AA
Train from Glasgow to Oban
If you take the train you'll be lucky enough to travel along the absolutely stunning West Highland Line, one of Scotrail's Great Scenic Rail Journeys. Leaving from Glasgow Queen Street six times a day the train takes just over three hours and tickets cost from £14 from Scotrail.
Coach from Glasgow to Oban
Citylink operate several coaches per day from Buchanan Street Bus Station to Oban Bus Station. From here it is just a 10 minute walk to the ferry terminal.
Oban Ferry Terminal
Oban Ferry Terminal is a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry port and is not only the place to catch the Oban to Mull Ferry but also the ferry to Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Coll, Colonsay, Kennacraig, Lismore, Lochboisdale in South Uist, Mallaig for the ferry to Skye, Port Askaig on Islay and Tiree.
It is advised to book your ferry to Mull, especially during the summer months when they can book up fairly quickly. If you have a car it is advised to always book in advance. You can book online on the Calmac website or over the phone on 0800 066 5000 or for international calls +44 1475 650 397. When you arrive at the ferry port report to the check in kiosk where staff will show you where to park before boarding. If you are on foot there is a waiting room with toilets, free wifi, seats and a vending machine.
In the town itself there is grocery shops, restaurants and gift shops.
The ferry to Mull
Once you are ready to board just drive on, the attendants will show you what lane to drive into and where to park. You are then required to leave the car and head upstairs. There is the Mariners Cafeteria on board who create a pretty delicious breakfast, hot rolls and porridge etc, lunches such as baked potatoes, Cullin Skink Pie, curry of the day and a tasty children's menu including a Mull of Kintrye Macaroni cheese. All the meals are cooked fresh onboard and the prices are reasonable. The onboard coffee shop sells a good range of hot drinks and alcohol, the gift shop has confectionary and a lovely range of Scottish gifts including Calmac's own range of goodies. There is plenty of seating inside and out so you can stay cosy inside or step out onto the deck to get those impressive first views of the mountains. Look out for the little islands of Kerrera and Lismore too.
The ferry takes around 50 minutes. Timetables vary between summer and winter. There are usually around six sailings daily during the winter and more often during the summer, it's always best to check the Calmac Website for exact times for the dates you want to travel. It costs £26 for the car, £7.20 for adults and £3.60 for children over 5. Once you have booked double check the day before and the morning of your sailing to make sure the ferries are still running as they can be affected by bad weather.
A word of advise before I tell you about the accommodation on the Isle of Mull. During the summer the accommodation can fill up quickly, sometimes months in advance. Please book your chosen accomodation before you leave the mainland, it's not a good idea to go over to the island without having somewhere to stay, unless you want to wild camp (see below).
There are three hotels in Tobermory - The Park Lodge Hotel on Western Road, The Western Isles Hotel on Western Road and The Tobermory Hotel on Main Street. There are many B+B's, guesthouses and self-catering cottages and apartments. There is the Tobermory Campsite and also a Shepherds Hut. Find out more about Tobermory accommodation here
Accommodation on the rest of Mull
There are many hotels, self-catering cottages, AirBnB's, B+B's and guesthouses dotted around Mull, of varying standards and prices. It's a good idea to check reviews before you book and chose which area you want to base yourself in. You can check prices and dates for your accommodation through here.
Scottish law allows wild camping in certain areas on Mull but you must do it responsibly. There are areas at Lochbuie and Calgary to pitch your tent officially and very few chemical disposal points. Be sensible and respectful, stay a maximum of two nights, clear away your rubbish, keep pets under control and don't light fires unless there is an existing hearth.
Mull restaurants and cafes
If you visit a Scottish island one food you have to try is fish, caught locally from the waters you see as you explore the island. Mull has some pretty amazing fish restaurants, Cafe Fish in Tobermory has a fish platter that has everyone raving so book ahead, you won't regret it. The Creel Seafood Bar in Fionnphort also does delicious seafood. Also in Fionnphort is The Ninth Wave which Trip Advisor has named the number 1 restaurant on the island and The Hebridean Lodge in Tobermory does dishes that'll have your mouth watering. Of course there are many more fantastic restaurants to satisfy your appetite whatever dish you fancy. Check out the Mull and Iona Food trail for lots of recommendations
Make sure you sample some Isle of Mull oysters from the honesty box on Croig Pier. If you've never come across an honesty box before you can find them often on the islands. They are unmanned so you can just help yourself and leave the cash in the dish/tray/tin. The scrumptious Isle of Mull cheese can be found on Sgriob-ruadh farm, a 15 minute walk from Tobermory. You'll sometimes find an honesty box here too if there is no one around. Lochbuie Larder is not just an honesty box, it's a whole honesty shop, selling lamb, beef and venison from the estate as well as other island produce like honey, eggs, fish and cheese. The Island Bakery Organics make their own organic biscuits in their own designed oven powered entirely by local, renewable energy, I'd recommend the lemon melts, they are very, very good.
For a bite to eat at lunch there are lots of cafes, such as The Gallery Cafe on the harbour front in Tobermory, in a large converted church, and The Carthouse Tearoom in Calgary. The An Tobar Cafe in the Arts Centre in Tobermory is popular with the locals which I always find is a really good sign. The Glengorm Coffee Shop and Gallery is situated in converted stables and the team use meat and veg from the estate and gardens.
Things to do on the Isle of Mull
There are at least 10 beaches on Mull, the most popular and most photographed being Calgary Beach. A stunning white sand beach which really shows off when the sun shines, it's surrounded by low hills and woodland. Look out for the old stone forts and the pier which is west of the main car park, you can sometimes spot otters here. Calgary Art in Nature is a woodland walk with beautiful sculptures that's perfect to keep the kids busy. Laggan Sands is south of Craignure, past Loch Spelve and Loch Uisg and is a haven for wildlife. Port na Ba Beach is a 1 mile walk from Croig Harbour but well worth the hike, it's easily one of the most beautiful on the island. Knockvologan Beach is at the bottom of the island near Fionnphort. 2 miles past Fidden is Knockvologan Fam and it's just a ten minute walk from there. At low tide you can visit the little island of Erraid which was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. Other beaches include Uisken Beach, Kilvickeon Beach, Ardalanish Beach, Langamull Beach, Black Beach, Fidden Beach and Traigh Ghael Beach.
Mull has been inhabited since after the ice age. Neolithic people, Bronze aged people and Vikings have all left their mark on Mull. There are several standing stones but the one most visited is the Lochbuie stone circle near Loch Buie.
Mull has six castles, some more accessible than others. Aros Castle sits halfway between Craignure and Tobermory, near Salen. Built in the 13th century it was once a stronghold of the Lord of the Isles. Although the inside is inaccessible you can walk around the outside at your own risk. Other castles include Moy Castle which you'll see if you are visiting Loch Buie for the stone circle, Glengorm Castle which is now a hotel (ever fancied staying in a Scottish castle?), Dun Are Castle, which is also on the Glengorm Estate and is now a ruin you can walk to and Duart Castle which is the home to the 28th Chief of the Clan MacLean. You can visit the castle grounds, tea shop and gift shop free of charge or tour the inside including the State Rooms, Great Hall, the 13th century keep and the Clan exhibition for £7 per adult and £3.50 per child. In Gruline you can find the Macquarie's Mausoleum, the burial site of the "Father of Australia" Major General Lachlan Macquarie of Ulva. There are also two brochs on Mull. One, the An Sean Christeal, near Ardnacross Farm and the other Dun Gall Nan, near Kilbrennan Farm.
There is an extraordinary amount of wildlife on Mull, from seabirds and birds of prey to red deer and sea mammals. There are several tour companies on the island, you can find out more about them here. There are boat tours to visit Staffa and see basking sharks, whales and dolphins or there are land based tours to spot wildlife such as Golden eagles, White-tailed eagles, otters, seals and deer. Of course you can spot the wildlife yourself as you explore the island too.
There are plenty of beautiful walks on Mull, from easy strolls with the fammily to challenging hikes, such as a climb up Mull's highest mountain, Ben More. The website I always use when planning my walk is Walk Highlands, it's the ideal site to use and I highly recommend it. One things I will add is please go to Mull prepared. Don't go off for a walk without a fully charged phone, a map, compass, and a good amount of fluid. Always tell someone where you are going, such as your acommodation provider, and always wear suitable clothing. A good, worn, pair of hiking boots, waterproof jacket and comfortable and warm undergarments are vital. Obviously if you are just having a stroll to the pub you can be a little more relaxed but if you want a good hike go prepared.
There are two main roads on Mull, one from from Craignure to Tobermory, and one leading down to Fionnphort. These roads can get busy in the summer but if you can avoid these cycling is a great idea on Mull. The best idea is to speak to your accomodation provider who have local knowledge and will help you plan your routes.
Iona and Ulva
If you want to visit the stunning island of Iona you can get there by ferry from Mull. Drive to the south of the island to the little village of Fionnphort and board the ferry. The ferry only takes foot passengers as no cars are allowed on the island, the only exception being residents and permit holders. During the summer the ferry leaves roughly every 30 minutes and costs £3.40 per adult return and £1.70 per child (5-15). It's also free to take a bike across, but the numbers are limited so you may be asked to wait for a later ferry.
Iona is a true gem and one of my favourite islands. It has an atmosphere that i've never experienced anywhere else which I can't really describe. It's peaceful and serene and has to be experienced. It's where Saint Columba settled in 563AD and is home to the famous Iona Abbey. You can find the graves of almost 50 medieval kings in the small graveyard including MacBeth and Kenneth MacAlpin. If you visit the south of the island you will find St Columba's Bay where Saint Columba is said to have landed. Dun I is the highest point on Mull, 333ft above sea level, here you will find outstanding views of the Treshnish Isles, Tiree, Coll and and perhaps the Small Isles of Rum and Eigg.
You can visit Ulva by boarding a small ferry from Salen. The ferry operates on demand every day except Saturdays (Sundays during July and August only) when they don't run. Once you are at the ferry port uncover the red panel on the wall of the building which will summon the boat and once you see it approach, cover the red panel over. Again, no cars are permitted on the island, although once you get there you will understand why, there isn't even any roads! The island is tiny at only 8 square miles and has only a few residents. It's wild, remote and utterly glorious. Bikes are permitted but again, no roads mean the tracks are rugged and uneven. There is a tearoom serving delicious local food including Ulva oysters and locally caught shellfish. Sheila's Cottage is a museum of sorts, a reconstruction showing life on the island through its lifespan.
Other things to see and do
Mull's magnificent dark skies means there is a possibility to seeing the Aurora Borealis, It's not something I spotted while there but I did spend two hours laying on a picnic bench in a field listening to a Gaelic folk singer with a guitar while gazing up at the Milky Way which was pretty memorable. A couple of miles north of the Ulva ferry is the Eas Fors Waterfalls, a set of three waterfalls in a stunning location, don't take young kids though as it can potentially dangerous. There is also a swimming pool, golf courses, horse riding and an Aquarium.
Have you thought about visiting Mull? Or have you been and fell in love with it like I did? Let me know in the comments below.