Co-ordinates: 56° 39'N and 06° 04'W
Weather: mostly sunny
We awoke to a glorious sunrise over the Isle of Mull, and the string of small islands known as the Treshnish Isles. These islands have been landmarks for travellers through the Hebrides for centuries. The names of some of the islands still reflect their importance to the Vikings, who once ruled this area. We carefully made our way down the gangway to the Zodiacs for a tour around Lunga, one of the larger islands.
Lunga is known for its varied seabird breeding colonies, and we soon discovered why. Bright white fulmars lounging on their nests contrasted markedly with the green hillsides, while kittiwakes and guillemots made good use of small ledges on the steeper cliffs as their preferred nesting sites. The guillemots crowded together, utilizing every inch of available space, leaving us to wonder how they manage to not lose their eggs off the precipice and into the sea. The scene was watched carefully from above by great black-backed gulls that waited for split second opportunities to swoop in for a meal of egg or chick.
We also came across rafts of puffins and razorbills on the water, brilliantly illuminated by the morning sun. While skuas circled overhead in the search for other seabirds to steal food from, we made our way back to the Prince Albert II. Back on board, we shared stories over breakfast and warmed up with hot cup of coffee.
Before lunch, guests met the Expedition Team in The Theatre for a recap of our morning, and a briefing about our plans for the next few days with Expedition Leader Robin West. Meanwhile, Captain Luigi Rutigliano maneuvered the Prince Albert II around the north end of the Isle of Mull, and dropped anchor just off the village of Tobermory. We took to the Zodiacs for the trip into the bustling harbour, with its brightly collared buildings lining the waterfront. We boarded buses for a tour of the lovely countryside, as well as a stop at two of Mull’s most impressive castles.
Torosay is a 150-year-old Scottish baronial style castle surrounded by spectacular gardens, including formal terraces laid out at the turn of the 20th century. While remaining a family home, the castle and gardens are open to the public, and we spent some time wandering the ornate rooms and admiring the artwork adorning the walls. Blue skies lured us outside for a wander around the garden, and a stop for a cup of tea and a scone out on the patio.
We then moved on to Duart Castle, which is perched strategically on a cliff overlooking the Sound of Mull and the mainland in the distance. The castle dates back to the 13th century and, with its several-meter-thick walls, was built as a fortress to protect its inhabitants from attack. The castle was in a weathered and deteriorated state for many years until 1911, when Sir Fitzroy Maclean repurchased and restored the castle. The 28th chief of the clan Maclean, Sir Lachlan Maclean, now oversees the castle, and he came out to greet us when we arrived.
The winding staircase, the gloomy dungeon and the spectacular view from the roof were just some of the highlights of this incredible place. The well, which was situated inside the castle walls to ensure a source of water even when under attack, was quite something to peer down into. After a brief chat with Sir Lachlan Maclean and some souvenir shopping, we reboarded the buses for the scenic drive back to Tobermory. Many of us spent some time wandering the waterfront or snacking on fish and chips before heading back for a relaxing evening on board the Prince Albert II.