Top eco-friendly cottages in Scotland

The top eco-friendly cottages in Scotland

When you are looking for holiday accommodation do you look for the top eco-friendly cottages in Scotland?   We do – and to find them we look first at the Green Tourism Business Scheme website.

Treshnish eco-friendly cottages Mull Scotland hellebore

Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS)

We are really proud to have been members of the GTBS since 1999, and to have held a Gold Award since 2001.  We, along with all GTBS members, are rigorously audited every other year. This provides us with a useful benchmark for how we are performing.  It is also a chance to get expert advice from the GTBS inspector.   At our last visit we had advice about possible solutions for an alternative heat source for Toechtamhor.   When the GTBS first ran their Green Tourism Awards in 2011 we were delighted and very proud to win 2 Awards: A GoldStar and the Carbon Footprint Award.   Andrea Nicholas from GTBS said that made us one of the top 10 green tourism businesses in the UK.  The GTBS have over 600 members in Scotland so even a trip to Edinburgh yields a good number of choices. Mull and Iona have a high number of GTBS members too.

Treshnish Cottages Mull eco-friendly Scotland

Other places to look for eco-friendly cottages

We also use the Organic Places to Stay website run by Linda Moss, who started out almost at the same time as we did, and has a great selection of green places to stay around the world.  We are still advertising with her, and love being part of her eco-friendly community of accommodation providers.

Top eco-friendly cottages Scotland Treshnish Mull

What does eco-friendly mean?

According to Wikipedia the use of terms ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘environmentally-friendly’ refer to goods and services that claim a reduced, minimal impact – or no harm – to the environment.  I would add that for us, being eco-friendly means that we take care not to green-wash or make false claims.    It is too easy to claim to be greener than you are, so for me, being part of the GTBS means that holidaymakers choosing somewhere to stay have the strongest assurance that claims of eco-friendly, green credentials are true.

March on Mull

March on Mull

It is March the 1st today – and it seems to have ‘come in like a lamb’.  It was beautifully sunny most of the day and the sun was warm.  I found a first primrose in the field below the Treshnish Cottages, as we walked the dogs this afternoon.  We didn’t see the Orcas that Ewan from Nature Scotland saw not that far from here.   But hey ho, can’t win them all..

Treshnish Cottages Mull aurora garden view

Tonight, early evening, the skies came alive with the strongest Aurora Borealis we have seen in a long time. I think it might almost be a year since we saw a display like this evening! For the first time this winter I decided to go over to Croig and see if I could catch some colour on the high tide.

Treshnish cottages Mull aurora raining

I hadn’t ever experienced aurora with rain before, but I got quite wet on my first attempt. The rain clouds soon moved off and the skies cleared again.

Treshnish cottages Mull Croig aurora boat

The house at the end of the pier has an outside light on each evening, and it lights up the fishermen’s sheds beautifully. There was not a breath of wind. Sometimes I hear Herons and Oystercatchers but tonight it was quiet.

Treshnish cottages Mull Aurora Croig creels

The temperature was around freezing.  Millions of stars.    The waters of Calgary Bay on the way home were almost luminous so I knew the Aurora was still displaying and I could see the glow.   When I got back to the house, I set the camera up outside.  Farmer and Daughter came out to have a look.  Suddenly we could see shafts of light ripping along the Isle of Coll, dancing before our eyes.  It was so beautiful and so exciting – in the true sense of the word, it was marvellous..  humbling and awesome.

Treshnish cottages Mull Aurora over Coll

What a splendid way for March on Mull to begin.   Please remember, tonight we could see the shafts of light and the green glow.  The camera (long exposure) picks up the pinks and reds, the colours we couldn’t see.

Short breaks until the end of April

April short breaks

Stop press – we are offering short breaks until the end of April!  We have always been happy to offer short breaks in the winter, but never really considered them into the main season.  However this year we seem have had an increasing number of enquiries from people requesting 3 or 4 nights. As a result we have decided to open up the space we have left in April to short breaks.  Currently the website will only let you book a week so email us via the Contact page and we can help make the booking for you.  We have spaces for April short breaks.  Please look at the availability chart on the Make a Booking page.

Treshnish self catering Mull Staffa basalt columns

April

April brings the Easter holidays for families and lambing for Mull farmers!  We are scanning our ewes tomorrow so that we know which ones are expecting twins or singles.  The twins will get some supplementary feeding to help them through the next 6 weeks or so.   The official start date is 11th April though there are always one or two early ones! The fields between the cottages and the sea become the nursery grounds as the number of lambs increase.  We are happy for you to walk through the fields, but please remember not with dogs.  The Scottish Outdoor Access Code prohibits taking dogs into fields with young stock.

Treshnish self catering Mull Herdiwck sheep close up

The cottages are mostly booked for Easter now but there is a short break in Toechtamhor available from Saturday 15th to Tuesday 18th April for anyone only available to come for 3 nights.  Its spacious grass garden is a good place for an Easter egg hunt too.  Here is a blog entry from Easter weekend 2014 – I hope we have the same sunshine this year!  And last April we took a day off before lambing started and went to Iona for the day – it was a wonderful day out!

Treshnish self catering Mull headland sea view

What’s on in April

At the moment the only events I know that are on during April are the Producers Markets. They are: Bunessan on Monday 3rd, Craignure on Sunday 16th, Tobermory on Sunday 17th and on the 23rd in Dervaig.  Details will be in April’s edition of Round & About!

Turus Mara trips to Staffa (above) and Lunga start in April too, as the Puffins return to breed. I know I will be booking a trip, and possibly one of their photographer’s trips too (where you get about 6 hours on the island). Don’t forget once you have booked to stay with us you are eligible for their 10% discount – ask us for details!

Treshnish self catering Mull Lunga Puffin open beak

My top 5 walks on Mull

My top 5 walks on Mull

I thought I would try and choose my top 5 walks on Mull. It is hard because there are so many wonderful places to explore, even just in the north west of Mull – let alone over the rest of the island.  None of the walks I have chosen are particularly long – the longest is probably no 1 which takes between 3 and 5 hours depending on how fast you walk and how long you linger. All of them make a good destination for a day out, and you can almost walk as much or as little as you want.

Each cottage has a guide to island walks on its bookshelves, and we have maps you can borrow too.

1. Treshnish Headland walk

I suppose it is obvious that the walk around the Treshnish headland would be my top choice!  It is where we live after all.  But I am not choosing it because of that but because it is a really beautiful walk. It is full of varied scenery, incredible views, with possibilities to spot otters and sea eagles, and what I really value in a walk, a sense of wildness.  There is history in the rugged landscape.  Look for the fort, the Dun, the chapel, the Whisky Cave and the carving beside a door way of one of the dwellings at Crackaig.

Treshnish Headland Mull top 5 walks sunset

2. Traigh na Cille

Another name for the Traigh na Cille walk is Kilninian or known locally as the Black Beach.  We have maps in the cottages and in the Phone Room for  you to borrow.  If you fancy a longer walk you could walk from here, its about 5 miles each way – otherwise drive to the bridge past Kilninian Schoolhouse and walk down from the little quarry.  Traigh na Cille has a wonderful view across to the Isle of Ulva. There is a shelf of rock which at low times reveals a maze of rock pools great for rock pooling – and lovely walks in both directions along the shore.

top 5 walks Mull Kilninian beach

3. Kilvickeon and Scoor

We have made a day trip in early April from here to walk and explore these beautiful beaches.  About a two hour journey through stunning scenery from here – but in my opinion, well worth it.  The path to Kilvickeon from the Scoor track passes near to the ruined church.   It was gloriously sunny and the local cows were grazing on the kelp that had washed up on the sands.

4. Port na Ban

This pretty beach is near Croig. Only a few miles from here.  You can park carefully, not to obscure access to the house there, beside the wall and walk along the track to the end.  There are two lovely beaches and one has a secret for you to discover.  Wonderful views to Rum, Eigg and Muck in the distance.  A perfect family walk and wonderful place to spend the day.

Treshnish Cottages Mull 5 tops walks

5. Inivea

Close to home, Inivea is a deserted township above the beautiful white sands and turquoise waters of Calgary Bay.  Walk along the track from the beach to the pier and then climb up the track to find the ruins of the settlement. There are wonderful views from there across the bay to the distinctive Treshnish Headland.

Top 5 walks Treshnish Mull Inivea Calgary

So these are my top 5 walks on Mull this week.   There are many more possibles, so I might have to rewrite the blog next week with another top 5.

Mull birds in winter

Mull birds in winter

I do enjoy watching Mull birds in winter – there is always something to see, and to watch.  However I am certainly not a professional birdwatcher, I am very much an amateur!   My birding knowledge is very limited and I never remember to carry either the right lens or the binoculars, so I spend a lot of time peering into the distance at tiny feathered creatures wondering… However, every now and then I get it right and I know what I see!  I have learned enough from Prasad to know that you don’t record guesses, that is just not done.

Today, an ordinary working Monday, I had a meeting to go to in Craignure. The ground was frozen with ice on the puddles and it was hailing. I set off and within minutes had encountered the young buzzard that we see a lot near the farmhouse.

Mull wildlife winter birds

Then the male hen harrier close to where I saw him three days ago.

Mull birds hen harrier

A heron at Calgary. Swans at Salen Bay and a flock of widgeon near the boats. By now the sun was shining and the day was stunning, the light on the snowy hills across the Sound of Mull was quite beautiful. On the way back from Craignure I saw a young otter running along the grass verge near the graveyard at Pennygown.

Winter birds Mull cottages

Mull Birds

So I saw all those, plus hooded crows, gulls (no good at IDing them so I dont try), ravens, thrushes, robins – as I drove along. Without even trying to spot them! In each cottage we have Prasad’s wildlife diary from 2006, which is a great guide as to what wildlife you might see all through the year – at Treshnish and in the surrounding area of North Mull. The Mull Birds website is a good place as anyone who sees anything interesting lets Mull Birds know. Prasad’s blog is also good, and more local to Treshnish and North Mull.

Mull birds winter cottages

Top tips for Winter breaks on Mull

Winter breaks on Mull

We offer winter breaks on Mull from the beginning of November through to the middle of March. You can book anything from a short break of 2 or 3 nights to a longer stay of several weeks or a month!  (NB Christmas & New Year dates have to be booked for a week). If you are thinking of coming to stay in the winter please email us before using our online booking system, to see if we have any special offers on the go!  This blog is to help you think about what winter breaks on Mull might be like and what to expect of the island in winter.

winter breaks on mull rainbow

Quieter

Mull is undoubtedly quieter in the winter, but many of our dedicated winter guests like to come and stay then because they enjoy that quiet feeling. The shorter days mean longer evenings indoors in the warm. Come at Christmas and New Year to escape the more commercial celebrations on the mainland. Some visitors even choose to take a winter break on Mull in order to get the Christmas cards written in peace away.

winter breaks on mull winter skies

What to love about Mull in winter!

What do I love about Mull in winter? I think it is the feeling that everyone has a little more time to chat – the pace of life remains busy but is governed more by the weather and the shorter days, the roads are quiet and you can have Calgary Beach all to yourself! Here at Treshnish we get in to the winter feeding routine, the school bus run in the darker mornings, and catch up on the maintenance in the cottages.

There was an article published last winter which implied that the ‘lights were off’ on Mull in winter, that there was not much open, not many places to go and eat, not much to do. But personally I think that is fair enough. Shopkeepers, accommodation providers, restauranteurs and small businesses work extremely hard in the main season, and they do need to refuel/recharge their batteries, work on their properties or even take a holiday themselves. It seems important to me that visitors taking winter breaks on Mull or planning winter breaks on Mull remember that it is an island, it is winter, but it is open – albeit for ‘out of season’ business!

Out of Season can be a good thing!

winter breaks on mull winter feed

To me ‘out of season’ has an additional attraction and appeal all of its own. The weather in the winter means the wildlife boat trips don’t run, but one or two of the land based wildlife tours will take people out. The more exotic migrant visitors may not be around, but otters, eagles and deer are here all year round, and often easier to see in the winter than in the summer.

It is all about having the right attitude! Places like the Glengorm Coffee Shop and Calgary Tearoom will be closed in winter. Instead why not enjoy the local produce another way – buy your picnic ingredients from local shops and go to the beac! In the evening you can splash out at the Bellachroy in Dervaig or the MacDonald Arms in Tobermory (one of several pubs open all year round). Ballygown Restaurant towards Ulva Ferry opens sometimes in winter too.

The Mull Museum and Duart Castle are also closed in winter.  Instead you can research some of this history yourselves. Use the books in our Phone Room/Library and go out to explore other historic places and sites on the island by yourselves. On the farm are the ruined villages of Crackaig and Glac Guguaridh.  If you are like me, you might enjoy drawing ones own conclusions about some of the remoter less obvious sites anyway.

Expectations!

So, winter breaks on Mull, are all about expectation. Please don’t book a winter break expecting the island to be in full summer mode! Some of our regular winter guests never come and stay in the summer – they love the bare bones of Mull in the winter, and it always exceeds their expectations.

winter breaks on mull snow

Treshnish winter breaks on Mull offer a quiet, remote escape from the hurly burly of the mainland.  Flexible arrival days to suit you and the winter ferry timetable. Warm and comfortable cottages – most have a wood burner (Shieling is the exception).

Enjoy the ‘sitooterie’

Shian, Duill and Studio all have a ‘sitooterie’ (unheated sunroom) designed to allow you to enjoy the outdoors under shelter – out of the wind and rain if it is stormy.  You can sit and watch for a Golden eagle to ‘hang’ in the northerly thermals in front of the cottage, as they are known to do – or watch out for the male Hen harrier as he flies past to his favourite hunting ground.

winter breaks on Mull sunset

PS Winter is fantastic for photography too…

Bedtime stories

Bedtime stories

Possibly an usual heading for a blog about holiday cottages on the Isle of Mull?  But the beds in Middle and West Cottages have a story which goes back hundreds of years.

Haunn Mull cottages bedtime stories West

Back in October 1987 there was a hurricane in the south of England. Farmer was living and working on a farm in Surrey at the time, and tragically about 50% of the magnificent oak woods on the farm were flattened in this terrible storm.  These were mature oak woods with fragrant carpets of bluebells underfoot in the spring. They were beautiful – valuable habitats supporting masses of wildlife – dating back hundreds of years.  Over the next year or so, the devastation in the woods was slowly cleared up, replanting began, and the salvageable timber was stored carefully.

Woodland management

In 1988 Farmer got married – to me!  I did a woodland management course locally aimed at helping land managers manage their woodland.   One of my jobs was to sell the fallen timber.  Talk about dropping me in at the deep end!  Timber merchants were notorious for promising the earth and disappearing without paying.  Thankfully I did manage to sell most of it – and get paid!

bedtime stories Mull cottages Haunn West

From tree-trunk to bed

Farmer wanted to commemorate the oak trees the farm had lost – to have something made from some of the oak.  We met a carpenter called Rob and bartered a load of oak trunks in exchange for an oak bed.   It was a beautiful bed, but when we moved to Mull, there was no way it would fit in the house!   It sat in the steading gathering dust for a couple of years whilst we tried to work out how to utilise the talented craftsmanship.

bedtime stories West Haunn Mull cottages

Local solutions

Eventually we decided to cut it down into sections and do different things with it.  A local carpenter called Andrew and an artist who at the time worked with metal called Andy turned bits of the old bed into 2 beautiful double beds.  One for Middle Cottage and one for West!   That was in 1997.  Studio guests will find windowsills made of bits of the original bed too.

Upcycled at last

Here we are 20 years later… Middle and West are crying out for kingsize beds, however I don’t want to lose the lovely oak headboards.  But Andy no longer works with metal, and Andrew has retired.  We want to give our guests improved comfort in having kingsize beds rather than double beds.  But we want to use the hurricane oak.   Finally we found a man who could help, and on Wednesday we collected the upcycled beds.  They had been carefully widened to a kingsize width, and fitted again to the beautiful oak headboards.  The photograph at the top shows you the finished kingsize bed in the West bedroom.   The alcove in the living room now has a daybed instead (below).

West Haunn Mull cottages bedtime stories

Treshnish Green Policy 2017

Treshnish Green Policy 2017

We update the Treshnish Green Policy every year to ensure that we continue to improve on our environmental performance and it reflects a changing world.   We manage an environmentally aware sustainable tourism business on a family run High Nature Value farm here at Treshnish.  We have been members of the Green Tourism Business Scheme since 1997, and Gold Award holders since 2002.

Treshnish Green Policy 2016 cottages Mull

What this means is:

 

  • We comply with the relevant environmental legislation as a minimum level of performance.

 

  • We have a strong commitment to continuous improvement.

 

  • We are committed to raising awareness of green issues with everyone we work with, both on the farm and in the cottages.

 

  • We review our performance regularly and are audited by GTBS every 2 years.

 

  • We monitor energy usage and energy generation, striving towards being ‘energy neutral’.

 

  • We work to reduce our carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. We carbon offset through ClimateCare.

 

  • We are careful to minimize use of hazardous and toxic substances.

 

  • We promote the use of public transport.

 

  • We are involved with our local community on projects including the Mull and Iona Food Trail, sustainable transport, the Mull and Iona Ranger Service and local housing.

 

  • We are continuing to improve our energy efficiency and water usage.

 

  • We use natural and environmentally friendly products and services, as routine.

 

  • We strive to minimise waste. (Bulk ordering, reusing, recycling).

 

  • We source Fairtrade, ethical products and services wherever we can.   We support socially responsible practice.

 

To find out more about the Treshnish Green Policy 2017, please go to our Environment Page, and if you have any questions which aren’t answered there, please feel welcome to email us.

Treshnish Mull cottages Green Policy 2016

Winter storms at Calgary

Winter storms at Calgary

One of my favourite things to do at this time of year is to dress up warm and watch the winter storms at Calgary. Storm force wind speeds rose 36 hours ago. The storm came from the north west and battered our bedroom windows with a vengeance!  I took this photograph through an open window as the sun was rising. I still managed to get a wet camera lens!

Treshnish Mull Cottages winter storms sunrise

Ice creams anyone?

During the day in the height of the storm I wasn’t able to walk on the beach but I made up for it and walked today.  The winds were much calmer but there was still lots to see.  It may be a little cold for ice creams however it won’t be long before this ice cream shop is open again.  In the summer months selling the wonderful Isle of Mull ice cream made in Tobermory!

Treshnish Mull cottages winter storms ice cream beach

Velella velella

Velella velella or By-the-wind Sailors occasionally wash up in large numbers on west coast beaches.  Sometimes in ‘rafts’ kilometres long.  It is more common to find them on the west coast of Canada or California, but they are seen here sometimes.   There were thousands washed up on Calgary Beach two days ago.  With the ferocity of the winter storms at Calgary this week, I did not expect to find any at all.   When alive they are a beautiful almost iridescent blue.

Treshnish Mull cottages velella velella Calgary

Goose neck barnacles

Another victim of winter storms at Calgary are Goose neck barnacles which live deep in the ocean.  These have come ashore on a driftwood log raft.   Sometimes we find them attached to old buoys or plastic cans.  It was nice to find them on something a bit more natural today.  A lot of places in the UK are experiencing snow storms today.  We have had hail showers which you can see on the sand.  It gives the beach a very wintery look, and makes the sands feel much darker.  Normally in the summer they are dazzlingly white.

Treshnish Mull cottages goose neck barnacles

Treshnish Mull cottages winter storms seaweed

Staffa and the Treshnish Isles

Staffa and the Treshnish Isles

On June the 3rd we went to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles with Turus Mara *.  My two brothers and their boys came with us making it a real family day out. It was a day I will always remember. Totally and wonderfully magical.

I have put dozens more photographs of Staffa and Lunga on the Farm blog here.

Staffa Treshnish trips Turus Mara blue skies

10% discount in 2017

Turus Mara are offering our guests a 10% discount on their trips from Ulva Ferry to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles.   Once you have made a booking to stay with us, we will forward you the details of how to take up your 10% discount – either if you want to book well in advance or when you get here!

Depart from Ulva Ferry

We left Ulva Ferry just after 11.30am and went along the south side of Ulva and out to Staffa first.  After an hour here, long enough to have our picnic, marvel at the wonderful views (and sense of space you get from being out there, looking back at Mull in all its beauty, and being that bit closer to Iona and the Ross of Mull too). You can walk into Fingals Cave before getting back onto the boat.  I stayed on the edge of the cave but the kids and their dads almost ran in…!  We were the only boat in at that time, though another boat arrived just as we were gathering ourselves to leave.

Treshnish cottages family day out Lunga

Puffins galore!

25 minutes took us from Staffa to Lunga, where Turus Mara have their own pontoons for visitors to step on to, and then walk up the rocky beach to the well worn path.  It was hot by now, and quite timely to have the excuse to drop to the ground and lie on ones belly watching the Puffins. Iain Morrison, who started Turus Mara about 40 years ago, coined the phrase ‘Puffin Therapy’ – and it is very apt.   There is something about being able to be so close to the Puffins – their trust of us – that is very therapeutic.

Lunga Puffin therapy Treshnish cottages

Harp Rock is a bit noisier but equally magical.  Again you can lie out on your belly and look over at the rock crammed with Guillemots and Razorbills, all fighting for their inch of space.

Treshnish Isles Harp Rock trip from cottage

On the walk back to the boat it was lovely to see the Isle of Rum in the distance, with Muck faintly to the right of Rum.

Treshnish cottages Lunga puffins Rum

Our journey back to Ulva Ferry gave us a wonderful view of the south side of the farm, from Treshnish Point, to Port Haunn and all the way down to our march (boundary) with Torloisk.  A different perspective!  All in all, it was a completely wonderful day, which I highly recommend everyone to do – once in their lifetime!  Yes, we were extremely lucky with the weather – but even in not such good weather, the Puffins will be there to give out a bit of Puffin Therapy.

*Don’t forget to use your Turus Mara Special Offer – 10% when staying with us.