Happy Christmas

We would like to wish all our visitors and friends of Treshnish a very Happy Christmas.

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We are grateful to you all for your continued support this year, and look forward to seeing many of you next year.

Geminid Meteors

I didn’t expect to be able to see any Geminid Meteors as we had a lot of heavy cloud when it was getting dark. The forecast for the Northern lights was very strong and I could see a line of green between the sea and the bottom of the cloud. So it was a wonderful surprise as the evening wore on to discover that the cloud had been largely blown away by the increasing wind. Something to be said for the winter storms after all!

Treshnish geminid meteors

I wasn’t trying to photograph the Geminid meteors, I was trying to capture the aurora borealis – as it seemed like a long time since the last strong one. I took some photographs around 10pm, from the garden, and then headed to Croig.

Geminid meteors Treshnish

By the time I got there it was fading and although I saw plenty of Geminid meteors, it was so windy I got terrible camera shake. Croig is one of my favourite places to photograph, and at night it can be especially wonderful. Standing looking up at the stars, watching the mystical spears of the shooting stars as they dive and disappear almost before you have seen them, sometimes in quick succession, followed by nothing. Usually you can hear nocturnal bird activity, but it seemed like everything was sensibly tucked in out of the wind, as I didn’t hear anything.

Geminid Meteors house aurora

When I got home, there was a nice green glow from the Electric car Chargepoint on the house, with the faded aurora behind!

Geminid meteors Treshnish Aurora

The sky was definitely losing its colour but the stars were so bright. Perhaps I will set a time-lapse up before I go to bed, just in case…

Mull Geminid Meteors Treshnish

Lucky that I did, as the aurora had started up again! I won’t post the time lapse here as it slows down the website but you can see it on Youtube. The colours were amazing! I stood outside again under the stars, watching occasional shooting stars drop so fast, catching one or two in long exposures, loving the experience of being outside on my own, under a perfect dark sky. (I am lucky we have a sash window I can open and leave a time lapse running, knowing that the camera is safe from the weather overnight).

Aurora Geminid Meteor

What I could see was very different to what the camera can capture. I could see the brightness in the sky, in mono. The colours were not visible with the naked eye last night. But I could certainly pick up the Milky Way and the many Geminid Meteors! A magical night, though I went to bed absolutely frozen!

Mull winter days

People often ask what a Mull winter is like! I usually suggest they come and see for themselves. It is always interesting to experience a place at different times of year and a Mull winter visit will be very different from a summer one. The island is so much quieter in winter. You can walk for hours and hours out in the hills and not see anyone, you can drive for miles and miles and not pass another car.

Mull winter Dervaig

Mull winter weather can be really unpredictable. I had no idea when I left home this morning that I would be coming home through a dramatic hail storm with lightning! The road through Glen Bellart was a total white out and the noise of the hail on the roof of the car was deafening!

Mull winter beaches

A walk along Calgary beach, grabbing the moment as the light was so beautiful. We (the dog and I) had the beach to ourselves. Golden light reflecting on the wet sands, a bitter breeze coming in off the sea. Oystercatchers and Curlew hunting for food in the field across the road, slightly sheltered and out of the wind.

Mull winter days

Another question we are asked is what we do in the winter?! This question always makes me smile, as it seems even busier than the summer in many ways! What do we do in the winter? It is Thursday night and I am just in from a lovely evening out at Am Birlinn, we sat at a table of 24 neighbours from the Calgary area, enjoying a pre Christmas get together!  But yes, Mull winter days are short, particularly approaching the winter solstice, and so the nature of our activities change. It is a busy time of year getting work done in the cottages – like in West Cottage for example, where we have put new floors in the alcove and bedroom, all insulted and cosy, as well as creating a beautifully insulated bathroom, both inside and out!  For a farmer it means much work feeding our animals, and making sure they are all in good shape.  It is the time of year where fencing might get repaired, and where the To Do list is tackled.

Mull winter seascape

A December day out

Yesterday I had the perfect excuse to have a December day out. I had to go to a meeting in Loch Buie around lunchtime, and it was a beautiful, beautiful day. We have had some less than lovely days recently, with horrendous and torrential rains, and enough stormy weather to cancel ferries, so to wake up to a bright sky was much appreciated. Winter on Mull is always a mixture, and sometimes it is difficult to remember that we can have wonderful dry and bright sunny days.. like yesterday!

Mull Loch buie December

Loch Buie seems like a long way from Treshnish, but the drive is beautiful. I was given a lift from Salen so I could enjoy the views. Once you turn off the main Iona road at Ardura and head towards Loch Buie, it is magical, like stepping back in time. You drive through open mixed woodland, some of it Atlantic oak woodland, and on to the side of Loch Spelve. Very few houses. The turning to Croggan is worth taking but we didnt have time for that. Loch Uisg looked beautiful, calm and lush. The amount of rhododendron (ponticum) is always surprising.

Mull December pony Loch buie

We were going to Laggan Farm so followed signs through estate woodland, the low winter sun shining brightly in our faces (an enjoyable novelty!). We drove slowly. Past some holiday cottages, and the silage fields fenced off from the deer.

December Loch buie Mull

After our meeting and lunch we headed back via the Old Post Office honesty shop. Even in December you can make yourselves a cup of tea or even some organic pot noodles!

Mull sunset December loch buie

The Castle of Moy sits on the edge of the sea loch, with a commanding view straight out to sea. Colonsay hovers on the distant horizon bathed in light as the sun sinks below the clouds, casting a yellow glow on the world. Reluctantly we turned our backs to that beautiful sky and headed back up the road. The autumn colours were looking so rich in the winter afternoon sun, and soon we were away from Loch Buie and driving towards Loch Spelve. The December day out was nearly over!

Tupping time

Today marks the start of ‘tupping time’ when the farming year starts all over again!  Farmer has spent the day moving the ewes around in their different groups to certain fields, and once the tups (the rams) were given their hi-vis colours he took them out to the different fields in the trailer to join them.

Mull tups Haunn

colourful tupping time

The tups will be out with the ewes for 6 weeks, until just after New Year.  We bring the hill ewes down from the hill (they gathered yesterday) and keep them in the in-by fields so that they are closer together, and there is more chance of being served by the tups.  Traditionally farms like Treshnish would have had a tupping shepherd.  His job would have been to walk out on the hill each day and move the tups around through the scattered flock. Nowadays no one can afford one, so this is the best way to ensure each ewe gets served by a tup!

tupping Mull time

The main flock are on the Point.  This field has a build up of grass, which we deliberately create by leaving it un grazed (deferred grazing) for a lot of the summer – Jon Newton, the organic sheep specialist, who used to advise us when we were organic referred to it as our hay barn.  There is certainly lots of grass and the tups initially seemed more interested in that when we let them out of the trailer than the 400 ewes in the field with them!

Mull tups winter

I thought the colour scheme Farmer used this year was particularly good. It certainly brightens up a dull November day – and they can easily seen from afar. Each day Farmer will go out to check that everyone is okay, and will be looking for the 15 or so tups to make sure they are all active, and spread out through the flock. Sometimes they forget they have a job to do and end up hanging out in a gang, which is not necessarily going to help lamb numbers in 4 or 5 months time!

Mull tupping Haunn

We would ask that guests and walkers don’t walk with dogs on the Point at tupping time. There are steep cliffs on the far side, and it would be too easy to lose livestock over the edge.

Winter storms on Mull

The season of winter storms has begun, and the Met Office seem to have decided to start naming them! The first one was Abigail, which thankfully was not as strong as they forecast it to be. That was last weekend, but since then we have had a couple more. Already we have lost track of whether they were named storms or not! In fact there is a joke going round that at this rate we will have reached Storm Zebedee by the end of the month..!

Winter Mull storm

We had a friend staying last night and so we braved yesterday’s winter storm and walked out beyond Haunn, towards the Point and down on to the shore. There is a plateau of rock which juts out into the sea. It was bound to be wavy! It didn’t disappoint. There were clouds of sea spray blowing up one gully and fantastic waves breaking on the rocks, coming in one after the other, again and again, breaking against the rocks and against themselves, into a crazy mess of white water and foam.

Winter storm haunn

It was noisy and wild. We stood well back from the edge of course, as there would be no second chance if you fell in.

Winter storm Mull

Our walk was exhilarating to say the least. The noise of the wind, the waves breaking into clouds of white foamy flakes, the colour of the skies with the sun breaking through every now and then, and occasionally ferocious rain bursts.. totally wild and possibly a bit dangerous. Walking back up the hill to the cottages, a gust of wind caught me unawares, and I had to put my hand out to stop myself from falling over..

Winter storm Tiree

We watch the forecasts quite carefully at this time of year, as the weather does dictate a lot of what we do, or more to the point, when we might decide to do it. The website we use the most is xcweather. It seems to be the most reliable for us. Tomorrow Farmer needs to put the tups out, the start of the new farming year, but he needs to put them through the fank first so would prefer to do this in dry weather, not in the snow storm forecast for the morning!

Witner Treshnish Isles storm

Blackface Sheep Stock Judging

The local Blackface sheep breeders group hold an annual Blackface Sheep Stock Judging Competition. Each year it is hosted by a different Blackface Sheep breeder, and this year it was at Knock Farm. We woke up to the worst day of autumn so far, with high winds and torrents of rain.

blackface sheep judge

The new hens we bought at Dingwall the day before (more news about them in a future blogpost) were in their temporary homes and the animals were all fed and watered, so Farmer and I headed out in our full waterproofs to Knock. The view from the top of the Burg looking down to Ulva and Loch Tuath was nonexistent, the cloud was low and it was raining so hard! The road ran with rivulets of water, and the Highland cattle we saw round towards Torloisk looked miserable.

blackface sheep ewes

Thankfully the Stock Judging was taking place indoors in the lovely stone farm buildings at Knock. The first Class was underway when we arrived, and crowds of participants sat or stood round the ring. Your task is to judge the animals in the ring – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

blackface sheep champion

Each year someone from the wider farming community is invited to come and judge the stock – this year he was from near Dalmally. To win you have to select the same animals as he does, and your paper is marked accordingly. There is a wonderful air of silence and concentration as everyone looks over the animals, and the Judge took a long time to select his order. We did extremely poorly! But it was good fun, and a great way to spend a wet and wild Sunday! Sharee and Caroline from Loch na Keal Meals barbecued dozen of delicious Mull burgers when we stopped for a lunch break, and there was a licensed Bar.

blackface sheep class

There were lots of non-farming folk there too, and with a separate children’s competition, it makes a good family day out too.

Northern lights

The northern lights were strong again in the night, before the moon rose. They were visible with the naked eye – wonderful shafts of light, fingerlike, reaching high in the sky, towers of light. The camera picked up the colours which the eye could not see. There are myriads of stars and a slight breeze. Everyone else had gone to bed, and I hesitated about waking them.

Mull cottages Northern lights

As the days are getting longer the time window for seeing the northern lights is getting narrower, and soon it will remain too light for the aurora borealis to be visible, but instead as compensation hopefully we will have magically long days and wonderful sunsets!

Mull Northern lights

The sky was lit up with waving tall pillars of light further to the north west and to the north east that usual – a wider arc of green with at times some very very strong towers shooting up into the stars.

Northern lights Mull cottages

time lapse northern lights mull

I decided, a bit late in the northern lights season, to do a time lapse. I have never done one before, and I set the tripod and camera up in our bathroom. My 1hr plus time lapse made a snipped of a movie! If you have Facebook you can see it on our Facebook page.

Bathroom northern lights Mull

Farmer was not out of doors in the middle of the night with me. We have the first lambs arriving so his time table is more early to bed, early to rise at the moment. Sadly our first lambs, born yesterday morning, are orphans so are being lovingly bottle fed by Daughter and pals as it is still the school holidays. Another calf was born earlier this week and the remaining late calvers are out in the field in front of the house now. They seem pleased to be out.

Prasad has been watching out for the Golden Eagles on the other side of the farm. The old male, we nicknamed the golden oldie, hasn’t been seen for some time. There is activity on the nest site but he is pretty sure it is a new pair of Golden Eagles, which is interesting. It is sad not to know what has happened to the oldie but exciting to think the nest might be successful again, as it has been in the past. Prasad’s blog has some great photographs of the new pair and his thoughts on the situation.

The Isle of Iona

The Isle of Iona is one of our favourite places and we had been invited to go down for the night to a party. Thinking we could make a day of it, we left home late morning.   The coast road from Treshnish via Killiecrhonan and Gribun is our favourite route, and there was very little traffic! We stopped at Gribun to have our picnic, and enjoyed watching the reflections of the clouds on the grey wet sands at low tide.  A Rock pipit sat preening itself on a rock a short distance away and Oystercatchers worked the low tide margins.

Isle of Iona sign

An easy drive from there on to the Ross, it is always lovely to look at the view out to the Treshnish Islands from the top of the road before it leaves the sea.  Along Loch Scridain we saw dozens of seals basking on rocks and a diving boat with its flag up, presumably diving for scallops. At the fishermans pier at Bunessan, a fisherman was taking advantage of the neep tides, painting his boat from a ladder.  And on to Fionnphort where we parked in the car park back from the road, and unloaded our bikes.  We could see the ferry waiting on the jetty.  The forecast was to be windy later on, but there was a cool breeze by then.

We dropped our bag and headed off, via a brief look in the lovely Iona Craft Shop (some beautiful things.. online Christmas shopping maybe?), to Camas Cuil an t-Saimh – the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. There was a line of pale pink light on the horizon and some good waves breaking on the rocks.  

Iona is a wonderful place on a bicycle, especially for the likes of me who don’t get on a bike often enough.. it is not too hilly!

Isle of Iona pebbles

It seemed a lot windier as we headed back to the village, but the sun was trying to break through the cloud and there were lovely reflections on the sands. The 3.30 ferry was loading up on the Iona side.

Isle of Iona ferry

The North end was our next port of call, and a walk on the beach beckoned.

Isle of Iona North end

My phone starting pinging with messages at that point, and as a result we had to quickly change tack and head back to catch the 4.30 ferry home!  No party for us!  We rushed back, cycling into the strengthening wind this time, picked up our bag, apologised to our hosts, and headed to the ferry. The captain was in a hurry to unload and load up again because of the weather. It was quite rocky out in the middle of the Sound, and the crew were hoping to be able to run the last ferry so they could get the schoolchildren (who go to high school in Oban) home for the weekend.

This was not quite the ending to the day we had expected but even just a couple of hours on Iona bestowed us with a sense of its calm and its magic.   The weather was windy and overcast until the last rays of sun came through the cloud, but it was still so beautiful, and we felt refreshed by its quietness.

Isle of Iona Ross

I have to say the drive back in the dark was really easy. There was very little traffic and we made it home more quickly than during the day.

Cheaper ferry fares to Mull

The winter time table starts on Monday 26th October, and with that cheaper ferry fares!  This is good news for us – for those rare occasions when we want to go to the mainland, but it is also good news for our guests!   The Isle of Mull is one of the last islands to be awarded the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) – which based on journey length, the equivalent of a charge per mile, similar to travelling by road.  A car return from Oban to Craignure will now be about half what it was previously – about £26.

Cheaper ferry fares Haunn

The winter timetable will be fairly similar to previous winters, but when the summer timetable comes into action in April, it will be vastly improved.. there will be earlier ferries in the morning to Oban, enabling Mull folk to commute to Oban and back.. a second ferry will run alternate hours giving us in effect an hourly service… and all at the same low prices!

Cheaper ferry fares Lismore

The Isle of Arran got RET last winter and during the first few months there was an increase in ferry traffic of about 40%.  It wasn’t possible apparently to tell how much of this was visitor traffic coming onto the island or island residents taking their vehicles off to the mainland.  There is a concern here that residents will start taking their cars over to Oban and coming back laden with groceries et cetera instead of supporting local shops.

I hope that more of our guests will be encouraged by the combination of our short break prices and the lower ferry fares to come and stay in the winter – whether for just for a short break, or something longer.. (and don’t forget we have a great local shop!)

Cheaper ferry fares Mull

Our next trip off the island is to go to the Dingwall Rare Breeds Sale in early November.. on the look out for some new hens. Watch this space!