Fank

Fank

Fank is an ongoing art project in a beautiful stone ‘fank’ along the north side of Loch Frisa.  A ‘fank’ is a Scottish word to describe sheep handing pens.  Without a fank you cannot handle sheep so there are working fanks on every farm and croft.   Aluminium or wood fanks are used now.  Our neighbours use the only stone fank still in use on the island.

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Forest walk

It is a beautiful 2.3 mile walk from the road end where you park the car to the site – fairly level and as you can see it is a fairly good forest track – easily bicycled – so about 5 miles round trip.

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Art project

An artist called Emma Herman-Smith worked with An Tobar/Comar – the island arts organisation on initiating the Fank project. Tragically Emma died before it was finished.  Artist Andrea Geile made this sculpture, The Cholorphylls, in 2015.   I loved the first sighting I had of the sculpture as we walked up from the track.   It must have looked even more amazing before the larches lost their needles.

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Well worth the walk

Sun casting shadows across cut relief panels creating non existent lines and spaces through which to look.   I don’t know if it is because we are farmers that we are always moved by old stone fanks – perhaps not – perhaps we all are.  But I was very moved today.  Such a strong sense of history.  All was calm and still.  In sharp contrast to the busy noisy energy of a fank when it is in use.   The bright light and clear air made the silence and non activity of the place stand out.  The rust felt so seasonally appropriate.

It was lovely to go there today, rediscovering a track I hadn’t been down for about 25 years, with its wonderful views across the River Aros, up Glen Aros and along Loch Frisa, and finding this special place along the way.

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Slow travel

Slow travel

Is Slow Travel your favourite way of travelling?  Do you prefer exploring one place rather than ticking off a list as you race from one place to another?  If you like the slower approach to travel then Treshnish & Haunn Cottages may be the place for you!

Slow journeying

Make the journey part of the trip.  Coming from London or the south of England?  You can catch the sleeper from Euston to Glasgow or Fort William.   If you pre-arrange it, you can shop at the great village shop in Salen and then catch the Ulva Ferry Community Bus to Treshnish. They usually deliver our guests right to the door.

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Slow exploring

Slow travel is all about exploring and getting to know a place locally, doing what the locals do.  You can do that here starting with the farm itself.  Treshnish & Haunn Cottages are all located on our family farm near Calgary.  The farm sits on Treshnish Headland and has 4 miles of coastline.   There is plenty to explore without using the car.  So many walks to take, so many places to stop and look – coves and caves to explore, the coastal path around the Headland to follow, and a tapestry of different habitats to observe and watch, looking out for tiny Wrens and warblers to barn door sized White tailed (sea) eagles.

There are plenty of places to explore within a few miles of here too – with or without a car, and we are happy to tell you about the secret beaches and special places.  We have bicycles you can borrow or you can hire electric bikes from Mary at Mull Electric Bikes in Dervaig.

Slow staying

If you choose one of the Haunn Cottages you will be stepping back into the history of the place, the history of the fishing families who dragged their boats up on the shore at Port Haunn – follow their footsteps down to the port and look at their view. The cottages are a lot more comfortable now though so its contemporary, comfortable slow travel.

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Slow eating

There is an active local food network on Mull and Iona. Within a few miles of Treshnish there are some great places to experience wonderful local harvests from land and sea.

Slow walking

A perfect form of Slow Travel. And our hills are a lovely starting point. The views to at least 18 other Hebridean islands are wonderful and there is plenty of wildlife to keep the most seasoned birder happy! Watch out for the resident herd of deer too.

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Getting to Mull

Getting to Mull

Getting to Mull does not have to be difficult! In fact, it can be fun, and part of the holiday.  I was thinking about this last weekend, when we did a road trip down to Somerset.  We encountered some of the issues our guests experience on their journeys getting to Mull, and I thought about the joy of arriving on Mull and at Treshnish leaving the mainland and its traffic congestion issues behind you!

getting-to-mull-gloucester-services

When I was in my twenties, living in London and coming to Mull for holidays, I would drive at night and sleep in the car if I got tired. When we moved here I was in my thirties and we still did the occasional overnights sleeping in a landrover (which was not comfortable in any way!).  In to my forties and to be honest the car journeys south of the border became few and far between.   Travelling with a child is a different challenge any way as the journey can seem soooo long – so, for us, taking detours and stopping off on the way has made the journeys much easier.

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Making a detour

Last weekend we had to make a detour to Wigtown (some detour!) on our way south.  A carefully timed journey, we left Mull on the 7am ferry, and got to Wigtown in time for lunch at Beltie Books where my photographs are still on show.   We walked the dog to the Martyr’s Stake and watched geese coming in to land on the salt marsh.  We looked round Wigtown’s lovely bookshops.  Before we left we had tea with a friend and then headed to Dumfries to deliver photographs I had sold.

I had booked the hotel at Tebay and we knew we could eat delicious local food at the service station if we were late, before heading to stay at the Westmoreland Hotel.   Coco was with us so we needed somewhere dog-friendly to stay.  They even provided her with dog bowls on a mat, and a bag of treats!  We had a family room, simply furnished, clean and comfortable. Lovely toiletries made locally.  Tebay has built its reputation on using locally sourced and grown food, and the service is always friendly and helpful.

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Another detour

After a comfortable night’s sleep and breakfast we headed south.  However we didn’t take a straight route to Shepton Mallet!  We had an easy drive from Tebay to Gloucester Services on the M5.  It was now time for lunch and a dog walk. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Turf rooved buildings, gentle landscaping with lots of trees and wild flower covered slopes.  It was almost beautiful – that is saying something for a service station!  Difficult to believe we were beside a motorway.  So much so, we didn’t want to be inside – even though inside was very nice too.  We had a picnic outside in the sun.  I have never felt the urge to do that at a motorway service station before!  Again locally sourced, farmed ingredients – made on the premises.   What a difference to the usual motorway stops.   After our enjoyable break from the road, we headed to Bridgewater.  Farmer had somewhere to visit there.  Then on to Glastonbury and through to Shepton.

Arrival

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All in all we had driven a long way, but we had had a lovely two days in between all the driving, with good stopping places and distractions along the way.    And after a lovely long weekend, we headed straight back up the M5, stopped at the same service stations and the same hotel and arrived home none the worse for wear having had a great time off island!   Concluding, I think, that you can reduce the travel hassle hugely by having a positive attitude, planning and timing it well, and making the journey part of the holiday.   There was possibly a little bit of luck in there too…

PS I like the way they have concealed the bins.. might copy that idea for the cottages!

Mull Geology

Mull Geology

Mull geology is well worth learning about and today we took part in a walk here on the farm to do just that.  A very knowledgeable local Geologist led a Mull Geology walk this afternoon to Port Haunn.  The weather as you can see from the photographs was totally wonderful!  Sunshine and blue sky.  The brightness of the sun made all the different colours in the rocks stand out.

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The walk to Port Haunn

The easiest route to Port Haunn is along the raised beach, but today, in order to look at these wonderful rocks and stacks we walked along the rocky shore.  Walking over the rocks is a bit of a scramble, but perfectly do-able with care.   The views to the Treshnish Islands were amazing, the sea was dazzling and the sky so very blue.  To the north, Tiree looked so close today.. a long lumpy line along the horizon!
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Pahoehoe lava

It is fascinating to learn about the different aspects of the geology especially right on our doorstep!  I knew we had Pahoehoe lava here, however I had not realised it was all over the island.  What makes it special here is that the layers of Pahoehoe lava are much thicker than elsewhere.

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Future walks

We are hoping that Mull Geology will lead other walks here in the future as we are sure our guests will be interested by them too.

Beltie Books

Beltie Books

I am having an exhibition of my photographs at Beltie Books & Cafe in Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway.  It is a long way from Treshnish, but if you have a chance, please do go along and have a look at them – you can enjoy some delicious coffee and cake, or a light lunch at the same time.

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The exhibition

Nick made a great job of hanging the photographs, I was very pleased with the way they look.  There are about 24 of them on the walls, plus 20 or so unframed (mounted) ones, plus cards and books for sale!  The subject matter is one that regular guests at Treshnish will recognise from  the cottages!   These photographs are part of a record I am making of Scottish corrugated iron (tin) sheds and buildings.

beltie-books-mazur-photographs

Wigtown Book Festival

The exhibition opened on the 22nd September, the night before the Wigtown Book Festival began. The Festival, in its 17th year, runs for 10 days, over 2 weekends until the 2nd of October.  I was staying with a book festival volunteer.  She was one of a team of 70 folk who cater, accommodate, drive and generally support and facilitate the practical aspects of the Festival.  My wonderful hostess was acting as ‘authors taxi’. She collected various writers from train stations and airports. Consequently during my stay I met Michel Faber, Kevin McNeil and Cal Flynn!  After the Festival party (I gatecrashed!) I met children’s book illustrator Benji Davies, whose wonderful illustrations were on show in one of the galleries.

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The Bookshop

‘The Bookshop’, above, is the largest second hand bookshop in Scotland, a wonderful Aladdin’s cave of the written word!  Every nook and cranny (and there were many) is filled with books of all topics, and there was even a bed to climb up in to and read.  Upstairs was the ‘Green Room’ which, during the Festival, becomes a Writers Retreat.  Us mere mortals downstairs could hear the chatter of voices as if eavesdropping on a good party!

beltie-books-wigtown-football-stands

I first came to Wigtown to meet Andrew and Nick the owners of Beltie Books and Cafe in April.  On that visit I spotted this tin structure in a field.  I didn’t explore, but on this visit as the field was being used as an overflow carpark and as its gates were open I went to have a closer look.  It was clearly the old Wigtown Football Ground, complete with disintegrating ‘football stands’.  Perfect for a tin shed obsessive like myself!

Autumnal Mull

Autumnal Mull

I think autumnal Mull is one of my favourite times of year. This year summer has slowly given in to  autumn as the heather on the hills fade, the montbretia is glowing orange against garden walls, and the bracken has turned.  The last week has given us some stormy days which cancelled ferries, and then rewarded us with glorious sunshine!   On Tuesday the weather was unexpectedly wonderful, so much so that we decided to steal away from the office, with a picnic and head for the hills!

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It was so lovely to be away from the phone.   We walked up through the dying heather still buzzing with bumble bees in the warm sunshine, up to Cruachan Treshnish.  This hill is a mere 700 feet above sea level but it has wonderful views in all directions.   It was sunny and slightly hazy, but even in the haze we could see the faint outlines of mountains to the right of the Red Cuillins on Skye. We think they may be Torridon?  We have a chart in the cottages which shows you what you are seeing from Cruachan Treshnish, which is really useful.

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The views!

To the north and looking west, we could see as far as, we think, Torridon.  Then the Ardnamurchan lighthouse across the Sound of Mull, Rum, Eigg, Muck, Skye, Canna, Coll, Gunna and Tiree.  To the south west of us we could see the Treshnish Isles snaking out away from us, and then to the south, Staffa and Iona with the Ross of Mull, shimmering in the brightness of the sunlight on the calm calm sea.  We could see Gometra and Ulva. Ben More was in cloud but Ben Talla was clear.

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Tea and cake

We had our picnic and even had a doze in the sun, before walking back down.  We came back via the gate in the Haunn garden and were invited to have tea with our guests in West Cottage.  It was lovely sitting in the sun outside their cottage, the air so warm and still – and the chocolate brownies were delicious. Thank you West!  We are ready to go back to work now!

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Iona Abbey

Iona Abbey

I wanted to take our house guest to Iona Abbey before she goes home on Saturday. I was picturing the sun shining and the colour of the sea between Fionnphort and Iona a vibrant almost Caribbean turquoise. In reality the forecast was terrible and the sea was grey. We still had a wonderful time though. It is a long way but if you make the drive part of the day out it is a joy.

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Getting there

There are several good places to stop on the way including the lovely sands at Gribun.  We always go one way and come back the other!  Turn left at our road end and go via Calgary, Dervaig, Aros Bridge, Salen and Craignure down to Pennyghael, and on the way back turn left just after Pennyghael at the head of Loch Scridain and come back via Kilfinichen, Gribun, Killiechronan, Ulva Ferry and Torloisk.  From our experience both routes take a similar length of time to drive, and afford wonderfully different views along the way.  My favourite stretch is definitely the dramatic road along the bottom of Gribun cliffs.  We allowed 2 and a bit hours and stopped a few times to take photographs on the way there.

We left home at about 8.15 in the morning, and just missed the 10.45 ferry which meant we had to wait an hour in Fionnphort.  The tide was coming in so we didn’t walk on the pretty beach there.  We had a look in the Ferry Shop and had a cup of tea in the old waiting room cafe.  We didn’t eat at the seafood shack beside the pier, called the Creel Shack, but it look great and their fresh shellfish is landed by their own family boat – so very fresh!   The views across the Sound of Iona to Iona Abbey are beautiful even in the duller weather. Most of the day the ferries run back and forth, but please check the timetables!

Treshnish Mull cottages Iona Abbey

Once on the island

Walking off the ferry and onto the island is always exciting!   Our visitor was unprepared for how beautiful it was!  She said it was like a film set.  We took our time and wandered up through the Nunnery to the Abbey.  Our time was restricted as we had to get back to meet the school bus, but had we had longer (the ferries run until after 5pm) we would have definitely gone to the Heritage Centre. Interesting displays about community life and crofting on the island as opposed to the Abbey and the specifically religious life of the island history.

Our day was over far too quickly – we managed to visit the Abbey, loved the cloisters.  The newly done up Museum is a must!  It paints such a vibrant and informative picture of life through the centuries.  The drive home was uneventful (quicker on the way back as we didn’t stop as often) and we got to Calgary in plenty of time to meet the bus.   The sun may not have shone for us, but it was definitely still a lovely day out.   We felt it was well worth the drive.
Treshnish Mull cottages Iona Abbey cloisters

 

Mull Rally 2016

Mull Rally 2016 takes place over the weekend of 14th to 16th October 2016. Regular visitors to Treshnish will know that we manage the farm and cottages as carefully as we possibly can to minimise our impact on the planet so car rallies are not really our cup of tea, but we appreciate that the Mull Rally is a huge part of the island calendar and that it means a massive amount to hundreds if not thousands of people, who regularly come and take part, or visit the island over the weekend of the Rally in order to spectate.

Mull Rally 2016 sunset purple

We do still have some spaces during the week of the Mull Rally 2016, starting on Friday 14th October. Not being a Rally watcher I don’t really know but I am told we are quite well placed for spectating as you can walk over the hill from Treshnish towards Larach Mhor and watch the cars bouncing over the humps and bumps in the stretch between the Ensay Bridge and the summit of Burg.

Mull Rally cottages sailboat

It is the one time of year when we can sometimes hear traffic noise from the extra exhausts at Treshnish, but it is minimal and most people wouldn’t probably notice it – it is only because the silence here is so quiet otherwise.

Mull Rally 2016 Calgary Bay

For those planning an October holiday who haven’t visited the island during the Rally before, it is wise to book your ferry if coming via Oban, as soon as you can – they get very booked up with the extra traffic! If you have kids (young or old) who love cars, it can be (I’m told!) fun to watch all the different cars arrive, and to spot the teams out doing their pace notes during the week before. Don’t worry – the competitors are under strict rules not to exceed the speed limits whilst out beforehand.

Mull Rally 2016 Treshnish cottages

The Mull Rally 2016 starts late on the Friday evening and is finished by the time you wake up on Sunday morning. There are road closures and we email our guests to remind them of the closures before they arrive. It usually affects us twice – as the rally route goes past our road end. It is rather like being snowed in without the snow!

Please don’t let the Rally put you off coming to the island in October – it can b a fabulous time of year to be here, and the Rally is over and done with in a weekend! The weather can be wonderful but it can also be wild, wet and stormy too. The Red deer rut takes place in October, when you can hear stags roaring on the hill and look out for groups of hinds and the fighting stags on the hill. And the night skies can be clear enough at night to try looking for the Aurora Borealis!can be

Heather season

The start of the heather season heralds a gentle slide into autumnal colours and the hills change colour. Roadsides are colourful with Fireweed (rosebay willow herb) and on the woodland edge rowan berries begin to ripen, their huge red clumps of berries so full the branches dip and bow with their weight. I love summer, I think June is my favourite month of all the year, but once I have let it go, I do enjoy the end of the summer and the richness of the beginning of autumn. Some evenings are cool enough to light the fire. Some evenings are warm enough to sit outside watching the sunset. (Some nights are clear enough to watch meteors and look out for the northern lights too!).

Treshnish Mull cottages boathouse

Treshnish Mull cottages fireweed

Treshnish Mull cottages Heather

Treshnish Mull cottages knapweed

Treshnish Mull cottages sunset

On the farm, Farmer is helping make silage. Now that we don’t have our own cows any more, we don’t need silage for winter feed, so another farmer on the island brings his machinery across here to make the silage and he will take it over during the winter to feed his cows. That is another sign of autumn coming! This coming week is also time for gathering in the sheep from the hill as our lambs are booked in for the sales in Oban on the 30th. It takes a lot of time to sort them all out, which females to keep for next year and which ones to sell, and taking out the older ewes. Daughter’s pet lamb Alice will not be sold – we plan for her to live with Brownie (the neutered male pet lamb, a year her joiner) in the field between the veg garden and the Studio! There is a nice shelter in there for them and they will enjoy meeting our guests!

Mull agricultural shows

Both the Mull agricultural shows are held in early August – one in Bunessan and the other at the pretty show ground at Aros Bridge. The Bunessan Show this year was on the 5th of August, and the Salen Show is today, the 11th of August. Farmer has already headed over there to help a friend who is showing his Cheviot sheep. I will follow shortly – the show is not to be missed, whatever the weather! We went to the Bunessan Show last year, and really enjoyed our day out. The Ross of Mull can be considered quite a drive from here, but the landscape you drive through to get there still astonishes me after 20 years.

Agricultural shows Mull Bunessan

Last week we went to Bunessan to see an American singer called Amythyst Kiah and passed the show ground with some of the tents already up in preparation for their show.

Mull agricultural shows

The other night I was driving past the Salen show ground and could see the beginnings of tents going up there too, in advance of today. The evening sun was catching the corrugated iron shed beautifully so I just had to stop and take a photograph or two. Unfortunately the weather forecast for today is not good, it will be full waterproofs and an umbrella for the camera I think! There is always so much to see, plenty of stalls to look at, the horses to watch in the upper fields, delicious Mull produce to sample and a great opportunity for people watching!

Mull cottages Treshnish agricultural shows

We haven’t ever shown our own sheep, though Daughter took Brownie her pet lamb one summer and took part in the young handlers class. If I remember correctly we were second – to last, but it was all good fun! This year because of the rabbit family living in the veg garden we haven’t got anything to show in the fruit and veg section either.

Mull agricultural shows Treshnish cottages

Bookings are steadily coming in now for 2017 which is lovely – so if you think you would like to experience the Mull agricultural shows for yourselves, please have a look at our availability page to see what spaces we have left!