This article covers my top photography locations and photographic activities on the Isle of Mull and its associated small islands. The Isle of Mull is the second-largest island of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye being the largest. Sitting under an hour’s ferry journey from the town of Oban, the Isle of Mull is one of the most accessible islands in the Inner Hebrides.
As a local photographer living in Argyll, I have the opportunity to frequently visit the island. This guide is for those planning a visit to Mull, to help get the best from this beautiful location. To be able to visit all of the places in this guide, you need at least five to six days due to the distances and logistics involved:
– One day for Duart Castle, Salen & Tobermory (Day 1).
– A day each for the Isle of Iona, Staffa, and Treshnish (Days 2, 3, 4).
– A day for wildlife spotting (Day 5).
– More days if you plan a little relaxation whilst on the Isle!
Locations Overview – Photography Isle of Mull
One of the easiest ways to get around for a photography trip to the Isle of Mull is to take your own car with you on the Ferry. However, Mull is so geared up for tourism, that all of these locations are accessible via tours. Indeed, for the Isle of Staffa and Treshnish, you are going to have to book a tour, unless, of course, you brought your own yacht.
Google Map (opens in a new browser window).
Duart Castle dates back to the 13th century and is the seat of Clan MacLean. Assuming you arrived on the Ferry from Oban, you can get a fantastic shot of the castle from the Ferry itself. The castle is also just a 5-10 minute drive from the Ferry Terminal, so is a logical first stop. Duart commands such a prominent and uninterrupted view of the surrounding area, that from a photographic perspective, there are numerous angles that work; either looking at the castle from the surrounding area or from the castle itself.
Whilst the castle looks like it survived the toils of time, from the 18th century onwards it was in ruins but was completely refurbished in 1911. Any visit to the castle is worth spending the time to go inside to see the great hall, state bedrooms, sea room, dressing rooms, and the exhibition.
Salen Fishing Boats
Heading from Duart and up the main road on the east of Mull towards Tobermory, are perhaps two of the most photographed fishing wrecks in Scotland.
Surprisingly there is very little information on how these trawlers came to be here. Since they are photographed so much, some might argue they have become a little cliche, but all the same, they make for some stunning photos.
In an attempt to get something a little different from the norm, I went for an HDR image. I wanted something more stylized and to give the sense of the boats being weathered.
Tobermory is the capital of the Isle of Mull and sits on the most northerly part of the island. It is without a doubt one of the most picturesque capitals in the UK due to its colored quaint houses. It is also heavily photographed, partly I am sure because of its finding fame in a BBC children’s program Balamory.
As well as the obvious shot of the bay, the architecture makes for some interesting shots, as does the general hustle and bustle around the town if you are into street photography. Tobermory also has its own distillery which is always worth a visit, and there are various guest houses and hotels for an overnight stop.
Ben More & Surrounding Area
The rest of the locations in this guide take you right the way across to the west of Mull and beyond to some of the smaller Isles. The journey across takes you on a single-track road past Ben More.
Ben More stands at 966m (3,169 ft) and is the highest mountain and only Munro on the Isle of Mull. The region is a hiker’s paradise and makes for some stunning photographs, albeit you have to pick your moments, as the region is a magnet for dense clouds and heavy rain. Or at least it mostly is when I travel through!
Isle of Iona & Iona Abbey
To get to the Isle of Iona you have to leave your car (or tour bus) on the Isle of Mull and then travel the short distance across the bay on a ferry. Only local residents can bring cars across, so you need to be prepared for walking. There is nothing too strenuous though as the island is very small.
Iona has a rich heritage, and its importance in the history of Christianity in Scotland is well known. Additionally, for centuries, Iona has been recognized as a place of creative heritage. On the island, you will find manuscripts, carved stone crosses, paintings, and silverwork. This heritage for creativity survives on the island today through many of the current residents.
Iona Abbey is located in a prominent position on the island. The Abbey is one of the oldest Christian religious centers in Western Europe. From a photographic perspective, if you are interested in architectural photography, then locations don’t get much better than this.
Be prepared for tourist traffic though, as the Abbey attracts hoards of visitors all through the high season.
If you are prepared to explore the island further on foot, you will find several white sandy beaches. These make for some spectacular photographs, and visiting them at sunrise or sunset is a good excuse to stay overnight.
Staffa & Fingals Cave
Staffa is one of the most unique places to visit in Scotland. From the Old Norse word for stave or pillar, the island requires a boat trip from Mull to get to. The Vikings named Staffa as the basalt columns reminded them of their houses. Viking houses were built from vertically placed tree logs.
Staffa has one of the most famous caves in Scotland (if not Europe). Fingals Cave was named after the eponymous hero of an 18th-century poem by James Macpherson. But probably its biggest claim to fame was the romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn writing an overture called The Hebrides Op 26 (Fingals Cave Overture). Mendelssohn was inspired by Fingals Cave unique harmonics.
From a photographic perspective, the basalt columns are spectacular, both within the cave, and the surrounding rocky outcrop. A climb to the top of Staffa, also reveals potential nature photographs of puffins. Which leads to the next recommended location.
Puffin Watching on the Treshnish Isles
If you are prepared for another boat trip from Mull, then the Treshnish Isles are a must-do location for any nature photographer. The time to visit is during the spring and summer. An oceanic bird, puffins visit from late March through August to nest. The Isle itself is uninhabited by humans, so the island is a sanctuary for wildlife. The puffins on Treshnish are not frightened by humans, in fact, they become braver in human presence because it means that their natural predator (Eagles) is not a threat. This makes photographing Puffins an absolute delight, as you can use a telephoto lens to get some really tight crop shots. It is also an opportunity to test your panning skills to photograph them in flight.
Eagle Spotting on Mull
My final recommendation is an activity to undertake pretty much wherever you are on Mull. The Isle of Mull is home to two types of eagles. The White-Tailed Sea Eagle and the Golden Eagle.
The best time to photograph these beautiful creatures is obviously during the summer breeding season, and there are a couple of locations on Mull that are regular nesting sites. The first is at Tiroran Community Woodland, and the second is at West Ardhu.