With its colourful frontage curving round its natural harbour, Tobermory is one of the most instantly recognisable of Scotland’s island-towns and makes a great base for exploring the spectacular seascapes of Mull.
In the more peaceful times following the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, the British Fisheries Society was charged with establishing fishing stations to exploit the local stocks, and hence create employment. The superb natural harbour of Tobermory Bay attracted their attention and construction of a new settlement got under way in 1787-8. The topography dictated the pattern: commercial centre at shore level, with workers’ housing on a terrace above.
The original layout can still be seen today. Tobermory eventually became more of a general trading port than a notable fishing harbour. The bay today is more likely to be filled with pleasure craft – a reminder of the importance of tourism to this little island town. Visitor numbers were boosted by the children’s tv programme Balamory, set mostly here. Though filming stopped in 2005, the ‘Balamory phenomenon’ still has some economic impact.
Accommodation in Tobermory:
A choice of accommodation is available in Tobermory and also in beautiful locations in other parts of Mull and also Iona. Guest houses and B&Bs range from a Victorian castle to island farmhouses, and includes establishments on Iona as well as good choice within Tobermory itself. Self catering accommodation is well represented on Mull with a good choice in Tobermory and other communities, as well as farmhouse and estate properties in rural settings. There is a campsite close to Tobermory and a choice of other sites elsewhere on the island.
A stroll along the waterfront is all that is needed for an idea of some of Tobermory’s attractions. The Isle of Mull Museum is here, with its wide-ranging collections and changing displays on history and archaeology themes. The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust have a shop and information centre nearby. Tobermory Distillery, which offers tours, is at the south end of the ‘prom’. An Tobar, the Tobermory Arts Centre, is up the hill behind the harbour. It is a focus for the promotion of the visual arts, craft and music, throughout the island.
There is a 9-hole course in Tobermory, which is both challenging and has spectacular views. There are several angling lochs close to Tobermory, and the town has an active angling club. Pony trekking is available within easy reach of Tobermory. As Mull is famous for its wildlife – both on land and sea – wildlife watching and wildlife cruises are an important activity. A number of operators offer Mull birdwatching safaris and guided walks, while there is also a choice of seabird, seal and whale-watching cruises operating from Tobermory.
More than 20 species of cetaceans are regularly sighted in Hebridean waters, including several species of dolphin, as well as minke, humpback and killer whales. . Some species are to be seen on their summer migration. Basking sharks are also seen. Though sea excursions are popular, headlands on Mull can also be good vantage points – even Tobermory lighthouse is a good place to spot harbour porpoises. While spotting cetaceans of any kind is far from certain, seals, seabirds and dramatic views are guaranteed.
With the aid of conservation agencies, the spectacular sea eagle is re-colonising some of its old Scottish haunts and is especially associated with the island of Mull. With its wingspan of around 8ft , this is the fourth largest eagle in the world and an unforgettable sight. The RSPB operate Mull Eagle Watch from the Loch Frisa forestry track south of Tobermory. (Book in advance).
The Mull Music Festival is held on the last weekend in April. Mull and Iona Wildlife Week is in early May. Mendelsshon on Mull, in late June/early July brings together young musicians in the settings that also inspired the composer. The annual Mull Highland Games is also in July, with the Taste of Mull and Iona Food Festival in early September. The Mull Theatre at Druimfin, by Tobermory, runs its own programme of events throughout the season, as does An Tobar the Tobermory Arts Centre.
More information on www.tobermory.co.uk