Visit Scottish islands: explore stunning Inner Hebrides – Isle of Mull, Iona and Staffa.

The third largest of the Scottish islands, with the colorful Tobermory town, stunning white sand beaches, great mountain hikes and trips to the historic Isle of Iona and the out-of-this-world Isle of Staffa, is not to be missed from your Scottish itinerary. Don’t mull over it and just go to the Isle of Mull!

 View to Isle of Mull, Isle of Iona, Isle of Staffa, discover Scottish islands

 

What always attracts me to the Scottish islands is the calmness and their remote feel. You can drive on empty single track roads, get lost in between the green hills, try delicious local seafood and rest on the secluded beaches.

Whereas many people just go to the Isle of Skye, they seem to forget that there are also other amazing places in Scotland. Of course, Skye is also beautiful, easily accessible with a convenient bridge connecting it with the main island, but it also means it’s getting a bit crowded, especially in the summer. Therefore, I prefer to go to more remote islands, that are equally pretty – such as the Isle of Mull. Visits to the nearby Isle of Iona with the famous historic Abbey and the geological heaven of volcanic Isle of Staffa, together with some great wildlife watching tours only add to the experience.


Read more: 10 places, that you wouldn’t believe exist in Scotland


 

Isle of Mull view
View on the cliffs in Isle of Mull
Cliffs and sheep, Isle of Mull
Cliffs and sheep, Isle of Mull
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Table of content:

1. How to get to Isle of Mull
2. Where to stay in Isle of Mull
3. What to see in Isle of Mull
3.1. Nature
3.2. Towns, culture and castles
3.3. Isle of Iona
3.4. Isle of Staffa
3.5. Beaches
3.6. Isle of Ulva

#1

How to get to Isle of Mull?

The best way to get to Isle of Mull is by the ferry. The Scottish ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (or Calmac) has car ferry services on the three routes. The most popular one is from Oban (which is also worth a visit) to Craignure on the east coast of Mull. You can also travel from Lochaline to Fishnish or from Kilchoan to Tobermory – the biggest town on the island.
The services from Oban are the most frequent, but if you are planning to take your car, especially in the summer, better book your ticket in advance. Check the availability here. The ferry ride is spectacular on its own, so you will enjoy it with no doubts!

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Calmac ferry
Calmac ferry on the way
Calmac ferry from Oban to Isle of Mull
Views from the ferry from Oban

View from the ferry to Isle of Mull, Scotland

Isle of Mull ferry to Oban


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#2

Where to stay in Isle of Mull?

Isle of Mull has a wide range of accommodation from local B&Bs, hotels, hostels, airbnb, and campsites.


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For hotels try:

Budget

Arle Lodge – Aros, Near Tobermory – homely feel lodge with stunning views, great value for money.

SYHA Youth Hostel, Tobermory – located in city center of Tobermory, this is one of those colorfully painted buildings!

Mid range

Isle Of Mull Hotel and Spa, Craignure – with indoor swimming pool and hot tub, this hotel should more fall under luxury stay, but with their great prices and frequent offers, it’s still mid range (you can easily get a private room for two for £78).

Upper

Glengorm Castle, Tobermory – want to stay in the castle? Now you can! What else do you need to feel like a princess and a prince? 😉

Ardoran House, Isle of Iona – located on the tiny island with hot tub and the private beach is a great place to escape and celebrate.

A good option are the cottages, located in rural areas and made in the traditional Scottish style, mainly in Oban. Check the best rates and availability here.

For the wild camping, the best are places close to the numerous stunning beaches, that also provide great views. We tried the Knockvologan bay and Calgary Bay (less wild one but with toilets and running water).

There is also a very nice and picturesque campsite on Fidden Farm, located “far from the madding crowd, in an incredibly beautiful location”.


Read more: Wild camping tips and essential camping gear guide


wild camping Isle of Mull
Our wild camping spot and private beach in Isle of Mull
Part of Fidden Farm campsite
Fidden Farm campsite

Oban

If you decide to take the first route to Isle of Mull, I highly recommend stopping in Oban. The main gateway to Hebrides is a pretty harbor town with amazing seafood restaurants on every corner. Its name means “the little bay” in Gaelic, and it couldn’t be more accurate. The main center of this picturesque town lies by the blue waters of the harbor. However, some of the streets can be quite steep as they climb the hills located quite above the sea level. The effort of the walk is well worth it, as the views are stunning.
If you like camping, you can try spacious and green Oban Caravan & Camping park, that also has great views and clean toilets.

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View to Oban from the ferry to Isle of Mull
View to Oban from the ferry to Isle of Mull
Oban harbour from the sea
Oban harbour from the sea

 

Oban seen from the ferry to Isle of Mull
Oban seen from the ferry to Isle of Mull
Misty weather coming back to Oban
Misty weather coming back to Oban
View from the top of the hill to the harbour in Oban
View from the top of the hill to the harbour in Oban

#3

What to see in Mull?

#3.1.

Nature

If you like walking, Mull will keep you busy. You can climb a Munro – Ben More, from where you have wonderful views of the whole island and around. There is also a variety of other hill, forest and beach walks that you can do on the island. For more information head to Walkhighlands.
The island is also perfect for cyclists – with little traffic and great views, it’s worth to put some effort into cycling up and down the hilly landscape. Alternatively, if you’ve ever dreamed of riding a horse through the endless beach, now you can try. With pony trekking schools in the Isle of Mull, they can cater all horse riding abilities.

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On the way to Ben More, Isle of Mull
On the way to Ben More, Isle of Mull
Beautiful scenery in Isle of Mull
Beautiful scenery in Isle of Mull
The"wild"life of the Island ;)
The”wild”life of the Island 😉
Beautiful horses, Isle of Mull
Beautiful horses, Isle of Mull

#3.2

Towns, culture and castles

Isle of Mull’s main town, Tobermory, is a charming place. Colourful buildings located in the sea front, create beautiful reflections in the harbor waters.Family-run restaurants serve great food and local businesses can be found around every corner. Go to the traditional local Scottish pub, try some seafood and visit the art gallery. Tobermory also has its own distillery, which is one of the oldest ones in Scotland. If you are planning the tour – book it in advance.
As everywhere in Scotland, there are also castles in Isle of Mull. The ruined castle of Moy near Lochbuie and renovated ancient Duart Castle opened to the public.

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Charming Tobermory with colourful houses, Isle of Mull
Charming Tobermory with colourful houses, Isle of Mull
Interesting sights on the way, Isle of Mull
Interesting sights on the way, Isle of Mull

Two gems on the Mull’s crown – Isle of Iona and Staffa

#3.3

Isle of Iona

Located on the west of Mull and easily accessible by the 15 minutes ferry, lies the tiny Isle of Iona. Home to the beautiful bays with turquoise waters (would you believe it’s Scotland?) and the famous ancient Abbey is well worth visiting. Being one of the most valued Scotland’s sacred and historic sites, as well as being a quiet and remote place, it will make you feel like you escaped to the end of the world.

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Abbey in Isle of Iona, Scotland
The Abbey in Isle of Iona, Scotland
Yes, that colour of water is real
Yes, that colour of water is real, Isle of Iona
Isle of Iona Abbey
Isle of Iona Abbey
Thistle – the Scottish national flower, Isle of Iona
Views around Isle of Iona
Views around Isle of Iona

#3.4

Isle of Staffa

Paradise for geologists (hey, it’s me!), but not only, the volcanic island with the famous Fingal’s Cave is a must see. Hexagonal basalt columns are all around the island and make the Fingal’s cave to be naturally shaped in the cathedral-like structure. You can hear the water bashing on the basaltic rocks and the sea birds screaming above your head. In the summer months, you can also spot there the cutest tiny birds – puffins.

Trips to Iona and Staffa depart from the town of Fionnphort on the west coast of Isle of Mull. For the Staffa tour, I would highly recommend booking a trip with a tour operator – Staffa tours. I think they are the only ones anyway 😉 The sailing takes 45 minutes with birds and sea wildlife possible to be seen on the way. Then you will have time to explore the island, which is very small. Puffins can be seen on the grassy plateau on the top, however, it’s a hit or miss. We just managed to see them on the water, as it was already late summer. The geology and landscape is stunning and it feels like out of this world.

If you want to visit the three islands in one trip from Edinburgh, there are three day or four days organized trips ready for you.  Otherwise, if you have more time for planning, go and explore yourself!

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Isle of Staffa tour, Scotland
Isle of Staffa tour, Scotland
Isle of Staffa with hexagonal basalt columns
Isle of Staffa with hexagonal basalt columns
Just outside the Fingal's Cave in Isle of Staffa
Just outside the Fingal’s Cave in Isle of Staffa
Isle of Staffa birds
Isle of Staffa birds
Hexagonal columns, Isle of Staffa
Hexagonal columns, Isle of Staffa
Puffins on the way to Isle of Staffa
Puffins on the way to Isle of Staffa

#3.5

Beaches

Being an island, Mull has the miles of a beautiful coastline ready to be explored. There are multiple wonderful beaches worth visiting, hidden in small bays with small single track roads leading to them. Some of the best ones are:

Kilvickeon Beach – South West Mull
Nice sandy beach, split into two by a small island creating two bays. You can find more beautiful bays in other parts of the coast in this area. The beach is located close to the Bunessan. There’s a car park nearby, from where you can take a short walk down.

Knockvologan – South West Mull
That’s where we wild camped on our first night, in one of the quiet bays with a private beach. White sand on each of the bays with blue water is really beautiful. To get there, park at the Knockvologan farm (there’s a sign for the car park in between chicken and sheep – so cute!) and go down the track to reach the beach.

Uisken Beach – South West Mull
Wide beach, easily accessible by car, located just beyond Bunessan. The parking area is directly by the sand. It’s popular with families, but still very nice for relaxing.

Ardalanish – South West Mull
The long stretch of white sand with some sand dunes. Located close to Uisken, with parking in Ardalanish’s Weavers and a short walk to the beach.

Fionnphort Beach – Ross of Mull
Lying just next to the small ferry terminal, where the boats to Isle of Iona and Isle of Staffa depart from. It has nice views over to Iona and colourful flags hanging in the nearby car park.

Duart Beach – South East Mull
Located close to the Duart castle, it’s a small sandy cove that can be reached by walking behind the tearoom. It’s less spectacular than others but still has nice views and the castle behind.

Calgary Beach – North Mull
Calgary Beach in the Calgary Bay in the north west is the most popular and famous of the Isle of Mull beaches. No wonder why, as it has a wide stretch of white sand with blue waters and beautiful dunes leading to the Machair grasslands. It’s a popular (wild/free) camping spot with public toilet facilities (although they were not in the best state when we were there last time). If you are looking for an empty location, you won’t find it there, as many families come to camp for few days, but it’s still nice to visit.

Fionnport beach, close to the ferry to Isle of Iona, on Isle of Mull
Fionnport beach, close to the ferry to Isle of Iona, on Isle of Mull
View from the tent while wild camping on the Knockvologan beach
View from the tent while wild camping on the Knockvologan beach
Car park on the farm next to Knockvologan beach
Car park on the farm next to Knockvologan beach

Langamull – North Mull
Beautiful, secluded beach with a sandy bay, sheltered from the breeze. You need to walk a bit from the car park to get there, but it’s definitely worth it.

Tobermory Beach – North Mull
Not the typical paradise looking beach, but nice for sitting down with an ice cream or take-away fish and chips.

Laggan Sands – South East Mull
Located along the shorefront at Lochbuie, it was voted the 9th best beach in the UK for wildlife spotting, with possibilities to spot seals and various sea birds there.

Carsaig Beach – South Mull
This beach mainly has dark gray sand with some stretches of pebbles, but cliffs surrounding it make it look more spectacular. It also usually gets more waves than any other beaches in Mull.

Fidden Beach – South West Mull
White sand beach with pink granite rocks and wonderful settings. Great for the sunset and watching the wildlife. You can camp nearby on the Fidden Farm campsite.

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Fionnport beach
Fionnport beach
Isle of Mull beach
Isle of Mull beach

#3.6

What else?

There are multiple wildlife watching tours organized from Isle of Mull, where you can spot dolphins, whales, basking sharks and several types of sea birds. The whale watching tours typically depart from Tobermory.

Seals around Isle of Mull on wildlife tours
Seals around Isle of Mull on wildlife tours
Posing seals, Isle of Mull
Posing seals, Isle of Mull
Caution, Otters crossing!
Caution, Otters crossing!
You can also meet happy Highland cows!
You can also meet happy Highland cows!

Isle of Ulva

An interesting place to visit, located a bit off the beaten path, is the Isle of Ulva. There are no cars on the islands, and some great walks can help you to explore it on foot. You can reach it by 5 min ferry from the Mull’s west coast, but check the schedule in advance, as you might realize that the ferry doesn’t operate on Saturdays and you would need to view the island from the shore (what we ended up doing ;)). The drive to get to the ferry to Ulva through the elevated roads is stunning by itself, so it’s definitely worth a go in any case.

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Roads to the boat to Isle of Ulva, Isle of Mull
Roads to the boat to Isle of Ulva, Isle of Mull
Isle of Ulva
Isle of Ulva
Almost there.. Isle of Ulva just behind the water
Almost there.. Isle of Ulva just behind the water
Isle of Ulva boat timetable
No boat 🙁

Isle of Mull together with Isle of Iona and Isle of Staffa are definitely on my list of the best places in Scotland. Once you get to those Scottish islands, you will understand what I mean by the totally different feel of the trip in comparison to the main island. It’s so unique, remote and calm, that will make your time there very special.

View to Isle of Mull, Isle of Iona, Isle of Staffa, discover Scottish islands

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34 thoughts on “Visit Scottish islands: explore stunning Inner Hebrides – Isle of Mull, Iona and Staffa.

  1. Wonderful post! I was just talking about Scotland to my boss who has the chance to go there for a golf tournament. I didn’t get to go when I visited the British isles many years ago, so I told her she must make the trip for both of us lol!

  2. Wow, we’ve been planning to go to Scotland in the next couple of years to visit friends. Now, I just want to go even more! These places are beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  3. It’s a dream destination for me. I’ve always wanted to visit the cave of a Scottish giant on the island of Staffa. Riding a horse on a remote beach on the island of Mull would be awesome too. Is it a Roman coliseum on the top of the hill on the island of Oban? Your article is very interesting and inspiring. The pictures are very beautiful too. Thank you for sharing.

  4. This place looks like from a fairytale! Adding it to my wish list, thank you for sharing this! And that sea in Isle of Iona? Looks like Mediterranean 🙂

  5. Iona doesn’t even look like it is related to Scotland! Thee places are so beautiful. We have a charming town called Tobermory in Ontario as well and it’s a port town too!

  6. These pictures are so pretty! I have been to Scotland twice and would love to go again. This post really have me wanting to go back sooner than later! Thanks for sharing!!!

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