Mull, Inner Hebrides
Mull, fringed with an indented 300-mile coastline, is moorland occasionally giving way to picturesque clearings such as Salen. Bright, Georgian-fronted Tobermory is its capital, whilst Craignure is the main port, south-east of which lie 19th century Scottish-Baronial Torosay Castle and ancient Duart Castle, seat of the Macleans.
The island of Mull is the third largest of the Hebridean islands and, after Skye, the most popular. Everyone has their own favourite island, but Mull has enough going for it to appeal to most tastes: spectacular mountain scenery; 300 miles of wild coastline; castles; wildlife; a narrow-gauge railway; some of the best fishing in Scotland; and some of the prettiest little villages; all in an area roughly 24 miles from north to south and 26 miles from east to west. It's worth spending time on Mull to fully appreciate its pleasures and to take advantage of the great hospitality of an island where people don't even have to lock their doors at night.
Like many of the Hebridean islands, the people of Mull, or Muileachs, suffered greatly during the Clearances, when they were forced off their land to make way for sheep. The subsequent decline in population was exacerbated by the terrible potato famine of 1846, and the population fell dramatically from a peak of 10,600 in 1820. Numbers have stabilized to around 2,500 in recent years, mainly through the replacement of native islanders by English and Scottish incomers, known as 'White Settlers'. This is something of a sore point and the locals sarcastically refer to their island as 'The Officer's Mess', when the resident population rises to around 8,000 during the summer.
With around 600,000 visitors a year, tourism is an important contributor to the island's economy, supplementing the traditional fishing, crofting and whisky distilling. Despite the numbers, Mull remains unspoiled, though the main roads become congested at the height of the season and accommodation can be hard to find, as there are few large hotels or campsites on the island.