Of course they have white-tailed sea eagles on Mull. One just needs time and patience to spot them. A bit of luck, too. Along with golden eagles and otters.
Having cycled to the Mull Eagle Watch, just west of Craignure, the day before with no time left to exercise that patience, the proverbial blank was drawn. So we hatched a plan. First cycle from Craignure to Salen and pop across the island to Loch Na Keal, a total distance of about 16 miles (around 25 Km). Sit on the beach and take in a plentitude of otter and eagle sightings. Cycle back. Could've worked.
Only two things standing in our way: Shan had aggravated a a previous injury the day before and it was blowing the hooley of all hooleys when the day dawned (and continued to do so for several days).
We'd been a little canny, though. There was a contingency plan in place. Scotland has excellent public transport (including the ferries). Plan B was to get the bus headed towards Tobermory. Hop off at Salen, switch to another bus to Gruline and walk the last one-and-a-half miles to the beach. Same in reverse after seeing otters gambolling and eagles soaring.
Only, we'd missed the asterisk on the timetable, hadn't we! Salen-Gruline buses only operated on certain days (I think schooldays). We only worked this out when we got to Salen. Maybe we could walk the 9 miles across the island and back. It looked as if there'd be spectacular scenery.
We'd kind of hoped for some tea and cake before we left Salen, anyway.
The Coffee Pot looked inviting. It seemed sensible to verify our logic in comfort.
We thought it best to run our plan past Laura, the owner of the Argyll House, which contained the Coffee Pot: "We were contemplating walking from here to the other side of the island. It seems the bus isn't running today. Is it feasible?"
"Feasible, yes. Advisable, not," was more or less what Laura said while eyeing Shan's limp.
"Any idea when the next bus back to Craignure passes through Salen?" we asked, not sounding quite as disappointed as we'd intended. We'd seen the cake.
"In about two hours," Laura replied.
We took our time over the cake and had a bit more to eat, besides. We still had some time to wait for the Craignure bus when Laura came over again: "My other half is driving over to the other side to see if he can spot some eagles and otters. He'd be happy to take you with him if you have the time?"
We both did simultaneous enthusiastic Noddy impressions as we scuttled to settle our bill. Conservationists don't always like being kept waiting. We didn't want to spoil the generous invitation.
It turns out that Laura's partner, Graeme Boath, didn't actually mind waiting. In fact he was waiting for his own reasons. He worked in Inverness during the week and then journeyed for 4 hours to Mull to be with Laura at weekends. Graeme had a few hours before Laura finished for the day. He was a photographer in love with Mull and it was infectious. The only thing we were worried about at this stage was whether we'd be back in Salen in time for the last bus back to Craignure. Our luck was in: Graeme's Dad was arriving later that afternoon so he had to be back anyway.
Now I like taking a few photos, myself. But lens envy kept my equipment firmly in my bag. You can take a look at Graeme's link above do see why I readily bowed to his expertise and knowledge.
The headline to this blog episode is a bit of a giveaway. We did not see one white-tailed eagle, golden eagle or sea otter. But it didn't really matter. Graeme patiently showed us where they lived. We learned a lot during the next few hours. White-tailed sea eagles were the biggest birds of prey in Britain. They lived in close quarters with golden eagles, which were about two thirds of their size. I never knew that! Golden eagles are the stuff of legends but, of course, Graeme was completely correct. Otters, too, were quite ornery creatures and could be quite horrible to each other.
So we returned to Salen with memories of eagles' nests and otters' paths in amongst the always spectacular scenery and said goodbye to Graeme, thanking him for his generous hospitality. We may have even got a glimpse of Ben More on our journey.
The bus home was still an hour away but it was a different, later bus. We sauntered up the road from the Argyll House to pass the time.
Shan spotted something in the distance (first below). She thought it merited a little more attention. Shan does not like standing around waiting for things, especially buses.
Looking up the road, I was immediately reminded of John Pauling and his Husky protestations. The local Mull roadside everything-workshop (middle above). So what was further on up the road (third above)?
Thanks to my amazing wife we were about to discover one of the photogenic attractions that Mull is renowned for. No wildlife or soaring Bens. Just a couple of fishing boats that had been abandoned around 50 years earlier (below).
I'm not going to claim that I was anywhere near being the first lightmonkey to take pics of these gorgeous artefacts and I'm certain I won't be the last. But who cares. We were having fun. After all, if you search for #leonardodicaprio on #Instagram there are more than 2 million posts and still climbing. Same can be said of #katewinslet, #merylstreep and #alpacino, all at more than half a million posts. Most of them subtly different.
The only real surprise, apart from some delightful details, is that large chunks of iron remain at rest. Leave anything ferrous on our front lawn and it'll be gone in days.
Mull's a bit different. We were filled with the overwhelming impression that the islanders genuinely care about each other and "foreigners" who appreciate their surroundings. Actually, this was a common theme as our road trip progressed through Scotland.
Coming next: More of Mull, why Bens are Bens, and kindness. In the meantime feast your eyes on this sucker parked next to the old port in Craignure; probably only lethal these days to anyone who attempted to launch it. Shall we give it a try, mes amis? In a Hooley?