Faced with the prospect of an empty page in the Mull Magic diary, we thought we’d do something a bit different with our free day. Hard as we tried, we couldn’t think of anything we would rather do, so we laced up our boots and headed out into the wonderful Mull countryside for A Grand Day Out!
Spring tends to stir late in the hills and glens of Mull and having just endured the most severe Winter in living memory the local countryside has been somewhat reluctant to shake off the shackles of its enforced hibernation. Today’s walk, through the hostile environment of wet, boggy moorland, led us to the foot of one of the island’s highest summits, Ben Talaidh (2,300 ft), where we paid our respects to the victims of a tragic wartime accident.
Birds, plants and animals have to be rather special to cope with the bleak and unforgiving conditions that exist in the uplands of Mull. The small groups of Red Deer stags that we encountered may be used to surviving on the meagre rations doled out on the hill, but the long weeks of snow and ice this Winter have taken their toll. Many of the stags, some of which were beginning to shed their antlers, looked thin and scruffy and in need of a pick-me-up that only the fresh growth of Spring can provide.
A fine herd of Highland Cattle were feeding at the edge of the track as we passed by on our route up the valley. There were many young, suckling calves within the group and we were keen not to cause their mothers any distress with our presence. Highland Cattle may be hefty, long-horned animals, yet they are remarkably docile in temperament – normally! One calf-less cow had obviously taken on a matriarchal role within the group and showed its displeasure at our presence. In doing so, it incited a frightening reaction from other members of the herd and, before we knew it, we were surrounded by an angry horde of baying animals, keen to protect their offspring. Having experienced A Close Shave, this was an experience that we didn’t wish to repeat, so we gave the beasts an even wider berth on our return!
With both respiration and acceleration rates quickened, we soon reached our lunch stop at the memorial cairn which commemorates the night of 1st February 1945, when a disorientated Dakota Mk IV aircraft crashed into the Ben Talaidh hillside. The mournful, bubbling call of a Curlew took on the role of a lone piper’s lament, evoking poignant memories of the passengers that perished on that fateful night.
The Wrong Trousers need no explanation but, all in all, it was A Grand Day Out!