Saturday, 10 April 2010

Winter With Leaves On

With the sun returning to the Northern hemisphere on Saturday 20th March, this officially marked the ‘First Day of Spring’ in 2010. If things were only that simple, here on the Isle of Mull! The six week period between the beginning of May and mid-June were previously regarded as being the best of the year, weather-wise, in the West Highlands. Consequently, these weeks became known as Springtime on Mull. However, with the advent of global warming, the seasons now appear to run into each other. So much so, ‘Mull Magic’ believes that only two seasons can be safely separated on the island - Winter and Winter with leaves on!

You don’t have to venture far from the island’s principal town, Tobermory, to enjoy an exhilarating walk, amid some of the most breathtakingly beautiful scenery in Scotland. The lighthouse at Rubha nan Gall (‘Strangers’ Point’) is a strategic landmark that marks the Western entrance to the Sound of Mull. Built in 1857, by the grandfather of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, the location offers exceptional views across the Sound to the village of Kilchoan, on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. In the distance, the Troll mountains of the Isle of Rum raise their heads high above the village. These mountains have Norse names, which are a present day reminder of the influence Vikings held in these Isles of the West, 1,000 years ago.

The Wheatear is one of the first Summer migrants to reappear on the Isle of Mull each Spring. Often showing face before March is out, the males are resplendent in their smart, nuptial attire. Looking like miniature highwaymen, with their black face masks, the all-singing-and-dancing males bring fresh colour and vitality to sheep pasture that has been all-too-quiet since their departure last Autumn.

Aros Park is a glittering jewel in Tobermory’s crown, from where our guests today enjoyed the multi-coloured façade of the town’s waterfront in the warm, afternoon sunshine. Formerly an active estate, the park fell into neglect, but was purchased by the Forestry Commission in 1959 and opened to the public in the late 1960’s. A programme of scrub clearing, re-planting and general maintenance has reclaimed some of the park’s glory from the past.

The extensive woodlands are home to a pleasing variety of local flora and fauna, including one of the island’s earliest Spring flowers, the Lesser Celandine. A profusion of these attractive yellow-flowered plants, with heart-shaped leaves, carpet woods throughout the island in April. Plants in times gone by were used to treat parts of the body which they resembled. One of the colloquial names for this member of the buttercup family is pilewort, but, try as we might, ‘Mull Magic’ has failed miserably to see the connection!

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