Monday, 24 January 2011

Unknown Islands in the Western Sea

Aligned North-west to South-east and separating the picturesque setting of Tobermory Bay from the Sound of Mull, it appears that little is known of Calve Island. The protector of the capital of the Isle of Mull it may be, yet it appears so undistinguished as to not merit even the slightest mention in the previously definitive David & Charles’ ‘Mull and Iona’ book by P.A. MacNab!

Uninhabited, except for a rather impressive Summer dwelling house, Calve Island is probably better known to philatelists than most of the residents of the Isle of Mull. In 1984, the Royal Mail issued a postage stamp featuring a Bassett Hound and bearing the legend ‘Calve Island, Tobermory’. Its 17p cost at the time made it legal to carry mail anywhere in Great Britain, although this one of a series of quirky island stamps was not recognised outwith these shores.

Mull Magic has never set foot on Calve Island, let alone walk around its perimeter, exploring its bays and rocky shoreline. That we would love to do so goes without saying. Until then, we have to be content with a virtual walk, where our imaginations are fired by the many photographic opportunities that this small island gives us as we go about our daily lives in Tobermory.

Last year (2010) will be remembered as the first time that the fertile island of Inch Kenneth, lying at the entrance to Loch na Keal, on the West coast of Mull, flung open its doors to the public. Mull Magic has long been fascinated by the history of this 1 mile long by ½ mile wide piece of land that is dominated by a somewhat incongruous 19th Century mansion house, which once belonged to the infamous and aristocratic Mitford family.

Said to be second only in importance, ecclesiastically, to Iona, the island boasts a very different geology compared to the rest of Mull. Older sedimentary rocks produce a sandy soil, which was capable of providing good crops and brought the island recognition as a granary for the monks living on the Holy Isle. During the boom years of the kelp industry in the 18th Century, when the harvesting of seaweed and tangle brought prosperity to some, but only hardship to others, Inch Kenneth was at the centre of operations on Mull. Today, the lush grasslands are home to orchids in Spring and an overwintering flock of migrant Barnacle Geese during the Winter months.

Having had to wait 20 years before managing to set foot on this verdant oasis at the foot of the dark and brooding cliffs of The Gribun, we hope to get a further chance to explore treasures that have been too long hidden away from public gaze. Although Mull is not renowned for living life in the fast lane, Inch Kenneth represents yet another world of solitude and great tranquility, where the peaceful idyll is punctuated only by the calls of nesting shorebirds, the bleating of sheep and the gentle lapping of waves on to the shore. At Mull Magic, we continue to dream about what six numbers on a Saturday night could do for us…!

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