more than meets the eye

For a hiking trip there’s been a suspicious lack of physical activity noted on this site over the past two weeks, wouldn’t you say? Time to fix that today with a straight climb up highest hill on Mull. All mountains have a certain magnetic attraction for those who enjoying a good harrumph, but Ben More has more than you’d suspect. At 3,172 feet, the peak is a true beauty because every inch of it is climbed from sea level and that’s a rarity. Plus, the views from the top are spectacular. Beneath the summit are the glens and table-lands carved by retreating glaciers some 10,000 years ago. Eastwards across the sea are the serried mainland mountains; to the north, the sawtooth peaks of Rum and Skye; southwards, the Paps of Jura; and if you look westward on a clear day, you can almost see as far as Ireland. Bound by lochs on either side – and Iona and Staffa seemingly close enough to touch – the panorama is superb. (Double click each image for a greater sense of scale.) Many hikers mistakenly assume Ben More is a volcano. It is not, despite the picturesque “smoking” that often appears near the summit. In fact, it is a much rarer phenomenon: a highly magnetic mountain. Extruded 55 million years ago, the iron-rich basalt is so strongly magnetic that chippings will jump on to a proffered magnet. More importantly, compass readings can’t be trusted, particularly at the summit, which has been struck by lightning and remagnetized so often that readings vary enormously even within a few feet. Another surprise is the lack of a well-marked trail, which led to more than a few heated discussions on the extended hike up – all of which evaporated into thin air once we had summited and, more to the point, returned back to ground level unscathed.



dùn i

The Gaelic name for Iona is simply “I” – hence Dùn I, or the fort of Iona. What remains is little more than a low hill yet the steep climb to the cairn at the top is an invigorating harrumph. The summit is an ideal spot to break for a bit of lunch, too: to the north can be seen the shoreline of short turf and inviting sandy beach, while out over the sound is Staffa and the Treshnish Isles. Click the photo below – then click it again – for a panoramic view from the top.



to the lighthouse

A pleasant half hour hike out of the port side of Tobermory harbor led me through woods worthy of the Cottingley fairies before emerging onto the headland and a lighthouse built by the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson who, apparently, built a lot of the lighthouses still operating across the Scottish highlands. I feel like I need to make a point of saying that these photos are unadulterated. At 10 o’clock in the evening the sky still glowed with a diffuse, rosy light. I’d always supposed the UK as being on a parallel plane with New York, yet once I’d traced the lines of longitude I discovered that, in fact, I am currently in line with exact center of Canada’s Hudson Bay. That would explain why it has yet to get truly dark here: by the time the backlight dissolves over one horizon, the sun is rising on the opposite one. That’s going to make for some wonderful post-prandial strolls.


Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.