Tobermory, Scotland

Aug 15, 2018 - Lord of the Glens


During breakfast, we sailed to Eigg—one of the Small Isles—but an unfortunate wind and tide prevented us from making our planned landing there. We sailed on past Rum and Muck toward the sheltered anchorage on Tobermory, the principal settlement on the Isle of Mull—an island of the Hebrides second in size to Skye.

We navigated the open water off Ardnamurchan Point, the westernmost point on the British mainland. The lighthouse at Ardnamurchan, built by the Stevenson brothers, loomed dramatically through the mist, its distinctive Egyptian–style architectural features warning approaching vessels of a rocky coastline. The Stevenson brothers were the father and uncle of the author Robert Louis Stevenson whose novel, Kidnapped, is loosely based on the geography of the Isle of Mull. In the lee of Mull, as we approached Tobermory, we had the good fortune to see a pair of white-tailed sea eagles on the coastal cliffs.

The name Tobermory comes from the Gaelic for Mary’s Well, a feature that can still be found at one end of the bay, beside the whiskey distillery. The houses are brightly colored because the town was once used as a film set for the popular BBC children’s program, Balmory. In town, there’s a bookshop that also sells fishing tackle, an artisan bakery, a chocolate-maker, a small museum, and several hostelries—including The Mishnish, which was conveniently situated near our berthing. The town has an upper level that is largely residential, but also has a small arts center, An Tobar, and the Western Isles hotel, which holds many mementos of the Second World War. We spent time exploring the town in the afternoon and some of the group hiked along a coastal trail to inspect another of the Stevenson lighthouses.

The morning’s presentation was “The Coming of Christianity to Britain,” to prepare us for our upcoming visit to Iona. During the evening, we heard from a marine biologist working for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphins Trust which is based in Tobermory.

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About the Author

David Barnes

Expedition Leader

David studied history at the University of York in England and theology at the University of Wales.  Research in the field of religious history (at Cardiff) followed on naturally.  He has spent most of his professional life teaching history, most recently in adult education departments within the University of Wales where he has taught a wide variety of courses pertinent to the wider Atlantic world.  In 1988, he made his first lecture-tour of the U.S. for the English Speaking Union. He has published extensively on Welsh history and topography–his most recent book being the Companion Guide to Wales (2005)–and is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Welsh cultural and literary journals.  In the1990s, David was active in the field of international education, traveling worldwide and spending a year in the U.S. (in Atlanta and New York City).  He speaks English and French in addition to his native Welsh.

About the Photographer

Brenda Tharp

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

For over 20 years, Brenda has used her photographs of the world to celebrate its beauty, and inspire others to protect what we have. Brenda grew up exploring the woods, lakes, and coastlines of New Jersey and New England and her family traveled regularly throughout the eastern U.S., camping, hiking, backpacking, and canoeing. She spent most of her childhood engaging with nature in some form or another and learning about animal behavior. When her father taught her some photography at 13, Brenda soon combined her love for nature with her newfound passion, and several years later her adventure began as a freelance photographer, teacher, and writer.

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