28 October 2010--I wasn't really thrilled with the long unlit lane leading up to the B&B last night, but the advantages of the
house's secluded location are apparent at breakfast this morning, as we are visited by some browsing deer.
It's a pretty dim day, and I'm in no hurry to get out. I catch the 11:00 tour at the distillery, a very compact plant, and a suitably compact tour (with no interior photography allowed). I'm having my sample by 11:30. The former warehouses across the road were sold off some years ago for conversion to apartments, and virtually all of the distillery's output is now matured in some nameless warehouse on the mainland. I've long dismissed the notion that maturing whisky picks up maritime influences from the air surrounding seaside warehouses, but I nonetheless think it's a shame to tanker the stuff to distant sites for filling into barrels and aging. Why even bother to have the stills here?
I saunter down to the CalMac office at the far end of town (it's a slow three-minute walk) to book my escape from Mull tomorrow. To my dismay, I find that both ferries to Oban are fully booked. I'm told to go early for the morning crossing and get in the standby lane; If I don't get on, I can backtrack and take the ferry to Morvern instead. This is much less traveled because Morvern is one of those peculiar near-yet-remote peninsulas on the awkward side of a body of water. I wouldn't mind seeing it--I've never been--but it is the long way around, and the weather forecast for tomorrow isn't too good, anyway.
Tobermory's colorfully-painted front street is a familiar sight to anyone who has ever perused Scottish calendars, postcards, or photo books. Strolling along, I have very mixed feelings about it. There isn't much touristy here--a chocolatier, a soapmaker, the interesting little Mull Museum. I suppose I should be glad it's relatively unspoiled. There's a Co-op, and one of those crammed-in hardware stores--I guess you'd call it a hardware store--that somehow seems to have everything you could ever think of in it. Mull's answer to Argos. Not much else to look at. I know some of the small cruise vessels, like the Hebridean Princess, call here, and I wonder what the landing parties do, aside from having a drink at the Mishnish. I have the uneasy feeling that some day the Co-op will have to move to the outskirts of the upper town to make way for a Banana Republic or a Crabtree & Evelyn. I guess there's no danger of that happening any time soon.
Up the hill I go, to the top of the bluff. This part of town is largely residential, with some B&Bs and holiday cottages. The Western Isles Hotel sits at the edge of the cliff, overlooking the town and the harbor. I go in for a look-see, thinking I might have dinner there tonight. It looks a little too upscale for me. Back a way from the bluff, nearly hidden in a residential area, is the far less imposing Park Lodge Hotel, which looks like it might be worth checking out.
Make my way back to the B&B and nap away a rainy afternoon. Back at the Park Lodge, I settle in at the Auld Mull Lounge for dinner. It's a fairly new room, like the Martyrs Bay looking rather unlived in, but it's comfortable, and the other patrons are quiet locals. Best of all, there are Loch Fyne Ales on, a nice surprise, the best pints I've had since leaving Plockton.