Interview: Mull Magic

Established by former Wayfarers International Walking Tour Director, Ruth Fleming, in 2005, Mull Magic celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2015.  A small, family-owned and run business, Mull Magic has a well-earned reputation built on the dedication and knowledge of its leaders, who have over 30 years experience of walking with wildlife.

As well as promoting several themed excursions, like their ever-popular Eagle and Otter Walks, Mull Magic dare to venture where others don’t by offering their guests an insight into a different Isle of Mull.  Packed with more than just a glimpse of the past, a walk with Mull Magic will introduce you to a hidden side of the island and its wildlife that most visitors fail to see.

Regarded as the friendly face of Mull’s wildlife, Mull Magic take pride in the quality of experience that they offer their guests. Cheerful, chatty and blessed with a sense of humour, Mull Magic aim to take their guests on a natural and social history journey that they will never forget.

We asked Ruth Flemming, owner and leader at Mull Magic, about getting off the beaten track and up close with Mull’s wonderful wildlife.

White tailed eagle. Credit Mull Magic

White tailed eagle. Credit Mull Magic

What makes Mull an ideal holiday destination?

The beauty of the Isle of Mull is that it is so accessible, being placed only a short ferry journey (45 mins) from the port (Oban) on the Scottish mainland that has very good public transport links.  As such, the Isle of Mull has everything that you’d hope from an island community, yet has the benefit of not being far-flung or out of the way in any sense.

From a naturalist’s perspective, the Isle of Mull is often seen as having it all.  The landscapes largely date from a time of violence and turbulence, a time when the island was nearing the end of a journey that started off south of the Equator.  The roots of such volcanic activity are present all around the island and make for breathtaking and dramatic scenery, yet, where Ice Age glaciers scraped and gouged these surface lavas, rocks and fossils of the Jurassic period have been revealed.

credit Mull Magic 2

Credit Mull Magic

Thousands of wildlife watchers come to the Isle of Mull nowadays because of the high densities on the island of iconic animals and birds, such as otters, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Hen Harrier, Basking Shark, Minke Whale and Red Deer.

The Isle of Mull has luscious landscapes, wonderful wildlife and scintillating skies, the latter benefitting from very low levels of light pollution, which allow the Milky Way and the Aurora borealis to be seen to maximum effect, as well as the movements of the planets and constellations in season.

You offer a range of wildlife walks and tours, can you tell us about a popular easy graded walk?

All of our walks explore aspects of the Isle of Mull, Iona and Ulva’s world-renowned natural and/or social history.  In recent years, our Eagle Walk and Otter Walk have proved to be most popular.

Of our more general, easy-graded wildlife walks, Beaches, Birds and Butterflies takes a bit of beating.  Jam-packed with wildlife interest, ranging from the possibility of seeing a White-tailed Eagle or an otter, through to witnessing at first hand several habitats and the animals and birds that live there that are unique to this part of the world.  This walk allows our guests a chance to see things up-close-and-personal that they have never seen before!

Credit Mull Magic

Credit Mull Magic

Atlantic Hazel woodlands have a very special place here on the Isle of Mull, being at the very heart of both the island’s ecological and social community.  This walk gives a chance to celebrate these trees and the unusual framework of lichens and fungi they support, as well as searching for a butterfly that bucks the trend, the Speckled Wood.

A rare, endemic sub-species of highly attractive day-flying moth, the Slender Scotch Burnet Moth, is on the wing for a brief three weeks every late Spring and early Summer.  These insects are simply adorable, but live their lives at the mercy of habitat conditions and our weather.  If all goes to plan, we hope during the month of June to give our guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience with these creatures, as well with their less unusual cousins, the Transparent Burnet Moth and the Six-spot Burnet Moth.

What can visitors expect from your Mountain Magic walk?

The essence of Mull Magic is to engage with the countryside and to provide a quality experience of wild places and wildlife, rather in strenuous mountain walking.  However, that’s not to say that a good level of fitness isn’t required because it is!  Our mountain walks are taken at a very leisurely pace, so we can take time out to enjoy the mountain geology, geography, flora and fauna. So, this means plenty of sit-breaks and stops to refuel on the way up!

We are happy to guide individuals or small groups who wish to make the ascent up Mull’s only Munro, Ben More.  The views from the summit on a clear day are well worth the extra effort.  However, our favourite walks are on some of Mull’s ‘Grahams’.  These are Scottish mountains between 2000 – 2500 feet, of which we have seven on the Isle of Mull.

Mountain magic. Credit Mull Magic

Mountain magic. Credit Mull Magic

This is a walk that guarantees to put you on top of the world and may even provide you with views of Golden Eagles and White-tailed Eagles or a Mountain Hare.

Most of our Mountain Magic Walks take us right into the roots of the Isle of Mull’s volcanic past, where we can begin to make sense of a landscape that has been fashioned by fire and sculpted by ice.  Stunning!

Mull is a world-renowned wildlife watching spot.  Is there any wildlife in particular that you love to watch?

At Mull Magic, we try not to have favourites, but that is a difficult stance to keep up throughout the year.  We are very fond of ‘our’ eagles and otters and have acquired a knowledge over the years of these animals and birds that comes only with passion and experience.  Yet, we almost invariably learn something new about them every time we are in their company. That’s one of the reasons why wildlife is great and that makes us wildlife watchers.

At Mull Magic, we are extremely broad-based when it comes to gaining enjoyment from our wildlife watching on the island.  We are equally at home being enthralled by hoverflies buzzing around the head of a Hogweed or trying to show guests the perfectly camouflaged Grayling butterfly that is sitting on rock in front of their eyes or explaining that the branch suspended on a tree is actually held there by a glue fungus or searching for the hieroglyphic scribbles of Script lichen on smooth-barked trees or extolling the marvels of plants, like Round-leaved Sundew, that live out their lives in an impoverished environment.

Credit Mull Magic

Butterfly. Credit Mull Magic

Some people spend so much time chasing after individual animals and birds, that they miss out on so many equally interesting animals, birds, fungi, insects, lichens and plants in doing so.  At Mull Magic, we take the time to encourage our guests to stop and look. 

Are there any special highlights for visitors to Mull over Winter and Spring?

Although much of the tourist industry grinds to a halt on the island every Autumn at the close of the Isle of Mull Rally, very little of the local wildlife goes into hibernation.

Some of the best wildlife experiences are to be obtained on the Isle of Mull during the Winter months, especially if its eagles and otters that you want to see.  Dry, wind-free days may seem to be at a premium, but they can produce exceptional birdwatching conditions on the island’s sea lochs, where large concentrations of Great Northern Divers and Slavonian Grebes overwinter, alongside smaller numbers of Red-throated Divers and Black-throated Divers.

Credit Mull Magic

Credit Mull Magic

It is around the coast that White-tailed Eagles may be seen in courtship display as they prepare for a late Winter start to their breeding programme.  Golden Eagles nest slightly later and, although a few pairs nest in coastal locations, it is to the mountain ridges that you should look to make a connection with Scotland’s National Bird.

With less human disturbance on the island in Winter, it really is possible to be alone with some of the most iconic creatures in the British Isles and in some of the most beautiful landscapes to boot.

Winter is the time when the dark skies over the Isle of Mull really come into their own, with unspoilt views of the Milky Way and the main constellations of the period.  And, when there is a solar storm in the heavens, the horizon to the North of Mull can be ablaze with the colours of Aurora borealis, the Northern Lights.

We like to highlight hidden gems with our readers – could you share some of your favourite lesser-known attractions/sights?

At Mull Magic, our ethos is to take our guests to those out of the way places that exist off-the-beaten-track; places that others may have little knowledge of or the wherewithal to get there.  Once there, the spectacular scenery and sumptuous wildlife then tends to speak for themselves, although we do like to point out the odd thing in passing!

Our large wildlife, whether it be a White-tailed Eagle, a Grey Seal, an otter or a Red Deer tends to get itself noticed by most, so we concentrate on finding and examining the island’s so-called ‘lesser’ wildlife while we wait for the big boys to put in an appearance.

Hidden gems?  The crown of the Isle of Mull is encrusted with such, yet only a few seem to leave the island having noticed their sparkle.  Like any good magician, Mull Magic’s leaders have more than just a few surprises hiding up their sleeves to entertain and enthral their guests, many of whom come back time and time again to top-up on what is a very special island and a different way to look at the world around them.

Mother Nature’s tattoos; Mother Nature’s signature; Glue fungus; Piggyback fungus; Octopus suckers; Frilly-knickers…  To reveal what these are would be giving our trademark away.  Suffice to say that, here at Mull Magic, our lives may revolve around eagles and otters, but we like to examine everything that makes up the world in which eagles and otters thrive on the Isle of Mull.  And, we thrive on that!

You can find Mull Magic on Facebook and follow @MullMagic on Twitter.

 

If this has inspired you to visit the island and discover its wonderful wildlife, take a look at our holiday accommodation on Mull.

Comments

  • Martin Waring
    31st January 2015 4:35 pm

    We have twice been out on trips with Mull Magic. once on a walking tour of Iona and once on an eagle spotting expedition. Their local knowledge about wildlife, flora and fauna, geology and the general history of the island is breathtaking. This combined with their easy going, laid back and witty style leaves one with an unforgettable experience, not to be missed for anyone visiting Mull. And the lunch is spot on too! Martin & Judith Waring

  • Emma Gibb
    19th March 2015 8:59 am

    Thank you for the feedback, Martin! :)

Leave a comment