The Isle of Mull is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides as construed by land area. Mull is situated off the west coast of Scotland in the council area of Argyll and Bute. With an areal extent of 875 square kilometres, Mull is the fourth largest Scottish island as well as the fourth largest island appurtenant to Great Britain. In the 2001 census the resident population of Mull was 2667; however, the summer population swells with the arrival of large numbers of summer residents and tourists. Much of the population lives in the capital city of Tobermory, which was the only burgh on the island up until 1973.
The Scottish Gaelic name for the island is Muile, and local signage is typically posted both in English and Gaelic. There are significant areas of pristine habitat compared to western Europe as a whole; however, considerable loss of native habitat has occurred from commercial non-native forest plantations and historical overgrazing of many parts of the island.
Prehistory through Early Christian Era
Human settlement on Mull is dated to at least as early as 6000 BC. These original settlers arrived from mainland Scotland and Ireland and built Bronze Age menhirs, burial cairns, cists, standing stones, stone circles; archaeological finds of pottery and knife blades give additional evidence of these Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples. Between 600 BC to 400 AD Iron Age inhabitants constructed forts, duns and crannogs.
The Early Christian period began on Mull in the 6th Century AD, with 563 AD being a key date, since that date signified the influx of Christianity to Britain by Saint Columba, who arrived from Ireland to set up a monastery on the Island of Iona, off the southwest point of Mull.
Isle of Mull. Source: UK Ordnance Survey
Mull boasts a climate that is moderated by the North Atlantic Gulf Stream, which bathes its 480 linear kilometres of coastline. Mull is situated in the Sea of the Hebrides, with the Sound of Mull separating the island from the Scottish mainland. The island consists of a mountaineous core, flanked by coastal plains, many of which terminate at the sea with dramatic cliff landform topography. The highest point on the island is Ben More at 966 metres. Several Two main landforms radiate north and south from a central neck of land.< /p>
The Aros peninsula radiates northward and includes the principal town of Tobermory. Other northern settlements include Salen and Calgary. The Ross of Mull is the most southwest peninsula, and has the villages of Bunessan, Pennyghael, Uisken, Fionnphort. Lochbuie, Lochdon and Craignure. Fionnphort is the ferry point leading to Iona and points west, while Salen and Tobermory are the chief eastern ports. Numerous islands lie off the west coast of Mull, including Erraid, Inch Kenneth, Iona, Ulva. Smaller uninhabited islands include Eorsa, Gometra, Little Colonsay, the Treshnish Isles and Staffa. Calve Island is an uninhabited Calve Island is an uninhabited island lying very close to Tobermory Bay.
Two outlying rock lighthouses are visible at the southwest of Mull's mainland, Dubh Artach and Skerryvore. The Torran Rocks are a large shoal of reefs, islets and skerries, approximately 39 square kilometres in extent, located three kilometres to the southwest, between the Ross of Mull peninsula and Dubh Artach.
Mull features diverse terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems. Relative to Europe in general, the degree of habitat preservation is high; however, intensive replacement of native woodlands with alien species plantation forests has destroyed considerable native habitat. Also the extensive tree clearing and overgrazing begun at least as early as the 18th century created considerable loss of native forest and grasslands, since the disturbance regime from this grazing cycle has left vast amounts of land with dominant bracken fern, smothering out what was diverse shrub, tree, native forbs and grasses.
Notable marine mammals found along the coastline of Mull include European otter (Lutra lutra) and Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus). L.Lutra, for example is found broadly along the fractal coastline on the Ross of Mull, especially on the southwestern portion of Mull; this talented swimmer usually occurs in the marine environment here, but normally in proximity to the mouths of streams discharging to the sea.
Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and White-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) are found on Mull. The White-tailed eagle was once extinct in the area, but has since been re-introduced and its population had attained eleven nesting pairs as of 2010, with nests high in coniferous forests, both in the southern part of the island as well as the extreme northern coast along the Sound of Mull. The White-tailed eagle manifests a striking appearance, with its massive 2.6 metre wingspan and impressive hunting tactics; their most common prey are marine fish species. The Golden eagle generally nests on rocky exposed cliffs, such as locations easily seen from the main circumferential road on the Ross of Mull.
Demography and economy
The human population of Mull peaked in a much earlier time, when intensive agricultural uses, especially grazing, were in vogue. For example, in the year 1821 the population of Mull was recorded as "10,612 souls". Bell and Balbis attribute this population to employment in grazing and intensive fishery exploitation, but also note a climate that appears warmer and milder than in present times, stating that the winters were notably mild and almost free of frost and snow. Heron supports this picture of the 18th century economy by noting the population was totally rural, with the only village being Tobermory; he notes that the 18th century livelihood was dominated by grazing and fishing.
- James Bell and Adrien Balbis. 1832. A system of geography, popular and scientific: or A physical, political, and statistical account of the world and its various divisions, Volume 3. A. Fullerton Publishers
- Polly Burns. 2010. Benthic biota of Loch Etive. Topic editor: C. Michael Hogan, Ed.-in-chief: Cutler J.Cleveland, Encyclopedia of Earth, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington DC
- Robert Heron. 1791. Scotland delineated: or a geographical description of every shire in Scotland. James Neill Publishers. London. 389 pages
- A.C.Jermy and J.A.Crabbe (Eds). 1978. The Island of Mull a Survey of its Flora and Environment. London. British Museum
- J.Conroy, R.Melisch & P.Chanin. 1998 The Distribution And Status Of The Eurasian Otter (Lutra Lutra) In Asia - A Preliminary Review. IUCN Otter Spec.Group Bull. 15(1): 15-30