Wednesday, 12 December 2012


In an earlier blog post I mentioned the fact that the west coast of Scotland is so peppered with islands that even the offshore islands have offshore islands. One of the islands off the coast of Mull is tiny Ulva, just eight square miles in area but packing in its fair share of beauty, wildlife and natural wonder. The island is reached via a short passenger ferry ride from Mull. Wildlife watchers will find plenty to look out for: on the land red deer, mountain hares or stoats, in the water Atlantic grey seals, otters or cetaceans, while feathered varieties include eider ducks, oyster catchers, shags, herons and corn crakes. But that is not all: the island is famous for its moths and butterflies, particularly the former, which include the striking Slender Scotch Burnet, which can be found on grassy banks and cliffs during the day, unusually for moths.

History buffs can follow in the footsteps of the Vikings, who washed up here around 800AD and named the island Ullfur, the Viking for "wolf island". However, they were not the first people to wander these shores: there are signs of habitation going back several millennia earlier than this. Relics from this time include standing stones dating from 1500BC, while a cave called Livingstones Cave houses a shell midden with remains dating to around 5650BC, along with signs of prehistoric wildlife including Arctic Fox and lemming. The missionary and explorer David Livingstone, whose ancestors came from Ulva, was reportedly full of tales and legends of the island passed down to him from his grandparents. The remains of Livingstone's croft, where the family lived, are near the aforementioned cave. When I was on holiday in Sydney a few years ago I had my picture taken sitting on what was known as "Mrs Macquarie's Chair". It turns out the lady in question was the wife of another Scot who ended up halfway round the world: Ulva-born Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, former governor of New South Wales and described back home as the "Father of Australia", quite a leap for someone who hailed from this tiny outpost of the Inner Hebrides. Near the harbour slipway is an old cottage called Sheila's Cottage, which houses the island's museum and heritage centre.

Map of the area.

© 2007 Chris McLean, via Wikimedia Commons

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