Monday, 6 August 2012

Ulva - Wolf Island

Ferry from Mull

The Boathouse

Sheila's Cottage  Lived in by Shiela Macfayden until 1900 and restore
recently to show the way of life as it was in Victorian times on the island.

Telfords Kirk

Leafy lanes and mossy walls

The weather was kind to us when we visited Ulva. The Viking raiders who settled there would have been very much at home as the setting in the skerries between Loch Tuath and Loch na Keal is very Scandinavian. They called it Wolf’s Island hence its modern day name. It is on the west side of Mull and just a five-minute ferry crossing from the main island of Mull on board a small open boat. Ulva and its small neighbour Gometra are privately owned so visiting I think is a privilege, though in addition to farming the twenty or so occupants are reliant on tourism. The Boathouse, a licenced café that is a short walk from the jetty sets the scene. It is attractive and comfortable and most importantly has good food and refreshments served with a smile. There are almost no vehicles on the island, we saw a couple of old Land Rovers parked up. The transport on the island is quad bikes with trailers, and the farm tractors. Walking the rough lanes following the signposted walks is therefore a delight with no pollution and ever changing vistas. We walked through the lanes that wended their way through old deciduous woodland flanked with ancient moss covered walls to visit the Kirk that nestles in the woods overlooking Loch Tuath. It was built in Victorian times when the island had a population of about eight hundred people before the then proprietor savagely cleared the island to graze sheep. The Kirk’s architect was none other than the famous engineer, Thomas Telford who designed it to accommodate three hundred worshippers. The kirk was built with no frills and given a light airy hall with almost no adornment, as befitted the nonconformists of the time. Those were the days when the island economy was based on farming, fishing and kelp gathering, which gave the people a reasonably good life. Sadly, the kelp trade that supplied glassmakers with an important ingredient, Soda Ash, fell into decline after the invention of an industrial process to make it more cheaply than collecting and burning seaweed.

The island has connections with many famous people. Early tourists were David Livingston, Samuel Johnson and Sir Walter Scott. Lachlan Macquarrie born on the island in 1762 left to join the Army rose through the ranks to become a General but more importantly was sent to Australia as the Governor of the newly founded colony. His work earned him the accolade “Father of Australia”. He returned to Mull on his retirement and is buried almost overlooking Ulva at Gruline where his resting place uniquely is dedicated as Australian territory. It is an island that we will certainly visit

1 comment:

  1. Most interesting Peter! Looking forward to reading more of your blogs. I'm Australian so am very familiar with Lachlan Macquarie but had no idea that he had been born on this remote island.


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