Updated: Apr 29, 2019
Perfect for a long weekend on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, the RSPB's Mull Eagle Watch is soaring high in August, while a day safari with a local wildlife expert may also reward you with sightings of otters, seals and red deer on this wildlife-rich Hebridean isle.
Your wildlife adventure begins the moment you board the ferry in Oban for the 45-minute crossing to Craignure on Mull’s southeast coast. Harbour porpoises are frequently seen and, during summer, you might also glimpse the telltale ‘twin triangles’ of a basking shark’s dorsal fin and tail.
But it’s eagles that star in this wildlife odyssey – and Mull has both golden and white-tailed varieties. Whether you’ve brought your own car, or have arranged to be met at the ferry dock by one of Mull’s excellent local safari guides, chances are you will head west on the road to Fionnport, delving into rugged Glen More. Scan the slopes and skies of this wild valley and you may spot one of Mull’s ‘goldies’ pirouetting on finger-tipped wings or hunkered down on a mountain ledge.
Larger in size, with shorter tails and broader wings, white-tailed eagles nest in forests along the shores of Mull’s kelp-fringed lochs. You might be lucky enough to see them soaring overhead, or even hunting offshore, but your best hope of a sea eagle encounter is to hook up with a ranger from the RSPB’s Mull Eagle Watch. The rendezvous point is along a forest track at Glen Seilisdeir (you’ll be given the exact location when you book in advance) – then it’s off to a secluded hide for privileged views of a white-tailed sea eagle nest. You may need to wait a couple of hours before one of the adults appears, swooping towards the nest, its huge, hooked bill jutting forwards and that distinctive white tail fanned to break its dive.
Did you know?
White-tailed eagles once bred throughout north and west Britain with at least 100 eyries recorded in the early 19th century. Shooting, trapping and poisoning, however, decimated the population and in 1916 the last two birds were shot on Skye. In 1975, a reintroduction programme helped these huge birds of prey regain their former Scottish haunts – and Mull has become a stronghold.
When to go: The Isle of Mull is a year-round destination for wildlife, but August is a good month to see a wide range of species. Visit in autumn if you want to witness red deer rutting.
Other wildlife: Eagles aren’t the only wildlife poster pin-ups on Mull. Otters can be seen squirming through seaweed along rocky coasts and loch shores as they forage for crustaceans and butterfish. As with Mull’s raptors, though, otter sightings are much more likely with a local wildlife guide. And if you’ve got seals, dolphins, minke whales and basking sharks in mind, your best bet is to join a boat trip from Tobermory.
Book now: Ranger-led trips with Mull Eagle Watch operate weekdays, 10am-1pm. Isle of Mull Wildlife Expeditions and Discover Mull both offer full-day safaris, while Sea Life Surveys run seven-hour Whalewatch Explorer cruises and four-hour Wildlife Adventure voyages. Caledonian MacBrayne operates daily crossings between Oban and Craignure. Open March-November, Sheiling Holidays offers camping at Craignure, while The Tobermory Hotel offers good value B&B accommodation.