*I am in the process of redesigning this section to include notes and many more high-res shots*
The remote village of Lochbuie is situated at the head of Loch Buie, a sea loch on the Isle of Mull`s south coast. The immediate area is renowned for its scenery, shimmering beaches and abundant wildlife. Lochbuie is also steeped in history being the home of the Clan Maclaine of Lochbuie who resided at Moy Castle and later, Lochbuie House.
The settlement is reached by a 12.5km (7.7 mile) drive along a single-track road that leaves the A849 at Strathcoil just west of Loch Spelve, another of Mull`s southern sea lochs. The route initially passes through the Ardura woodlands, the largest remaining example of native upland oak woodland in the Hebrides. Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the woods are home to a rich variety of lichens, mosses, flowering plants and ferns. Birds including Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Wood Warbler all nest annually.
This monument overlooks the main road at the Lochbuie turnoff. It was erected in the 1920s to honour the Gaelic poet and composer Dugald MacPhail (1818 - 1887) who was born nearby at Derrychulin House and stones from the ruins were used in the monument’s construction. MacPhail worked as a joiner and architect before travelling to Glasgow with his young wife. They then moved across the border to Newcastle where he wrote his most famous work, the song An t-Eilean Muileach (The Isle of Mull), which is now known as 'Mull's National Anthem'. Four verses from the song are inscribed on side panels and another has the following words: ‘Dughall an t-Strath Chaoil - Born 1818 -Died 1887. This cairn is erected with stone from the dwelling of the bard.’
MacPhail was appointed architect and clerk of works to the Duke of Westminster, and the family relocated to Shaftesbury, where several of his family were born. He eventually returned to Scotland, setting up home in Edinburgh, and it was here that he composed the song An t-sobhrach Mhuileach (The Mull Primrose). In 1859, MacPhail was awarded a prize given by the Edinburgh Celtic Society for an essay on the Highland Clearances. He also wrote the autobiographical Callum a' Ghlinne (Callum of the Glen).
The road meets and runs alongside the south-westerly arm of Loch Spelve (above), within a stone's throw of the water's edge. Otters are supposedly fairly common here although I didn't see any during the drive. In summer, many birds including Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Meadow and Rock Pipits, Wheatear, Pied and Grey Wagtails all breed here. Swallows and Starlings nest in the derelict buildings. In winter, Loch Spelve holds good numbers of waders and waterfowl including all three species of Diver.
The road continues west along the north side of Loch Uisg. This freshwater loch lies in the picturesque wooded valley that connects Loch Spelve and Loch Buie and in spring and autumn this section must be one of the most colourful stretches of road on the island. In springtime into early summer this section of the route is lined with masses of Rhododendrons which thrive not only on the narrow ground between road and loch but cover the lower slopes of the adjacent hillsides.
Red Deer are widespread throughout the island but Mull has only a small population of Fallow Deer. The latter species tends to remain localised with Lochbuie and the Gruline Estate being two of the best places to see them.
In summer, the animals have chestnut-brown coats with the classic ‘Bambi’ white spots, but in wild herds, including those on Mull, there can be considerable variations in colour.
The small village of Lochbuie is made up of various crofts and houses scattered around the head of the loch, with Ben Buie (717m) towering in the background.
The public road ends just above the shore with a rough grassy area for parking and one of Scotland's smallest post offices only a few metres away. This triangular cairn was erected to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902.
Another memorial cairn, close to Craig Ben Lodge overlooking Loch Uisg, is passed on the road in. etc*
Loch Buie is considered a prime birdwatching location and with rugged mountainous terrain all around eagles, both Golden and White-tailed, are often seen soaring overhead. A Great Northern Diver was feeding in the bay when I arrived for the first time, in May, while on land parent birds like Swallows, House Martins, Robins and thrushes were frantically collecting insects and worms to feed their hungry nestlings. Walking through an area of gorse, I disturbed a Sandpiper which broke cover and launched into an impressive broken-wing act, successfully diverting me away from her well-concealed eggs or chicks.
Hen Harriers are often sighted here too. In November 2017, on a very blustery day, this male was hunting over fields close to the road near the parking area but a crow flew in and harried the raptor, forcing it towards the distant treeline. These poor quality shots were all I could manage.
Continuing east from the parking area, Laggan Sands is a long stretch of beach where Otters are frequently sighted. Deer graze on the flat open ground.
The Lochbuie stone circle, the only one on Mull, can be reached from a small parking area beside the stone bridge over the river, approximately 1km before the road end. Unless there's been a long period of dry weather Wellies will likely be the optimum choice of footwear as the ground is very marshy!
The circle, which is about 12 metres in diameter, originally consisted of nine granite stones with the tallest reaching a height of about 2 metres. It`s mainly composed of granite slabs which have been positioned with their flatter faces pointing inwards. One of the original stones has been removed and replaced in more recent times with a low boulder.
There are also three single stones in the field at differing distances from the circle. The nearest of these is 5 metres away to the south-east, and is only 1m tall. The second outlier (left) stands 3 metres high and is set about 40m away to the south-west. Also south-west of the circle, 107m away, is the third outlier, over 2 metres high.
This small Episcopal Church consecrated to St. Kilda and was built by Murdoch MacLaine of Lochbuie in 1876. It is not known why a second church was built on the Lochbuie estate as Kinlochspelve Church had previously served the needs of the small community.
It has been suggested that Murdoch, War Correspondent for The Times during the Franco-Prussian War, was appalled by the horrors he witnessed and had St Kilda’s built as a celebration of his faith.
Within the St Kilda Church are several beautiful stained glass windows including those dedicated to St. Oran, St Kilda and St. Columba and various other items of historical interest.
Although it previously featured in countless calendar shots, 15th century Moy Castle (below) is now in serious need of repair and covered with scaffolding. It's hoped that sufficient funds can be raised to restore it to its former glory and even open the interior to the public but there's a long way to go. (May 2014 to edit)* Yet another MacLean stronghold, Moy Castle was occupied until 1752 when the residents moved to newly built Lochbuie House (below). The mansion is private and not open to the public.
Even though the beach here is strewn with boulders, a large amount of sand is exposed at low tide allowing visitors to walk over to explore the tidal islet of Eilean Mor which makes a great place for a picnic or a spot of sea-watching. Just be aware of when the tide starts to turn. Remnants of a stone harbour are revealed on Eilean Mor at low tide.
Please bear in mind that all my images are subject to copyright. They are not free to use and have been embedded with a digital watermark.