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Mull shown within Argyll and Bute
Tobermory, Mull

Area: 875.35 square kilometres (337.97 sq mi)

Highest elevation:Ben More 966 m

Population: 2800

Main Settlement: Tobermory

Local Authority: Argyll and Bute

The Isle of Mull (Scottish Gaelic An t-Eilean Muileach, pronounced [ˈmulə]) — or simply Mull — is the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides (after Skye), off the west coast of Scotland in the council area of Argyll and Bute. With an area of 875.35 square kilometres (337.97 sq mi) Mull is the fourth largest Scottish island and the fourth largest island surrounding Great Britain. In the 2011 census the usual resident population of Mull was 2,800, a slight rise on the 2001 figure of 2,667.<ref> National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands".</ref>In the summer this is supplemented by many tourists. Much of the population lives in Tobermory, the only burgh on the island until 1973, and its capital.



Mull has a coastline of 480 kilometres (300 mi) and its climate is moderated by the Gulf Stream. The island has a mountainous core, the highest peak on the island being Ben More, which reaches 966 metres (3,169 ft). Various peninsulas, which are predominantly moorland, radiate from the centre.

The Aros peninsula to the north includes the main town of Tobermory, which was a burgh until 1973 when burghs were abolished. Other settlements include Salen, Dervaig and Calgary. The Ross of Mull lies to the south west and includes the villages of Bunessan, Pennyghael, Uisken and Fionnphort. Lochbuie, Lochdon and Craignure lie to the east.

Numerous islands lie off the west coast of Mull, including Erraid, Inch Kenneth, Iona, Gometra, and Ulva. Smaller uninhabited islands include Eorsa, Little Colonsay, the Treshnish Isles and Staffa of Fingal's Cave fame. Calve Island is an uninhabited island in Tobermory Bay.

Two outlying rock lighthouses are also visible from the south west of Mull, Dubh Artach and Skerryvore. The Torran Rocks are a large shoal of reefs, islets and skerries, approximately 15 square miles (39 km2) in extent, located two miles (3 km) to the south west, between the Ross of Mull peninsula and Dubh Artach. Frank Lockwood's Island near Lochbuie is named after the brother-in-law of the 21st MacLean of Lochbuie, who was Solicitor General from 1894-5.<ref>Baird (1995) 142</ref>

Part of the indented west coast of Mull and some of the offshore islands there are part of the Loch Na Keal National Scenic Area, one of 40 in Scotland.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>


Geologists have long been interested in Mull because of its long and interesting history. The oldest rocks on Iona are around 2000 million years old, as well as having unique structures and rocks found nowhere else in the world (such as the Loch Ba Ring Dyke and felsite).<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>The geology of the island has been likened to a wedding cake.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>

The oldest rocks on the island formed in the southern hemisphere and have gradually drifted northwards along with the rest of the British Isles through continental drift. Because of this details of previous climatic zones are preserved within the rock. For example, if you stand on the rocky shore opposite Inch Kenneth at Gribun you will be standing on sandstones deposited in a desert region at the same sort of latitude and rather like the Persian Gulf today.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>

Much of Mull is the result of volcanic activity around the time of the formation of the North Atlantic.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>The molten lava which erupted from about 60 to 50 million years ago forms Mull’s ‘stepped’ tablelands.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>Intrusions of other ‘rocks formed by fire’ took place, forming the mountains of Mull’s famous Central Igneous Complex. Volcanic explosions and intense earthquakes shook Mull at that time and one of the old fault lines, the Great Glen fault is still occasionally active.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>The final form of the island was carved by huge glaciers 10,000 years ago which left deep valleys between the mountains and long lochs.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>


Early History

Traces of the earliest known settlement on Mull have been found at Livingston's Cave on Ulva, dating to the Mesolithic period.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref> After 4,000 years the first farmers arrived on the island.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref> Around this time the Mesolithic people themselves disappeared, probably adopting farming themselves.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>Around 4,000 years ago (c. 2,000 BCE) lifestyles began to change with the introduction of metal working, the start of the Bronze Age. This was also the time when megalithic structures, standing stones and stone circles were built.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>

During the Iron Age (c.600 BCE-400 BCE) new tools and weapons were introduced. New types of settlement appeared such as forts, duns and crannogs.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref> Crannogs are small artificial islands close to the shore of a body of water. On Mull remains of Crannog settlements have been found at Caisteal Eoghainn a’ Chinn Bhig and Loch Sguabain, as well as other locations.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref> Two Iron Age Brochs (impressive stone defensive structures) have been found on Mull.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>

During the early medieval period Mull was part of the kingdom of Dal Riata, with its ceremonial centre at Dunadd in Argyll. St. Columba settled on Iona and established a monastery during the fifth century. In 795 Iona was sacked by Viking raiders, although they eventually became settlers.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref>

Lordship of the Isles

Mull was ruled by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles from the time of the Wars of Independence until 1493, when it was annexed by the Scottish Crown.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, The Hebrides, An Aerial View of a Cultural Landscape (Edinburgh: Birlinn 2010)</ref> By the end of the fifteenth century most of the island was owned by the chiefs of Clan Maclean<ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 238</ref> who ruled from their stronghold at Duart Castle.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref> In 1609 the island was the scene of one of the most drastic of many attempts by the Stuart monarchy to assert authority over the Hebrides, when James VI imposed the Statutes of Iona on the clan chiefs.These were an attempt to suppress various aspects of traditional Gaelic culture.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref>Although James' ability to actually implement many of these demands was limited due to his inability to mount a full-scale military invasion of the islands<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 164</ref> this intervention shows the intention of the Scottish state to bring the Hebrides under its control.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref>

Seventeenth Century

During the seventeenth century the Macleans of Duart began to accumulate debt in order to finance their lifestyle as clan chiefs.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 166</ref> They then sold their debt to the Campbells in an early example of a modern financial practice, with the security being the Maclean lands on Mull.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref> This arrangement made the Macleans highly vulnerable to the Campbells<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 166</ref> in the struggles of the Civil War period. The Macleans ill-advised support of the Royalists and their subsequent defeat at the Battle of Inverkeithing was a disaster for the island.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref> Seven hundred Mull clansmen were killed, along with two hundred other inhabitants, depriving the island of a large proportion of its workforce for agriculture.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 166</ref>The Macleans became bankrupt and in 1690 Duart Castle and the Maclean lands were occupied by the Campbells.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 166</ref>

Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The eighteenth century was not a happy period for Mull.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref>The Campbell Dukes of Argyll attempted to maintain their place in British 'polite society' by raising further rents from their landholdings.In the 1730s problems with rent arrears began.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref> The tenant farmers- former or current clansmen- struggled to produce surplus from agriculture which could be used to pay rent.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref>By the beginning of the nineteenth century many of the tenant farmers on Mull had become destitute.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref> The trade in black cattle collapsed due to events beyond the control of either the landowners or islanders, <ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 165</ref>leading to widespread poverty. Due to the low incomes the island produced the Campbells gradually sold off their lands there to landlords from outside the area.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 166</ref>The new landlords turned to evicting islanders. One of the most infamous landowners was Francis William Clark, who bought the island of Ulva in 1836 and proceeded to evict its people in favour of sheep farming.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 169</ref>

Following the clearances, the population of Mull fell drastically. It reached a maximum of 10,000 in 1821, had fallen to 8,316 in 1841.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 166</ref> In 1887 Bartholemew's Gazetter listed the population as 5229.<ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref> The actions of landowners on Mull during this period have been assessed as resulting from a 'mutual incomprehension' between classes and cultures, as well as 'impossible situations' produced by economics and a lack of resources and expertise to address problems of population and limited agricultural resources.<ref>Angus and Patricia MacDonald, Hebrides, 173</ref>

Twentieth Century


Farming, fishing and burning seaweed to kelp ash (used in the manufacture of soap and glass) were the main economic activities on the island until the 19th century. Tobermory was built by the British Fisheries Society in 1788 as a planned settlement to support the fishing industry. <ref> (accessed 3rd July 2014)</ref> In the mid 19th century the Highland Potato Famine and the Highland Clearances reduced the population by two thirds causing the island economy to collapse. Today tourism is central to Mull's economy.


There is one secondary school on the island, Tobermory High School, which includes a Gaelic Medium Education unit, and several primary schools - Salen Primary School has a Gaelic Medium Education unit. Secondary pupils (age 11 - 18) from Iona, Bunessan and Fionnphort in the south west attend Oban High School, staying in an Oban hostel from Monday to Thursday.