Many people holiday in Moidart and Ardnamurchan hoping to spot golden and white-tailed eagles. Whilst eagle sightings are becomming increasing common on the mainland, the Isle of Mull probably still remains one of the best places to see these magnificant birds. The Isle of Mull is easy to reach from the mainland and the trip descibed below makes for an excellent day out. We caught the 07:45 ferry from Lochaline to Fishnish which allowed plenty of time to get to the start point of the cruise.
White-tailed eagles are the fourth largest eagle in the world and the largest raptor in Scotland, with a wingspan of two and a half metres. This three hour wildlife cruise offers good chances of seeing these eagles throughout the Spring and Summer in a wild and natural environent, and as such, is a great experience. The boat trip offers the possibility of good views and excellent photographic opportunities.
The trips are taken aboard the Lady Jayne, a Lochin 33 cruiser, with numbers restricted to 12 passengers. The trip starts with a safety talk and an brief introduction to the tour noting that the the white tailed eagles are truely wild and, as such, sightings are not guaranteed.
The boat departs from the jetty at Ulva and skirts around the eastern (inner) section of Loch Na Keal. The narrow section of the sea loch is bounded by the islands of Ulva and Gometra to the west, the Ardmeanach peninsula to the south, and north Mull to the north. Loch na Keal has been designated as a National Scenic Area. As the boat near the eastern end of the loch, it starts to mimic the behaviour of a small fishing boat and soon attracts an eager following of gulls. The boat stops near the bay head to await the arrival of white-tailed eagle, alerted by the presence of the gulls.
On our trip, a female eagle, with yellow and black spotted wing tags, known as YBS, soon made an appearance. Its broad flat wings, white fan-shaped tail, pale yellow vulture-like beak and bare yellow legs with large black talons are unmistakable. Good views were afforded of the bird making several high circles above the boat, before dramatically swopping down to snatch a fish from the surface of the water. The bird then flew to the shore with its catch. This was repeated on two occasions. Following the sea eagle sightings the wildlife cruise continued around the bay in search of seals, dolphins and whales. Good views were afforded of Staffa and the Treshnish Isles in the distance.
There are lovely views on route of coastal cliffs, rounded peaks, flat-topped lava hills and the dominating scree peak of Ben More, as well as the rounded and cliffed slopes of the small island of Eorsa. There are also some interesting pillar lava cliffs as the boat skirts around the eastern edge of Ulva. The vegetation on the mainland is a combination of rough pasture, forestry plantations and heath. Look out for grey seals, otters and a range of coastal birds, including shags, guillemots, greylay geese, black-backed gulls, herring gulls and common gulls.
Throughout the cruise, the skipper and first mate provided interesting commentary on some of the geological formations, wildlife and local history of the area.
The trip lasts 3 hour, with tea and biscuits served on route. Two trips are offered according to demand on most week days. Booking is essential and should be done early to avoid disappointment. You should also allow plenty of time to get to the Ulva ferry jetty and arrive early as parking space can be limited, particularly for the afternoon session. There is a small modern toilet block at the Ulva ferry jetty.
The day trip can be combined with a trip to the small island of Ulva, using the ferry service, available on request using the signalling box. There are some way-marked walks on the island, a reconstructed traditional croft house, with a display depicting the history of the island as well as a small restaurant.
A great day out from Moidart, Morvern and the Ardnamurchan peninsula.