Mull, Isle


Mull, Isle
   MULL, ISLE of, in the district of Mull, county of Argyll; containing 10,064 inhabitants. This forms one of the Hebrides, or Western Islands, of which it ranks as the third in extent. It originally constituted part of the dominions of the ancient lords of the Isles, who, holding their territories under the kings of Norway, exercised a kind of sovereignty independent of the Scottish monarchs, with whom they were frequently at war. In 1480, a sanguinary battle took place in a bay situated at the northern extremity of the island, since then called Bloody Bay, between Angus, Lord of the Isles, and the Earls of Crawford, Huntly, and others, in which the latter were defeated with great slaughter. In 1588, the Florida, a vessel belonging to the Spanish Armada, was blown up in the harbour of Tobermory, on the northern coast, by Maclean, of Dowart, who was then proprietor of that portion of the island; and parts of the wreck have at various times been met with. An attempt to raise this vessel was made in 1740, by Sir Archibald Grant and Captain Roe, but without success, though they obtained several of her guns; timbers have been since discovered, and some of the wood thus found was presented by Sir Walter Scott to George IV., on that monarch's visiting Edinburgh in 1822. Archibald, the ninth earl of Argyll, having joined in the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth, in the early part of the reign of James II. of England, landed with his followers at the bay of Tobermory, in an unsuccessful attempt to invade Scotland, and, being afterwards made prisoner, was sent to Edinburgh, where he was publicly executed.
   The island is bounded on the north and east by the sound of Mull, which separates it from the main land, and on the south and west by the Atlantic Ocean; it is about thirty-five miles in extreme length and twenty miles in breadth, comprising an area of nearly 480 square miles. The form of the island is extremely irregular, it being deeply indented, especially on the western coast, with arms of the sea, of which Loch-na-Keal divides it into two irregular peninsulas, connected by an isthmus not more than four miles in breadth, between Loch-na-Keal and the sound of Mull on the east. The surface in some parts towards the coast is tolerably level, containing small tracts of arable land; but in the interior, mountainous and diversified, with lofty hills of rugged aspect. Many of the mountains rise to a height of more than 2000 feet; and the highest, Benmore, which is of easy ascent and sometimes visited by tourists, has an elevation of 3068 feet above the level of the sea, commanding from its summit an unbounded and interesting view of the Atlantic, and of the numerous islands off the coast. There are several inland lakes, but none of any considerable extent; the largest is Loch Frisa, in the northern part of the island, from which issues the rivulet of Aros Water, flowing eastward into the sound of Mull. From the smaller lochs of Ba and Uisk, also, flow several streamlets; but there are no rivers.
   The coast, from its numerous indentations, is nearly 300 miles in extent. At its northern extremity is Bloody Bay, already noticed, to the south-east of which is the harbour of Tobermory, sheltered from the sound by Calve island, at its entrance; and still further south-east is Aros Castle, an ancient quadrangular structure situated on the summit of a boldly-projecting headland, and in the vicinity of which was once an inn for the accommodation of travellers visiting the isle of Staffa. Near the south-eastern extremity of the coast, between the bay of Mc Alister and Loch Don, on a boldly-projecting promontory, are the remains of the castle of Dowart, the old baronial residence of the Macleans, and till within the last few years garrisoned by a detachment from Fort-William. On the south side of Mull is Loch Spelve, which from a small inlet at its entrance, divides into two spacious branches, in the eastern of which is an island. Along the whole southern coast, forming part of the Ross of Mull, the only bay of any extent is Loch Buy, in which are two small islands, and from the mouth of which, westward to the sound of Icolmkill, the indentations are formed by projecting headlands, whereof Eglish-naBraren and Ardalanish point are the most prominent. South-west of the Ross of Mull are the islands of Erraid and Icolmkill or Iona, of which the latter, of much larger extent than the former, is separated by the sound of Icolmkill, and is about three miles in length and one mile in breadth, and celebrated for its early monastic importance, the details of which are separately noticed. The Ross is bounded on the north by Loch Scriden, which deeply indents the island, separating the Ross from the district of Gribun, where is situated the mountain of Benmore; and still more to the northward is Loch-na-Keal, the arm of the Atlantic before named, extending eastward towards the sound of Mull, from which it is divided by the isthmus connecting the two peninsulas of Mull. Near Loch-na-Keal is the island of Staffa, about one mile in length and half a mile in breadth, remarkable for its basaltic columns and its romantic caverns; and at the entrance of the loch are, the island of Little Colonsay, having pasturage for sheep, and, to the east, the fertile island of Inniskenneth, and Eorsa. Between Loch-na-Keal and Loch Tua, to the north, are the islands of Gometra and Ulva, separated by a narrow sound, and affording good pasture for cattle; and near the mouth of Loch Tua are the Treshinish isles, of which the principal are Lunga and Fladda, with several small islets, beyond which, to the north-west, are the large islands of Coll and Tiree.
   The soil of the arable lands is generally rich and deep, producing favourable crops; but the island is principally adapted for the pasturage of sheep and cattle, of which great numbers are reared, and sent to the various southern markets. The sheep are chiefly of the Tweeddale breed, which has been substituted for the Old Highland, formerly reared; but on the Lowland pastures are many of the Cheviot breed, which has been introduced within the last few years. The cattle are generally of the Highland black breed; and the horses, though small in stature, are much prized for hardiness, strength, and agility. The woods for which the island was formerly celebrated have dwindled into a few coppices of oak, birch, and hazel, to which little attention is paid; some recent plantations, however, of larch, fir, and other trees, are in a thriving state; and in sheltered situations are numerous ash-trees of luxuriant growth. The rocks are chiefly composed of trap, sandstone, and limestone, and those on the shores are of basaltic formation; granite is also found in various parts of the island, and coal has been discovered in several places, especially in the bed of a rivulet near the base of the mountain of Bein-aninich, on the coast of the Ross of Mull, and at Brolas and Gribun. Frequent attempts to work the coal have been made at different times, but from want of capital or adequate skill, the works were soon discontinued; the coal is thought to be good. The island comprises the parish of Kilfinichen and Kilviceuen, that of Kilninian and Kilmore, and the parish of Torosay, with their several quoad sacra districts, and the sea-port town of Tobermory, in the presbytery of Mull and synod of Argyll.
   See the articles on the several parishes, villages, and subordinate islands.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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