Mull was the first Scottish island that we visited and it was initially part of our itinerary for nostalgic reasons as I wanted to visit Tobermory: the location for the BBC children’s TV show Balamory. The colourful shops and restaurants of the harbour inspired producers in the early 2000s to create a live-action programme about some charismatic characters living in the fictional town of Balamory. We took the ferry across to Mull from Oban and after a short drive around the island, we reached the vibrant architecture of Tobermory harbour and its vicinity. The colours were even more breathtaking in real-life and I instantly knew how much I was going to like staying in this place.
After spending 48 hours on Mull and doing lots of sightseeing in and around the island’s main town, I thought I’d share my own shortlist of things to do in Tobermory. If you book accommodation a short distance from the harbour, you are well-placed for most of the items on the list and may even be able to stroll down into the harbour for some of the attractions.
Explore the harbour
Every trip to Tobermory should start in the harbour, with the rainbow-coloured Main Street and its many different stores and eateries. You can park for free at the entrance to the harbour and easily spend a couple of hours wandering in and out of the different shops.
Most of the shops stock local handcrafted products, which make lovely souvenirs. There is a store that’s specifically targeted at Balamory fans, stocking gifts that showcase the different character’s houses or workplaces.
Looking at food and drink on the island, at dinnertime fish and chips are easily available and with the town’s island location, you can guarantee that the fish will be fresh. Also if you are interested in whisky or gin production ‘The Tobermory Distillery’ is located in the harbour. Visitors can experience in-person or virtual tours, which I imagine are quite popular.
Visit the Balamory sights
It’s important to note that not all of the locations for Balamory are in Tobermory, but you can find most of the houses shown in the programme when exploring the town on foot. Archie the Inventor’s pink tower is the only house that you won’t find, as it’s actually located in North Berwick on the mainland. The local tourist board has written a fantastic guide to the houses of Balamory, which are mostly private residences now. I’d definitely recommend following it if you fancy a trip down memory lane!
Go puffin watching
Staffa Tours operate seasonal boat trips from Tobermory Harbour out to the Isle of Staffa and Treshnish Isles. From mid-April to early August you can take a 6-hour tour to see puffins. The first stop on the tour is the Isle of Staffa which hosts natural wonder ‘Fingal’s Cave’. You have approximately one hour to walk up to the cave and explore the uninhabited island with its incredible views. When we visited there were no puffins out, but we were told that there was a much higher chance of seeing them on the Isle of Lunga.
We were fortunate enough to see lots of puffins during our two hours on Lunga, with some of the little ones hovering near us for as long as half an hour at a time. They are such sweet birds and I could’ve watched them for hours! A knowledgeable guide accompanied the boat out to the islands and we were very grateful for him as we could ask questions about the puffins’ behaviour as we watched. I’d definitely recommend the wildlife tour; with how remote the islands are, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Have lunch at The Glass Barn Cafe
Five minutes drive from Tobermory harbour is The Glass Barn Cafe: a greenhouse-style eatery situated on a working farm. Filled to the brim with plants, it is a haven for fans of nature. Isle of Mull cheese is produced on the farm and you can order freshly produced cheese boards or toasties made with crusty bread in this onsite lunch spot. We visited the cafe during the afternoon for tea and everything was such high quality. From the upmarket tea bags to the fresh lemon drizzle cake, we were thoroughly impressed. It’s one of very few places in Tobermory where you can enjoy a pot of tea and cake, but the cafe’s innovative design makes you forget this and think you travelled far and wide to have a drink here.
There are lots of things to do in Tobermory and this shortlist just scratches the surface of things to do in the town. It’s the largest community on Mull and totally geared up to tourists with its independent businesses, wildlife tours and multicoloured architecture. If you’re planning a Scottish Highlands and Islands trip soon, definitely consider adding Tobermory and the Isle of Mull to your itinerary. The remote island is unlike anywhere else that I have visited and definitely worth a visit.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx