I was on “home leave” from Hong Kong and holidaying on the Ross of Mull in July of ’85 with my parents and brothers. The Ross and the tidal island Earraid to the west feature prominently in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped though the description is not especially inviting:
It was still the roughest kind of walking; indeed the whole, not only of Earraid, but of the neighbouring part of Mull (which they call the Ross) is nothing but a jumble of granite rocks with heather in among.
Of course must view this from the perspective of the book’s hero, David Balfour who, having just been shipwrecked, was living rough and surviving on limpets.
The beaches that align the southern shore of the Ross of Mull are staggeringly beautiful and stand up to any beach in the world in my view. The wonder being that there is hardly a soul upon them. Just as well really as my father is inclined to look elsewhere if he sees that we won’t have the beach to ourselves. After many years experiencing the delights of crowded Repulse Bay on Hong Kong island most other beaches seem deserted to me by comparison. Anyway that fine summer we were enjoying a rudimentary barbecue (no limpets) on Killvickeon Beach under a blue sky and brilliant sunshine. Duly primed with McEwans Export “The Best Buy in Beer” my brother, William, and I thought it would be a jolly good idea to run up Ben More. I suppose one can get restless on the best of beaches.
The next day we approached the mountain from the south. I would mention that Ben More is actually to the north west of the Ross and Loch Scridain. I now note that the most recommended route starts from the road running along Loch na Keal even further to the north. That may be due to the fact that most climbers will probably come down from Tobermory and other parts of the north of Mull where the majority of visitors stay. Climbing from the south poses no undue hardships and in fact is far shorter.
Recalling our best of intentions and being young, fit and foolish, we did begin at the trot and managed this pace to the scree slopes two-thirds the way up (the runners in the annual Scottish Islands Peak Race run all the way up). Actually in benign weather a very straightforward climb really with few difficulties. One oddity is that Ben More is magnetic and compass readings can be misleading – I didn’t bring my compass that day so that was OK! At 3,169 ft Ben More is the highest peak in the Inner Hebrides outwith the Isle of Skye. Naturally it was cloudy at the summit so we couldn’t see a thing. I would have liked to have looked over Mull and across to the adjacent Western Isles. Still it was warm and dry and we must count our blessings.
Little did I know it at the time but I wasn’t to climb another Munro until some 12 years later.