Tobermory tells a colourful story; of a lost Spanish galleon full of gold and the ambition to create a bustling fishing port. Of vision to craft a 200-year-old Scotch whisky and of a legendary Queen’s approval.
Today the island of Mull’s main town is a busy fishing harbour and arts centre. The wildlife is certainly also a draw for thousands of tourists who visit the island.
Tobermory is recognisable thanks to the brightly coloured buildings curving round its pretty harbour front. Consequently these have inspired many a painting and photograph over the decades. But it gained new renown in 2002 as the setting for BBC children’s programme Balamory. Opening with its catchy tune ‘What’s the Story in Balamory’; the characters and their houses sparked a tourism boom among pre-schoolers.
The town derives its name from the Gaelic ‘Tobar Mhoire’ meaning the well of Mary. An intimidating cliff face had to be carved out to create the 18th century fishing port. This was based on a design by bridge engineer Thomas Telford. The kelp trade brought alive the vision of a thriving harbour in Tobermory. It was harvested for soap and glass making. With this industry’s demise, tourism became important thanks in part to visits by the composer Mendelssohn. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert also visited aboard the Royal yacht. In time Tobermory thrived as a safe harbour and it was an important naval dock during the second world war.
Today visitors on our small group tours can enjoy shops and restaurants serving local produce including seafood. As well as, traditional Scottish pubs with live music and artisans producing Isle of Mull Cheese and Mull Pottery.
Tobermory is home to the island’s only whisky distillery; established in 1798 and one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland. Before enjoying a resurgence in the 1990s; it weathered an 18th century distilling ban, the Great Depression, American prohibition and economic ills.
To absorb more about the island’s colourful history and its people, visit the Mull Museum. Moreover, if the arts appeal, drop into live music venue An Tobar and the Mull Theatre.
Mull has earned a reputation as the UK’s premier wildlife tourism destination. As a result locals offer many land and sea-based tours from Tobermory. Look skyward for a glimpse of the rare and unusual golden and white-tailed eagles. While seaward there may be whales, dolphins and sharks.
And while you’re gazing out over the Sound of Mull cast your mind to the wreck of a Spanish galleon. Reputed to lie in the mud at the bottom of the bay; full with gold bullion for the Spanish army’s pay day.
Our four day small group tours from Glasgow and Edinburgh to the Isles of Mull, Iona and the Highlands include three nights spent in Tobermory.