One of bonnie Scotland's most enthralling destinations is the Inner Hebrides and the Isle of Mull. From the rugged ridges of Ben More and wild moorland to piercingly white sand beaches and wave-lashed cliffs of the coast, Mull is a nature-lover's haven.
Wildlife-watching expeditions are immensely popular, and my half-day excursion served up close encounters with eagles, otters, dolphins and migrating whales. Tobermory, the island's main town, is a postcard-perfect fishing port and yachting hub, radiant with merrily coloured waterfront homes and shops. The houses originally were fishermen's cottages, and many are now B&Bs;, pubs, restaurants and artist studios.
The port is often lashed by frigid winds, so for a warm-up totter into the boutique Tobermory distillery, which has produced single malt whisky since 1798.
The main ferry terminal is based in Craignure, where you'll arrive from the mainland port of Oban. A short drive brings you to Torosay Castle. Recently sold to a mystery Swiss buyer, this rambling Scottish baronial mansion is closed to the public. However, there is a beautiful woodland walk through the grounds, brimming with classic statuary, sculpted fountains, a Japanese garden, domed folly and rockery.
In 2008, the then-oldest bottle of Veuve Clicquot was discovered in a sideboard at the castle. The 1893 bottle was in mint condition; it is now displayed at the Veuve Clicquot visitor centre in France.
Just a few minutes south of Torosay is one of Scotland's oldest inhabited castles, Duart. Built in 1360, it is the home of the 28th Chief of the Clan McLean and his family. Open to the public, the castle features majestic halls, medieval furnishings, dungeons and cannons; it's an essential sight. The place to stay is Tobermory Hotel, a series of multistoreyed, 300-year-old cottages that line the waterfront. It really is like staying in a doll's house. The great-value, family-run, B&B; hotel serves a hearty Scottish breakfast, and evening meals are a showcase of local produce.
A short hop from Mull is the satellite Isle of Iona. This historic outpost was the staging ground for Saint Columba's great conversion of the Scots to Christianity. Arriving in 563AD from Ireland, he established a monastery, which is also where the Book of Kells, said to be the world's most beautiful manuscript, was transcribed. The Caledonian MacBrayne car ferry service runs every two hours between Oban and the Isle of Mull. For details on sailings, see www.calmac.co.uk.