Tomsleibhe, Isle of Mull

Inspired by Robert MacFarlane’s book Wild Places, I’ve spent the last few days tramping about the Inner Hebrides, specifically the isles of Mull and Iona.

First, for any doubters out there: the weather has been glorious – which for this country means only a couple of rainstorms. Other than that, only drizzle and sunshine.

Secondly, for any more doubters: yes, the 16 hour Megabus trip is worth it. Three nights in the wild comes cheap at such a price. I felt restored the moment I stepped off the bus and took a breath of Oban harbour air. (Chips and a night walk up to the colosseum folly helped too.)

A rainbow plunged into the waves as we crossed to Mull: a happy portent, surely. As the shadows peeled across the moor, I stomped up Glen Forsa, along the chuckling river, driving deer, sheep and Highland cattle before me.

After a brief exchange with the laird – “The neighbours won’t bother you tonight!” – I sloshed across a ford to the foot of Beinn Talaidh and what soon became my bothy: Tomsleibhe.

If you’ve never slept in a bothy before (I hadn’t), then what you’re getting is an old crofter’s cottage. Three sparse rooms with wooden benches to sleep on and, crucially, a hearth. 

I dropped my bag and set off for the Beinn. I needed perspective and, at 500m, I found it. Looking down through the Glen and up at the basalt mountains around me, it was impossible to hold too tightly to whatever worries made me human.

That night, I coaxed a fire from damp wood and spent a happy evening chopping and drying enough to see me through the cold frost. 

After boiling up tea, I gazed up at a million stars usually hidden in London’s amber glow. Had I known, I wouldn’t have laid down my head so early: as I slept, the Northern Lights danced in the clear skies over my bothy. Still, it’s good to have a reason to return.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at

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