Being an island the British people and its history have a strong connection to the sea and on my trips around the country, I often come across some wonderful opportunities to capture images of the many small harbours dotted around the coast. I am going to take you to four such harbours none of which are located in the most highly inhabited areas and two are only accessible on foot. We going to start on the Isle of Mull with two harbours which in the past were part of the old drover’s route used in the transporting of livestock from the various islands and less accessible areas of the Highlands. In the north-west of the island is Croig, a natural harbour which was the first stop after crossing from the Isles of Rum and Eigg and today is used as a base for whale-watching trips with fishing boats also operating from its small jetty.
Having guided the livestock across Mull right down to the south-west corner the drovers would have arrived at the Old Ferry House. An atmospheric building with a colourful history, having played a prominent role on Mull over the years. Beautifully situated overlooking the Firth of Lorne at Grass Point, meaning ‘the field of the rock’ in Gaelic, it began life as the Ferry Inn and was an important stop-off point for drovers travelling to market in Oban from Croig, Coll, Tiree and #Ardnamurchan. Later, the building fell into a state of disrepair before being renovated by an army captain and his wife after the Second World War. It even featured in the 1971 film “When Eight Bells Toll” whose star, Anthony Hopkins, stayed in the house during filming. Until 1881 a regular packet boat operated between Oban and Grass Point. This was replaced that year by a daily steamer service from Oban to Tobermory.
Still, in Scotland, we visit the first of the two harbours which are now only accessible on foot. In fact, Laggan Harbour on the northeast coast as always only been accessible by foot or of course by boat. Here the ruins of a village whose inhabitants were transported to Canada during the land clearing still stand to an extent. It is difficult to believe that from this remote and tranquil spot coal used to be shipped which had been obtained from a thin local seam.
Our final harbour is on the east coast of England at the village of Port Mulgrave, which lies 9 miles north west of Whitby and which is now only accessible by a fairly tortuous path down from the cliff tops. The settlement here owes its existence to the ironstone mining industry of the mid 19th century. Little remains of the harbour these days. It was destroyed by the Royal Engineers during the Second World War to prevent it being used as a landing area by invading forces. The little that remains is a popular spot for local sea fishermen.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this visit to some of Britain’s less well known but yet historic harbours. I am sure there are others I can share in the future.