The Corbett family are among the 2800 inhabitants on the Isle of Mull. Jim and Patience own large swathes of land on which sheep and cows have grazed for nearly a century. We spent a few days with their son Tom and his wife, Flora, who gave us a taste of their day-to-day life.
The roads on Mull can be driven along in either direction, but most are only wide enough for one car. There is a recess every 300 metres to allow vehicles to pass one another. Like choreographed dancers, vehicles move to one side or the other of the road, the drivers greeting each other politely. The road grew even steeper as we neared Lochbuie. At the tip of the loch, we discovered a stunning bay surrounded by grass-covered mountains.
Highland cows lapped up the sunshine along the shore. Pointed horns turned to face us as we passed, the cows’ eyes barely visible under the long red locks of hair that tickled their noses. We zigzagged between sheep, eventually arriving at Laggan, the home of Tom, Flora and their children, Grace and Harry.
With the sun beaming down from above, it was a picture-perfect Scottish scene. To the west of the bay sat a 16th-century mausoleum, a relic left by the MacLaine family who had owned the surrounding land for more than 300 years before Jim’s family took it over. To the east, beyond the blocks of black basalt, stood Moy Castle, where it had guarded the land since the 15th century. It is said that, on nights when the full moon is out, a headless horseman can be seen galloping between the mausoleum and the keep…
We followed Tom around his farm for two days, where we met Jim, his father, and Tom, who works on the farm. We stopped off first at the sheep nursery. As some sheep had lost their lambs, or vice versa, the farmers were trying to create new sheep–lamb pairs.
We then headed towards the mountains to find the cows, which were roaming freely, and bring them back to the cowshed. Through rain and mud, lowing and sticks, the cows once again returned to the farm.
Helen, the island vet, arrived for her appointment. She needed to carry out tests for tuberculosis, inspect the cows that were about to give birth and dehorn the young calves.
It was intense work, and by the time the evening had arrived we had all thoroughly earned a feast of Mull langoustines to rejuvenate our spirits!
Practical information about Lochbuie: www.lochbuie.com
[On the road, at the 56°21’19.0″N and 5°51’32.2″W]