Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on our shores and waterways; celebrating all they have to offer and encouraging people to explore Scotland’s natural beauty.
Each month we’re showcasing the people who live, work and have a passion for our waters and in celebration of International Lighthouse Heritage Weekend, we’ve spoken to a few people with a special connection to Scotland’s lighthouses. The Mull of Galloway Lighthouse is situated at Scotland’s most southerly point, and visitors to the area can enjoy a stay in a real former lighthouse keeper cottage at the Mull of Galloway lighthouse cottages.
We caught up with Maureen Chand, Chair of the Mull of Galloway Trust, who run the cottages, to find out more about the Lighthouse and her affection for Scotland’s coasts and waters…
Which place associated with Scotland’s coasts and waters holds a special memory or affiliation for you?
It definitely has to be Drummore on the shores of Luce Bay and the Mull of Galloway. My family has been in Drummore for generations, I was born in Drummore, grew up here, left for many years but came back. There’s no place like home!
What do you think draws visitors to Mull of Galloway and this spectacular corner of Scotland?
The Mull of Galloway Lighthouse is the most southerly in Scotland and has been in operation since 26 March 1830. There are not many lighthouses open to the public but visitors can climb the 115 steps to the top of the Mull and enjoy fantastic views. Visitors can take a rare opportunity to switch off and listen to the sounds and sights of nature - watch gannets diving into the sea, peregrines flying around, seals diving for fish and if you are lucky, watch porpoises and dolphins having fun.
International Lighthouse Heritage Day is celebrated each August; is there an interesting story about Mull of Galloway lighthouse you’d like to share?
In 2017, following a few months’ negotiations, the Trust managed to confirm that Gerard Butler and Peter Mullen would be coming to the Mull to film The Vanishing (or its working title Keepers). The storyline was very loosely based on the mystery of the disappearing Keepers on Flannan Isle. This was quite a good coup for the Trust and brought a lot of publicity to the area. However, what was even more exciting than meeting Gerry and Peter was the fact that a few members of the Trust actually had roles as supporting artistes! It was quite an experience.
We’ve had a few other celebrities filming at the Mull – Elaine C Smith and Michael Portillo to name a couple. There is another one in the wind, but I can’t say anything about that at the moment.
What’s your favourite aspect of your role?
I am Chairperson of the Mull of Galloway Trust so it is voluntary and I do not get paid for doing this although sometimes the hours are longer than a full time job! We successfully did a community buyout in 2013 and I think my favourite aspect is when I am speaking with local folk and they tell me that the Trust is doing a great job and they are proud of what is going on.
It is good too when I chat with visitors to the Mull and they tell me how fantastic it is to be able to climb to the top of the Lighthouse and to hear the newly restored Foghorn – the only working one on mainland Scotland.
How has COVID-19 affected your work and have there been any particular challenges?
Our cottages closed in March and only re-opened on 1 August. Many of our guests thankfully either rebooked for later this year or for 2021. We have three cleaning staff who were furloughed up until the end of July but they are now back at work. We took the opportunity to completely repaint all our cottages in readiness for reopening. It has been challenging making sure that all our cleaning protocols are in place and ensuring that Scottish Government guidance was made available to guests. We took out all non-essential items like toys, books etc and this has made the cottages look more minimal but ensures the safety of guests and staff plus the local community.
Aside from Mull of Galloway, are there any other local water-associated places or attractions you’d recommend for visitors to the area?
Port Logan is a quaint little village about 10 miles from the Mull with a lovely beach. The fishpond is nestled among the rocks and for a small fee you can go there and feed fish by hand. Definitely something different!
What can people expect if they come for a stay in one of the Mull of Galloway lighthouse cottages?
Something very unique! Comfortable cosy cottages, all centrally heated and two of which have log burners, with spectacular views to the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland, the Isle of Man, Lake District and the Machaars area of Wigtownshire. If it is a wild stormy day, the seas are tremendous to watch.
The Trust leases out a Reserve to RSPB who have a presence on the Mull so there is a myriad of wildlife to watch both on land and in the sea. There’s a coffee shop within a few minutes’ walk as well.
If you’re in the area, take the time to find out more about local birds and wildlife at the RSBP Mull of Galloway nature reserve which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. There are stunning views at every turn - the Solway Firth and Irish Sea, the Isle of Man in the distance and ample opportunities for spotting seabirds. Closer to the water, harbour porpoises, dolphins and Atlantic grey seals are a common sight. Please note at the time of writing the RSBP Mull of Galloway Reserve is open and accessible however the visitor centre is closed, please visit the RSBP website for updates.