The wild and beautiful Scottish island of Mull has inspired generations of writers. One of the most famous, perhaps, is the author Robert Louis Stevenson. Erraid, a small, rugged tidal island at the tip of the Ross of Mull, features in his novel Kidnapped. Davie Balfour, the hero of this tale, was marooned here after having been shipwrecked on the Torran Rocks.
Stevenson had spent some time on Erraid in his youth. Together with his uncle, David, his father, the pioneering lighthouse designer Thomas Stevenson, was involved in the construction of many of the lighthouses around the Inner Hebrides. For a time, the brothers based themselves on the Island of Erraid. The stones for ‘Dhu Heartach’ (the Black Rock) were quarried on Erraid, and the young Robert visited the island on several occasions.
Kidnapped is a rip roaring tale, describing how the young lad Davie is kidnapped by his uncle and put on a boat bound for the Carolinas to be sold into slavery. On the way there he is shipwrecked on the island of Mull and is involved in many adventures as he travels back to Edinburgh. The plot is centred round real 18th- century Scottish events, particularly the Appin Murder of Colin Campbell, the Red Fox, near Ballachullish, in 1752.
In 1971 Kidnapped was adapted for film. Starring Michael Caine and Trevor Howard, many of the scenes were shot on Mull. It’s a real treat seeing the stunning scenery of Erraid and Calgary Bay on the north-west coast.
Kidnapped also inspired the creation of a long-distance walk, the Stevenson Way, which follows the route Davie took from Mull to Edinburgh. Called ‘Scotland’s Wilderness Walk’, this 230-mile way offers adventure and scenery every bit as dramatic as described in Kidnapped. The way takes in some of Scotland’s most wildly beautiful scenery as it goes. It is a non-way marked walk, so not for the fainthearted or the under-equipped! Experienced walkers will be able to tackle the route on their own, and there are a number of guided walks offered along the Mull section. On Mull the Stevenson Way starts at Erraid and skirts in and around the Ross of Mull coastline before cutting north at Lochbuie and across the island’s interior to the Sound of Mull at Fishnish. It’s here that Davie caught a ferry to Morvern.
If you’re not up for the long-distance walk, but still want to experience the place that inspired Stevenson, then why not visit Erraid? The island’s only inhabitants are a group from Findhorn Foundation and you can join them for retreats. Traigh Gheal, known as David Balfour’s Bay, sits to the island’s south side. Mull has many fabulous beaches but this beach is truly fabulous and a wonderful anchorage. The water is clear and the sand sparkling. It’s known as David Balfour's bay because it is where Robert Louis Stevenson imagined Davie being thrown ashore clutching a spar from the Covenant, his sinking ship wrecked on the Torran rocks. Plunge in to the pristine water for your very own Kidnapped adventure!