Dervaig lies at the head of Loch a'Chumhainn, at the north end of Mull. Its location is 6 miles west of Tobermory on the narrow and exceptionally twisty B8073 which makes its way across the north of the island: but if you're on Mull, you are probably used to driving single track roads. If not, you can visit our feature page on the subject.
Settlement in the area dates back at least as far as the 1200s when a church was established on the rising ground to the east of today's village. And the name itself, coming from the Old Norse for "good inlet" strongly suggests that the Vikings had a foothold here, centuries earlier.
Even earlier signs of settlement come from a number of standing stones on high ground above Dervaig, and in the traces of an ancient fort on top of a rocky knoll just over a mile south-east of the village close to the minor road to Salen. More obvious and more recent are the remains of an old clearance village, standing in the shelter of this rocky knoll: another indication of a very different pattern of settlement in the past.
The village of Dervaig as you see it today dates back to 1799, when Alexander MacLean, the Laird of Coll, established a planned village here. This comprised 26 houses and cottages lining both sides of a single street, each with its own garden and with common grazing provided for residents' livestock. By the late 1800s the village could boast two inns, along with a bakery, a shop, a post office and a smithy.
A stone plaque over the door of what is now the post office in the main street reveals this to have been built as Dervaig's Reading Room in 1898. It went on to serve as the village hall for over a century until the recent arrival of a much larger village hall standing above the village alongside the road to Tobermory. Today the village boasts two shops, but only one inn, the Bellachroy, which opened alongside the main road here in 1608, thus predating the village it now serves by almost two centuries.
The original church serving the area was replaced with another on a location close to the bridge crossing the river at the head of Loch a'Chumhainn. This in turn was replaced by Kilmore Church, Dervaig, which was built in 1904/5 on the same site as its predecessor. With its white pencil-shaped tower, Kilmore Church must be one of the most easily identifiable and most attractive churches in Scotland.
At first glance, Dervaig has changed surprisingly little since being laid out in 1799: if you mentally set aside the parked cars which of necessity line the main street. One recent change has however caused some controversy. Views north-west along the main street have always been closed off by a two storey pink house appearing to block the end of the street (it doesn't: the street turns just in front of the house). The more recent arrival of a modern house on the skyline just off-centre and above the pink house has to be the result of one of Scotland's less well thought-through planning decisions.
From 1966 to 2008, Dervaig was home to the Mull Theatre, which spent several decades operating out of a converted coach house in the estate of Druimard Country House. It has since performed in a new theatre built outside Tobermory.
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