The most dominant feature of the lower end of the Ross of Mull is its Red/Pink, rounded Granite landscape. The area starts just to the west of Bunessan and finishes out at sea as the Torran rocks.
The attractive colouring of the rock and its tough qualities have been recognised by man since early times and its exploitation as a decorative, durable building material, was inevitable.
On the Ross of Mull several economic factors came together to make commercial quarrying a reality. Firstly, the rock is extensive and of a particularly high, attractive quality. Secondly, it was in close proximity to several large civil engineering projects like the lighthouses, and in earlier times Iona Abbey and its monastery. Finally, the most important economic factor of all was its close proximity to the sea and transport. Tormore Quarry fulfils all the factors required for economic extraction and was used for many years to decorate and construct many famous buildings. The description and basic qualities of the finished stone is as follows: (taken from the publicity material produced by "Scottish Natural Stones".)
Type: Biotite Microcline Granite,
Colour and texture: Warm Pink/Red with pale Grey/Brown felspars - medium texture.
Crushing Strength: 200 MN/m.sq (29,000lbf/in.sq)
Weight: 2,819Kg/cubic meter(179lbs/cubic foot)
To go into the full history of Tormore Quarry would be be too extensive to reproduce on an introductory webpage, and, so I would strongly recommend that if you wish to read more about this subject that you buy the definitive book by Joan Faithfull entitled "The Ross of Mull Granite Quarries" published by The New Iona Press ISBN 0 9516283 6 4 This book can be obtained at the local shop in Fionnphort. The author has a cottage in the Tormore quarry and resides there for part of the Summer. Anyway, a quick history in brief. Opened in 1831 for commercial extraction and quarrying ceased in 1910. Reopened by "Scottish Natural Stones" in 1985. Stone is only rarely extracted now. 1990 was the last really busy period when I used to see lorry load after lorry load of large unshaped Granite blocks leaving the island on the back of Articulated wagons. Cranes and quarry equipment lies derelict in the working area today (2001).
The stone that was produced was shipped to many places in the world, particularly America. Its use for monumental construction has meant that pieces of Ross of Mull Granite have turned up as far away as China, and in graveyards throughout the world. The list of some of the more well known structures is shown below. It has been compiled from Joan Faithfull's book and "Scottish monumental stone's" catalogue. Some of the structures were a made from Granite from other local quarries in combination.
Iona Abbey, Columns for the Glasgow General post office in and University, Dunrobin Castle Golspie, Manchester Town Hall, St.Georges Hall Liverpool, Argyll car factory in Alexandria and more recently Halifax Building Society Kilmarnock, Compaq Computer Facility in Erskine, Sun Allience Offices in Edinburgh and the High Commissioner's House in Wellington, New Zealand (foyer and lift area).
Albert Memorial in Kensington gardens, Royal Mausoleum Frogmore London, Erric Liddell Memorial in China
Skerryvore, Ardnamurchan, Dhu Hartach and Hyskeir Lighthouse
Blackfriars, Westminster, and Holburn Viaduct bridges in London
Jamiaka and Kirklee bridges in Glasgow
New York, Liverpool, Birkenhead, Barrow, docks and numerous piers. For the complete list then have a look at Joan Faithfull's book.
To get to Tormore pier you need really to walk from Fionnphort. There are two main routes. Firstly, along the shore line (at low water) North from the village, or over the hill if the tide is in or via Bruach Mhor, which is the route the wagons take when the quarry is working. Bruach Mhor is signed at the end of the road and passes by Bruach Mhor bed and breakfast. The track goes straight past their front door and up into the quarry via the top of the hill. The track is privately owned and so cars are not encouraged, because of the maintenance costs of re-metaling. However, the owners really don't mind walkers
I personally prefer the shore/overland route from Fionnphort as the views to Iona are better and the walk is shorter and more interesting.
A word of caution!! The quarry still has derelict pieces of mining equipment in it and also some of the edges to the workings are sheer, so children should be closely supervised and care should be exercised!