- 10 Night Cruise
- Argyll & Hebrides
- Edge of The World - St Kilda
- Outer Hebrides
- Scheduled Cruises 2017
- Scheduled Cruises 2018
The Northern Hebrides is a long time family area for us, many a holiday has been spent frolicking with the wildlife in amongst the machair and the sandy dunes. It possesses old and traditional friendly pubs where everyone just wants to chat to you and make you feel welcome.
Come and explore the edge of the world with us and experience what is known as Island time! Where time has stood still in so many ways as the world passes by. Island time is slow and easy and the Outer Hebrides encapsulates this. Immerse yourself within this culture of a proud and resourceful people. Where the lull of the Gael can still be heard both spoken as well as in song. A kind and friendly folk who are famous for their warm welcome and hospitality. Walk barefoot along the majestic white golden beaches which are home to rare seaweeds, flora and fauna. Walk among the ancient runes of bygone churches – world famous for their graveyards by the sea. You will fall in love with the distinctive quaint and traditional cottages which possess their own unique character.
This cruise takes us around over a dozen islands – each with their own unique appeal and character and each one will leave you riveted by their outstanding beauty and appeal until that memory is surpassed by the next island we visit
Passing places, anchorages and ports
Our gateway to the highlands and islands ……. Historically a fishing and trading village until the Victorian steamers started arriving in larger numbers to this pretty village, Oban grew into a town as it became a main stopping off point for the Western Isles.
One of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, it is also one of the smallest with just two pot stills – yet still produces some spectacular flavours. Established in 1794 by the brother John and Hugh Stevenson, the distillery actually predates the town. Refurbished in the 1890’s, there has been little change to the buildings and it still retains its unique charm. The tours are informative and you get to witness first-hand the traditional craftsmanship at work as they produce the whisky before enjoying a complimentary dram or two of the Oban 14-year-old West Highland Malt.
Between the islands of Jura and Scarba hides one of the most dangerous stretches of water around the British Isles. Fear not, as we journey to the Corryvreckan Whirlpool – the third largest in the world. Watch in amazement as the gravitational effect of the sun and moon create a natural phenomenon. During high tides, listen to the roar and watch waves that can reach 9 metres high cause more water to flow in this area than passes out of the Amazon River in a day. Spectacular, breath-taking and a sight that will stay with you forever.
Islay the “Whisky Isle” most southerly of the western isles, Islay is known around the world as home to eight Scottish whisky distilleries including three of the island’s most famous distilleries, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. With its high peat content the strong flavour of the Islay whiskies are most distinctive. The history of the island is thought to date back as far as the Mesolithic period after a flint arrowhead dating from 10,800BC was found. More recent historical remains can be found at Kildalton Cross with a ruined church and a number of fascinating gravestones. There is also the American Monument, built to remember the loss of the hundreds of US soldiers who died when two ships were sunk off the island in 1918. Perhaps what makes Islay so special is that it acts as the winter resting place to over 35,000 barnacle geese as well as over 10,000 Greenland white fronted geese. The European cousin to the American trumpeter swan, the whooper as well as golden eye ducks are also regularly seen. The elusive corncrake and the cirlew sandpiper are also often seen during the summer. Permanent residents include the majestic golden eagle, barn owls, guillemot and the red billed chough as well as the sea eagle. Wandering through the paths, you can see red deer, fallow deer and roe as well as otters, lizards and seals who gather on the rocks in the evenings. Perhaps as you sail to the island you will see the local bottlenose dolphins, minke whales and pilot whales as well as a special glimpse of Killer whales majestically gracing the waves.
Islay Distilleries – A choice of Distilleries – Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardberg, Gartbreck, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila
Founded in 1815, Ardbeg Distillery is one of Islay’s oldest whisky distilleries. Ardbeg whiskies are deep, complex and steeped in peat smoke, a distinctive property that has come to characterise many Islay whiskies, due to the abundance of peat on the island. At Ardbeg Distillery you can choose from four different tours with tastings. Ardbeg offer a great Deconstructing the Dram tour from April to October. Use all your senses to deconstruct Ardbeg’s famous whiskies on this two-hour in-depth tour, from learning about Ardbeg’s production process to taking part in a fun nosing quiz. Along the way you’ll also sample some of Ardbeg’s finest whiskies, including a cask strength tasting in the warehouse
Bowmore is the first recorded distillery on the Isle of Islay and one of the oldest in the whole of Scotland, dating back to 1779. Like other Islay malts, Bowmore is renowned for its peaty smokiness, the result of traditionally smoking the malt using peat-fired kilns. The distillers keep to the time-and tested methods, and the process has scarcely been changed in over 200 years of production. Lying on the south eastern shore of Loch Indaal, the distillery uses water sourced from the River Laggan to produce a wide variety of whiskies of different ages and different finishes. Thanks to its location, some of the distinct characteristics of the Bowmore malts include smoke, salt and seaweed. Excess heat from the distillation process is used to warm the waters of Bowmore village’s nearby public swimming pool which is housed in one of the distillery’s former warehouses.
Bunnahabhain has been part of Islay’s whisky heritage since 1881. Nestled into the north east tip of the island, it overlooks the Sound of Islay and the neighbouring Isle of Jura. The name Bunnahabhain derives from Gaelic word for ‘mouth of the river’ and the distillery draws its water from the nearby Margadale Spring. This remote distillery produces a fine range of malts which are not quite as heavily peated as other Islay malts, and with each bottling some distinctive characteristics. As well as Bunnahabhain single malt, many casks produced in the distillery will be used in Black Bottle, a blended whisky which features a quantity of spirit from every distillery on Islay.
In a sheltered spot on the shores of Loch Indaal lies Bruichladdich, home to a distillery which dates back to 1881. Bruichladdich distillery’s operation and ethos blends an interesting mix of old and new; much of the equipment used dates back to the Victorian era but this distillery is famed for taking innovative approaches when it comes to the whisky-making process. Self-styled as ‘progressive Hebridean distillers’, Bruichladdich has released the Octomore, an experimental whisky made from super heavily peated barley and said to be the most heavily peated single malt whisky in the world. As well as whisky, the distillery started producing gin, named The Botanist, in 2011.
In addition to standard daily tours, the Warehouse Experience offers something a bit special. Participants get the chance to try three single malt whiskies which are not
available for general sale straight from the cask in the setting of the cathedral-like maturation room.
Caol Ila Distillery
Located just north of Port Askaig, Caol Ila (pronounced Cull-eela) is set in a sheltered bay surrounded by gorgeous Hebridean scenery. It is the biggest distillery in Islay,
producing a jaw-dropping excess of 2 million litres of spirit per year, and boasts a whisky-making heritage that stretches back to 1846. Back in the day steamboats, known as ‘puffers’, would deliver cargoes of malting barley, coal and empty casks to the distillery. They would return with these casks full of whisky to the mainland through the Sound of Islay, the straight which separates the island from neighbouring Jura.
Upon arrival, absorb the outstanding panoramic views across the Sound of Islay to the Paps of Jura, before taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the distillery. Watch the distillers hard at work tending the six copper stills on one of three tours which invite you to witness first-hand the time-tested process behind the spirit produced at Caol Ila. Discover how Islay peat imbues the whisky distilled here with its distinctive, smoky character, sample a selection of its different ages and maturations, and discover the unexpected flavourings of its finest malts during a special tasting session accompanied with delectable chocolates – a truly unique whisky-tasting experience.
Opened in 2005, Kilchoman Distillery is the youngest of all the Islay distilleries and was the first distillery to be established on the island for over 124 years. Visit this authentic farm distillery and discover how it manages every stage of the whisky making process on-site – they even grow their own barley on the farm’s fertile land. The tour takes you on a journey through every stage of the production process, you can even see how Kilchoman malt their own barley on the farm’s traditional malting room floor.
While other distilleries rely on specialist malting companies to supply them with malted barley for their whiskies, Kilchoman is one of the few distilleries in Scotland who malt their own barley onsite, meaning you can start your tour right at the beginning of the whisky making process.Tours range from the standard Distillery Tour to the Manager’s Tour, where you will learn about what it takes to run Islay’s farm distillery from one of the managers themselves, before tasting a unique expression straight from the cask.
Lagavulin is one of three distilleries that sit on the southern coast of Islay. Much like its neighbours Laphroaig and Ardbeg, the site occupies the shores of its own secluded cove, Lagavulin Bay. As is also the case for many of the distilleries on Islay, its whitewashed with the distillery name, which can be seen from the decks of the arriving ferry from the mainland. The tradition of whisky distilling started on the spot where the current distillery buildings stand long before it was built. As far back as 1742, there was anywhere up to 11 illicit stills making whisky in Lagavulin Bay. The current distillery, sitting in the shadow of the ruined Dunyvaig Castle – once the seat of the Lord of the Isles – wasn’t built until 1816. The hallmark of Islay whiskies is peat smoke, and Lagavulin is not one to shy away from this distinct characteristic. Its signature expression, Lagavulin 16-year-old, is appreciated the world over for its intense peat smoke notes – a superb accompaniment to a fine blue cheese.
Said to be the definitive taste of Islay, Laphroaig (pronounced ‘La-froyg’) has been distilling on Scotland’s whisky island for two centuries. Perhaps the smokiest of the Islay whiskies, it uses hand-cut peat from the nearby Glenmachrie bogs to dry malted barley in on-site kilns. Laphroaig was the only spirit not banned during Prohibition in 1920s America. It was sold as a medicinal spirit because of its iodine taste, a characteristic derived from the moss and roots in the peat.
From March to September, visitors can help the distillery staff cut the peat by hand at Glenmachrie ready for drying as part of the Water to Whisky Experience tour, one of
several different tours operated by the distillery staff. The taste of Laphroaig also has a lot to do with its location. Nestled in a cove from which it gets its name (translated from Gaelic as ‘the beautiful hollow by the broad bay’), it is in the direct path of strong salty sea winds from the Atlantic Ocean. The moisture in the air gets into the warehouse walls and casks, which gives the whisky a maritime taste profile.
An interesting veritable archipelago of little islands and skerries. With an array of seals great for just sitting watching them, you can’t help but become part of what’s going on with the family frolics. Oystercatchers, terns, eider duck, shell duck, swans, herons, deer feeding by the water’s edge. When it comes to these it’s all about the water and the wildlife.
Isle of Jura
Jura and its distinctive Paps of Jura which dominate the skyline also named the Mountain of Gold, the Sacred Mountain and the Steep Mountain. The name comes from their distinct shape, whilst the history of the name Jura is thought to come from the Old Norse for Udder Island aptly describing the shape of the mountains. Long before the notorious Highland clearances of the nineteenth century, there were a number of waves of emigration from Jura. In 1767, fifty people left Jura for Canada, the population gradually shrank from over a thousand to just a few hundred. Emigrations were far from voluntary, and were the result of factors such as hunger and spiralling rents. Craighouse is home to the Jura Distillery, producing Isle of Jura single malt whisky. Jura is also noted for its bird life, and especially for its raptors including Buzzards, Golden Eagles, White tailed Eagles and its Hen Harriers.
Isle of Jura Distillery
The distillery didn’t open until 1810 but inhabitants of Jura had been permitted to distil whisky for their personal consumption until a ban in 1781. It fell into disuse but was revitalised in the 1960s by two locals, Robin Fletcher and Tony Riley-Smith. Today the distillery produces a wide range of uniquely flavoured malts produced using traditional methods and in 2006 it received a Gold Quality Award from the international quality institute Monde Selection. The tours take you through each part of the distilling process and are demonstrated and explained in detail. A complimentary dram is also included at the end of the tour.
Just off of Jura, the island was owned by Richard Hill, the seventh Baron of Sandys and has not been inhabited on a permanent basis since the 1960’s. Today, the island is covered in beautiful heather and used for grazing animals and has a flourishing herd of red deer.
Isles of the Sea (The Garvellachs)
The Islands of the Sea or the Rough Islands as they are locally known, comprise of four small islands just north of Jura. Thought to be over a billion years old, the islands have steeply angled sides and vertical cliffs to two sides. From a distance they look as though they were carved of green glass with gens of wildflowers and pink quartz scattered about. Uninhabited except by a few herds and the ruins of an old monastery, The Garvellachs are only reachable by private charter so they are the perfect secret getaway.
Corpach, town and bay has always played a part in battles and in 1470 the Battle of Corpach saw Clan Cameron rout Clan MacLean. In WWI, the US Navy held a base here and WWII saw it as the engineering base for HMS St Christopher. Buildings that still exist are of particular note include the main torpedo stores (which still have some of the original internal fittings present), even has a long Nissan hut which housed a small target shooting range, today is still a target range. For more tranquil thoughts, it is the perfect location to sit on the beach and view the spectacular Ben Nevis in the distance reflected like crystal in the water in front of you.
Ben Nevis Distillery
One of the oldest licensed distilleries in Scotland, it is home to The Legend of the Dew of Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. Established in 1825 and situated at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, Ben Nevis distillery is an impressive and historic place. The Visitor Centre is built into an old distillery warehouse and in a specially commissioned audio visual presentation, visitors will meet Hector McDram, a mythical giant who will reveal the secret Legend of the Dew of Ben Nevis. Following this, guests will receive a conducted tour of the production areas by a trained guide and a complementary tasting.
Isolated, yet beautiful, Shian Bay is best approached by boat – making it like your private beach to while away an afternoon on – as long as you don’t mind sharing it with the resident herd of deer
Our gateway to the highlands and islands ……. Historically a fishing and trading village until the Victorian steamers started arriving in larger numbers to this pretty village, Oban grew into a town as it became a main stopping off point for the Western Isles.
Sound of Mull
Between Morvern and the Isle of Mull, these waters are quite stunning and have an immediate calmness to it even in poorer weather. The Sound of Mull is surrounded by breath-taking scenery at every turn.
With over 300 miles of beach and coastline, the sights that you will see here will blow you away. Standing on the most southernmost tip of the Kintyre peninsular on a clear day you can see the coast of Northern Ireland in the distance.
Mull is well known for its hills and its Munro – Ben More stands at over 3,169ft and is popular with climbers and there are many beautiful walks and climbs throughout the island. Mull has been inhabited since the last ice age and the island is dotted with bronze age stone circles and standing stones and the iron age is demonstrated through crannogs and fortified duns. Duart castle is a magnificent example of medieval architecture and more recent examples of Scotland’s clans and castle history lies at Torosay and Glengorm.
The island has a rich abundance of wildlife and otters and golden eagles are easily seen as well as occasional sightings of the white tailed eagles. Red and roe der can also be found throughout the grass and woodland.
Locals produce some wonderful produce – chocolate, cheese, smoked salmon and of course its own whisky.
Cruising luxuriously on a superyacht, allows you to see some of the more hidden sites around Mull. Visit the spectacular Carsaig Arches to the south of the island, or the 500ft deep MacKinnons cave as well as gazing in awe at Staffa – the Pillar Island with its Staffa: Fingal’s Cave and the battleship shaped isle of Lunga – a SSSI site famed for its puffins
A picture perfect setting of coloured buildings down to the pier surrounded by wooded hills around the bay up to the lighthouse with its playful otters among the rocks. At the bottom of the bay is thought to remain the wreck of a Spanish galleon which fled the English fleet when she anchored in Tobermory to take on provisions. Following a dispute over payment the ship caught fire which caused the gunpowder to explode. She was supposed to have been carrying millions of gold coins when she went to the bottom but no-one has ever managed to find any significant treasure. Tobermory also has its very own chocolate factory.
Isle of Coll & Tiree
Just north west of Mull is the Isle of Coll – a wild retreat covered in over 300 different types of wildflower with standing stones as well as ancient Iron Age cairns and an underground passage. The coasts are the home to magnificent sand dunes – reaching heights of 35m in some places. Unique flowers to the island include bloody cranesbill and the pyramidal orchid and it is quite regularly visited by basking sharks as well as the rare migrant the Corncrake.
Just south of Coll is Tiree, an island that was devastated by World War I with nearly 290 men from this small island serving in the war. The island was also used as an air force base in the WWII.
Today, the battles are of a different kind and with the battle of the Atlantic raging all around, Tiree plays host to the longest standing professional wind surfing championships. The vast expanses of sea, sandy beaches and land are home to abundant birdlife and machair. Both these isles are quite something to see.
As a family we have visited this amazing little place many times with its beautiful beaches, machair, hills and moors, Barra is a spectacular place to while away an afternoon. The most southerly of the inhabited islands of the Outer Hebridies, it is a perfect combination of stunning scenery and history in one perfect location. Sail past the medieval “Castle in the Sea” – Kisimul Castle (which was leased by Clan MacNeil to Historic Scotland for 1000 years for £1 a year and a bottle of whisky) to one of the many secluded sandy bays, although watch out for planes as they land between tides on the beach at Cockle Strand. Visit the ancient graveyard of Cille Bharra and its ruins of the medieval church or spot one of the other ruins that are scattered around the island. The only thing that betters this isle is its people – who are welcoming at every turn!
Kisimul Castle in Castle Bay on Barra is a 15th century castle that was home to the Macneils. Famed for their sea faring adventures, one Macneil pushed the boat a little too far and was arrested for piracy of an English ship late on in the 16th century. Now in the care of Historic Scotland, the castle has been lovingly restored in part and the tower house battlements offer spectacular panoramic views around Castle Bay. Sitting in the sea with its prime position this is a proud and captivating castle.
Situated on the southern tip of the western isles lies is an island of unrivalled wildness and beauty. Uninhabited since 1912 (after the school closed even the local priest left) the village lies abandoned yet offers an evocative reminder of the lifestyles of those who lived there. The only two buildings left standing are ironically the school house and the church. Visited mainly by the local seabird colonies and the tourists, it is often visited by naturalists too. Although long empty, the island had been inhabited for over 3,000 years and there are Iron Age structures on the southern side of the island that still remain. You can’t help but be impressed at the vast amount of birds on this wee isle and there are over 2,000 pairs of Puffins who live here.
Proud to the most westerly inhabited place in Scotland, it is also home to plenty of wildlife including otters, seals and herons in abundance. Overlooking the sound lies the remains of an Iron Age Broch or circular tower that dates back to 3000BC at Dun a’ Chaola . Nearby lies a Bronze Age cemetery and the little islet of Biruaslum hosts a walled Neolithic fort. More recent historical artefacts include the cairn and monument to the wreck of the Annie Jane – a three masted immigrant ship headed from Liverpool to Montreal that struck the islands rocks during a storm. Only a few of the 350 men, women and children survived and the memorial now marks the spot where the bodies were buried. Vatersay has one of the most stunning beaches and nestled on the hillside sits the old school house harking back to another bygone day. The children who studied here must have been the luckiest in all Scotland. It is also home to the famous band “The Vatersay Boys”.
Eriksay & South Uist
It was on the beach at Eriskay that Bonnie Prince Charlie first set foot on Scotland’s fertile shores in 1745. The beach is home to beautiful, white-striped, pink sea bindweed of which the legend states that the seeds are said to have fallen from his pocket when he landed as it is not native to the Hebrides. The beach today is as beautiful as it was then and when you stand on the white beaches gazing out to the sea, you can resonate with the Bonny Princes’ words – “I am come home sir”. The island is also the home of the Eriskay pony, a smallish but very sturdy and hardy breed of pony.
Compton Mackenzie’s bestselling 1947 novel “Whisky Galore” based on the story of the SS Politician which struck rocks of the island in 1941 and spilled a large number of its 264,000 bottles of whisky. Thousands were “liberated” by the island folk before officials turned up and searched the island to retrieve the bounty as they did not have a duty tax on them. Today you can get a glimpse – although not a taste – of some of the few remaining bottles that were saved by the peat that they sunk into. The grave yard on the Isle of Eriskay is one of the best locations for a final resting place that I have even seen or could ever imagine.
South Uist is home to the oldest golf course in the Outer Hebrides – Askernish which offers phenomenal views whilst taking in a round of golf. Like many of the Western Isles it is an island of two halves – the east is dominated by mountains and the west is made of long languorous lines of white sandy beaches. Along the coast are the remains of a 12th century castle and on the west is the Hill of the Miracles, which is 1957 saw the erection of Hew Lorimer’s 30ft statue of the Madonna and Child, “Our Lady of the Isles”, on its slopes.
Benbecula & North Uist
Benbecula in Gaelic, is Beinn na Faoghla which means Mountain of the Ford. This is a very apt name for the island with its seemingly infinite fords and its solitary hill, Rueval, which looks over the Bonnie Prince Charlie trail where the Young Pretender once followed as he made good his escape from the Red Coat Army following the bloody Battle of Culloden.
There is a seductive atmosphere here, you can’t help but feel it pulling you into the past with its legends in this isolated location. It is also home to Scotland’s oldest University, older than St Andrews by nearly 200-years though not now standing, the ruins are the remains of a medieval college and monastery. Visit the ruins of Borve Castle with its five-foot deep walls or the now ruined temple to St Columba. The island also is home to a 5,000-year-old burial chamber and the stone circle called Finn’s People, one of the finest on the island.
A splendid mixture of fresh and salt water lochs adorned with miles of white sandy beaches, this area is a paradise for birdwatchers and animal lovers alike. A unique opportunity is had to see the only short eared owl that appears in daylight and the ghostly white hen harrier swooping gracefully down to capture its prey. Witness otters as their families’ frolic or better still the elusive grey and brown corncrake one of Europe’s most endangered species, as it sings for the evening serenade. Gracefully waving machair dresses the beaches where wading birds nest and leads to the RSPB Nature Reserve.
These remote and uninhabited isles lie west of North Uist with a choice of sublimely beautiful sheltered anchorages. The islands are all connected at low tide with white sandy beaches creating this wildlife utopia. These uninhabited islands are a refuge for the second largest grey seal colony in the world and a cacophony of breeding seabirds. A mix of sand dunes and low coastal plains provide a canvas for the bright machair flowers of summer.
Sitting at the North West corner of the Western Isles, Harris is actually joined to the Isle of Lewis. Home to the ferry boat to Harris. To the west of the island are some of the most tantalisingly inviting beaches framed by sandy machair dunes whilst the north couldn’t be more in contrast with its rugged, treacherous and mountainous terrain. The isolated east coast has some of the oldest rocks in the world and these 3,000 million years old rocks help to form the islands many bays. To me, this is one of the purest places on earth with beaches of white sparkling sand and the sea that looks amazing in any light.
Not surprisingly, this beautiful coast was used to film the BBC Series Castaway 200. At the southern tip of Harris lies the 16th Century church of St Clement. Designed by Alasdair Crotach so named for the word meaning hunchback from a sword injury, the church boasts three tombs carved in almost striped black gneiss depicting knights. For the brave, a steep climb up almost vertical spiralling steps offers an amazing view of the island. This island is full of pretty little houses and famed for its collection of Harris Tweed shops, selling the Isles own produced Tweed – perfect for that authentic gift from the Gaels.
When stepping ashore, you feel as if you live in a world of beautiful contradictions as you view ancient stone circles alongside the modern way of life and hear a mix of both Gaelic and English both spoken with ease.
This landscape comes to a dramatic climax at the Butt of Lewis where these imposing cliffs are home to kittiwakes, shags and black guillemots. Southwest Lewis has some beautiful beaches and the Uig hills, home to red deer and several pairs of breeding golden eagles. Further along you will find the sea stacks at Mangersta, what looks like a range of high peaked mini mountains pushing their way up from the sea. It is a bird lover’s paradise with redshank, greenshank, oystercatchers, curlew, ringed plover, dunlin, shel ducks, red-breasted merganser and merlins can be seen speeding over the moor in pursuit of meadow pipit or wheatear.
Callanish Standing Stones
Just by Callanish stands one of the most significant and important megalithic complexes in Europe – the Callanish Standing Stones. Undeniable fascinating, a cross-shaped setting of stones, centred on a circle of tall stones. At its heart stands a solitary monolith 4.8m high. Lines of smaller stones radiate from the circle to east, west and south. From the north runs an avenue 83m long, formed by two lines of stones that narrow as they approach the circle. Within the circle is a chambered tomb. Patrick Ashmore, writes in his insightful guidebook Calanais: The Standing Stones, ‘The most attractive explanation … is that every 18.6 years, the moon skims especially low over the southern hills. It seems to dance along them, like a great god visiting the earth. Knowledge and prediction of this heavenly event gave earthly authority to those who watched the skies.’
Whatever the reason for their being here, standing amidst these historical and mythological circles will bring a moment of personal clarity that will stay with you forever.
The Shiants have one of the largest puffin colonies in the world – around 240,000 nest among the cliffs here every year, add to that the tens of thousands of guillemots, razorbills, the thousands of fulmars and kittiwakes and shags and this has to be the greatest place to watch birds in the world.
Isle of Skye
The approach to Skye by sea is stunning with its impressive black Cuillin hills and their dramatic backdrop offering spectacular scenes of beauty from every angle. To me Skye is one of the most magical and beautiful places to visit from the sea with its mystical Fairy Rock Pools, and its famed Old Man of Storr, an impressive 165ft high column of rock along with its Coral beach to name just a few of the awe inspiring sights on offer.
The remains of the headland fortress of Duntulm Castle perfectly frame the view from the tip of the Trotternish peninsula and further south lies the intriguing Kilvaxter Souterrain. To the North West lie two further peninsulas, Duirinish and Waternish – both worthy of exploration for both their beauty and also the ruin of Trumpan Church which is famous for “The Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke”.
Tokavaig on the coast sits on a small pebbly beach under the watchful eye of the ruins of Dunscaith Castle. Legends tell that the original castle was built in a single night with the help of a witch. This headland was also said to have been the location for the legendary “School for Heroes” run by the Celtic warrior queen, Scáthach, whose name is reflected in that of the castle.
The Isle of Skye is what I would call a peoples favourite, many see this as a rite of passage to visit this island and it is a passage worth taking.
Old Man of Storr
This old man is a large pinnacle that stands proud and high and can be seen for miles around, was created by an ancient landslide that tore apart the landscape and created one of the most photographed locations in the world. So iconic, it was used at the start of Ridley Scott’s blockbuster Prometheus, the old man is well over 700m high.
Legends abound about the rock – some say it is the thumb of a giant buried in the earth, others say it was the result of an old man wishing to stay forever with his wife and the Fae making this happen by turning him to rock alongside her grave. Whatever its heritage, the images and the scenery make this a precious place to visit.
The main town on Skye was once known as Kings Port after its visit by King James V in 1540. Later, the town was visited by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746 as he bade goodbye to his love, Flora MacDonald. The island became more developed in the 1820s when Scottish architect Thomas Telford built roads to other developing towns as well as the building the pier. Today, the harbour is still the main focus for the town and is surrounded by a mix of brightly painted houses and stonewashed cottages. We love it as it has a collection of good shops, great places to eat and some fantastic pubs!
From the Norse language meaning Isle of the Red Deer, the island is home to Dun Caan – a unique flat topped peak of 1456ft and also Inverarish village – where many German prisoners of war were held during World War I. They were used to work the iron ore mines and create shells and it was reported to contravene The Hague conventions. Covered up by the government in 1920, much of the paperwork was destroyed. The locals used to regularly sneak food for the prisoners to help support and sustain them. Raasay was home to life more than 9000 years ago and was more densely populated during medieval times with remains of a 13th century chapel dedicated to St Moluag and the ruined castle at Brochel.
Look out for Golden eagles who are known to nest on the island.
Just off Skye and separated by Loch na Cairidh lies the tiny island of Scalpay. With a population of just 10 residents, the island is privately owned and is home to a red deer farm and a shooting estate.
The world famous Skye Bridge was built in 1995 and links Skye to the mainland. It is actually two bridges, which use the island of Eilean Ban as a stepping stone. The site of political turmoil when it was completed as a levy was charged to cross, many a dispute and stand-off was had and soon the bridge was free to cross.
Kyles of Lochalsh
The gateway to the Isle of Skye, Lochalsh village has some beautiful whitewashed cottages that you can see from the water and fantastic views of the world famous Skye Bridge and the Cuillin Range. The surrounding landscape is a haven for deer – both red and roe, as well as golden eagles and otters.
A working fishing port on the North West coast of Scotland, it is visited often by the famous Jacobite steam train from the Harry Potter movies. Full of character, it remains a tranquil place to visit and at just 200 years old it is a rather new town for Scotland. Benefiting from its new marina and the local art shops serving local artisans, Mallaig has one of the best wee fish and chip shops and has seen many drive from the central belt for the day and a fish supper – including us!
The stunning village of Arisaig in Lochaber is one of the finest the highlands has to offer. The word Arisaig means “the safe place” in the Scottish Gaelic language. Famous for its silver sands of Morar, where parts of the movie Local Hero was filmed as well as other films including “Breaking the Waves”, and scenes from the TV series “Hamish MacBeth” and “Monarch of the Glen”.
Arisaig has been one of our most visited locations when our children where young. Parts of the Harry Potter were filmed there with its famous tree islands viewed from the Jacobean steam train.
History has played its part here too as in 1746 Bonnie Prince Charlie left Scotland for France from a place near the village following the failure of the Jacobite rising of 1745. In 1801 “The Highland Clearances” came and devastatingly, over 1000 crofters were cleared off the land and shipped to Nova Scotia to make way for sheep. And in 1853, a local man called John Silver, went to work on the construction of the lighthouse at Barrahead. The lighthouse designer was Thomas Stevenson, father of Robert Louis Stevenson. Silver met Robert Louis on a few occasions and local legend has it that Robert Louis Stevenson took the name for his famous pirate character in Treasure Island.
Steeped in history, this village has a collection of amazing beaches set in a coast of large grassy sand dunes, so you’re always going to have an abundance of wildlife. Minke Whales, Dolphins, Porpoise, Basking Sharks, Otters, Puffins, Shearwaters and much more – including sightings of Killer Whales, Sea and Golden Eagles.
The Small Isles
Just south of the Isle of Skye lies an archipelago of four small islands – Eigg, Canna, Rum and Muck. Made up of a column of lava, Eigg has a bloodthirsty history of clan rivalry that ended in the death of the islands entire population. Rum is a national nature reserve and is one of Britain’s last wildernesses and is home to the Manx Shearwater that glides straight winged along the surface of the surrounding coast. On the smallest island Muck, a dagger and a number of burial cairns have been found which date back to the Bronze Age whilst thanks to the Gulf Stream its waters support a number of rare crabs, small purple sea urchins, and the only British Coral, the “Cup Coral”. Canna is the archetype of Hebridean islands and displays, evidence of the once great volcanic forces which have been at work in the earth’s crust. Wildlife is abundant here both on land and see.
A mere 12 miles long, Lismore is home to around 160 people and Gaelic is often heard as you meander throughout the island. The name Lismore derives from the Gaelic lios- mór meaning Great Garden aptly named for its abundant wildflowers that serve to dress the habitat of its many native birds. Over 300 different types of plant are known to grow on the island making this one of the most interesting for those of us who are keen botanists. Buzzards, herons and skylarks are frequently seen around.
The island is also home to many archaeological sites including Iron Age duns and Bronze Age cairns. The Pictish broch at Balnagown Croft is said to be one of the best preserved in the country and Neolithic artefacts dating from 3500BC have also been found. More recent ruins can be found at Castle Coeffin – a ruined 13th century hall house which is said to be haunted by a Viking princess and there are also the remains of Archadun Castle.
Just outside of Oban, Kerrera is filled with small coastal bays, beaches and caves. Once owned by the MacDougal Clan, the island is now privately owned and is a geologist’s haven, never a disappointment for those looking for sea birds!
|Room Type||State Room 6, State Room 5, State Room 4, State Room 3, State Room 2, Master State Room|
|No. Of Guests||1, 2, 3|