Holidaying has never looked this good! Fourteen nights of sumptuous surroundings travelling throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, up to Orkney and the captivating beauty of Scappa Flow before sailing down the East Coast past other-wordly bays and resplendent fairy tale castles.

Our unique voyage takes us from Oban to the coral beaches of Plockton and the iconic Cape Wrath. We visit magical caves and the Scottish equivalent of the Gold Coast right up to the fabled John O’Groats. From there we set sail to Orkney and the maritime graveyard and natural wonder that is Scappa Flow.

Returning to the mainland we pass picturesque harbours at Wick, the Whaligoe steps and the famous Dunrobin Castle, before making our way to Inverness and along the Caledonian Canal and the breath-taking beauty of Glencoe.

This captivating cruise shows everything that Scotland has to offer and will still make you wish you could sail around again.


Passing places. anchorages and ports

Oban

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.

Tobermory

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.

Mallaig

A working fishing port on the North West coast of Scotland, it is often visited by the famous Jacobite steam train from the Harry Potter movies. Full of character, it remains a tranquil place to visit and is a rather new town for Scotland at less than 200 years old. 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!

Plockton

On the shores of Loch Carron, Plockton was the location for the TV series Hamish Macbeth, starring Robert Carlyle and was also used in “The Wicker Man”. Sitting in a sheltered bay, its temperate climate is home to coral beaches and stunning scenery at every turn. Considered one of the most sought after places to live or holiday in Scotland.

Kyles of Lochalsh

The gateway to the Isle of Sky, 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.

Applecross

Meaning “The Sanctuary” in Gaelic the area is extremely isolated yet remains one of the most beautiful villages on our voyages. Applecross was only accessible by boat until the early 20th century and today it is a very popular place to visit. Historically, the settlement is linked with St. Máelrubai, a monk who came to Scotland in 671 from the major Irish monastery. He founded Aporcrosanin 672 in what was then Pictish territory. The early monastery is located around the site of newer parish church built in 1817. A large, unfinished cross-slab standing in the churchyard and three extremely finely carved fragments of another preserved within the church are evidence of the early monastery.

Gairloch

Gairloch has a striking coastline with a plethora of sandy and rocky beaches and isolated little islets along the way. The views around are exquisite with glimpses of Longa island in the distance.

Gairlochs 9-hole golf club has amazing coastal views across Loch Gairloch and the stunning sandy beaches along from which you can just see the remains of the Iron Age fort and the loch which was a safe haven for the Vikings although all they have left is the history of the place names and the stories passed down from generations.

This coast is bordered by one of Scotland’s last great wildernesses – the Fisherfield Forest – and Fisherfield Mountains. An uninhabited area that is strangely devoid of the trees you would expect in a forest. Home to herds of deer and the extreme isolation make this area a perfect place to visit

Ullapool

Stretching along the side of Loch Broom, whatever the weather, you are immediately struck by Ullapool’s whiteness and by its regularity of design and layout. This is a legacy of the town’s origins as it was designed and built in 1788 by Thomas Telford in conjunction with the British Fisheries Society. It is a very pretty waterside location and is very popular and still has a busy fishing harbour which once exploited the boom in herring fishing. During the 1970s – and well before the end of the Cold War – Loch Broom became the base for up to 60 Russian and East European “Klondykers” between August and January each year.

Today, Ullapool serves as the ferry to Stornoway, has quite a few very nice pubs and some independent local shops offering unusual gifts. It boasts an excellent Museum & Visitor Centre held in the old parish church, and tells the story of the people of Loch Broom and the history of Ullapool. To top it off, Ullapool boasts a coastal golf course.

Cape Wrath

The cornerstone where Scotland’s north and west coasts meet. The most north-westerly point in mainland Britain, the cape is an iconic spot for taking pictures with its lighthouse built by Robert Stevenson in 1828. The area surrounding the cape (called the Parph) is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Landscape Area and also a Special Protection Area – isolation, rugged and beautiful all meeting at the very edge of everything! Only one road was ever built and that was to provide access to build the lighthouse.

Today, the lighthouse is automated and there are no permanent inhabitants around the cape. Sheep graze and red deer roam through the Parph. Kittiwakes, fulmars and golden eagles soar above and around the coast is “The Cathedral” – a stunning stack rising from the sea framed by perfect sandy beaches. To the north east you can see as far as Orkney. The cape would have been the landmark for Norse sea farers to change direction on their voyages. In fact, the name of Cape Wrath comes from the Old Norse word meaning “turning point”.

Scourie

Nestled between Ullapool and Durness, Scourie was once a MacKay Clan stronghold and today the village retains its crofting identity. It’s stunning and colourful rocky bay stretches out to Handa Island, whilst in the distance, Ben Stack presides regally over the village and can be seen on a clear day from Scourie bay itself.

The island of Handa was inhabited until the potato famine of 1848 and is now run as a nature reserve by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Before the final evacuees left, the oldest widow of the island would be known as the “Queen of Handa” a tradition that spanned hundreds of years. Today there are no Queens on Handa, although the island is home to over 100,000 resident guillemots and over 150 species of other wild birds.

Durness

Literally surrounded by sandy beaches and sheer cliffs, the name Durness comes from the Norse Drya-ness – meaning Deer Cape. Home to some of the best beaches along this coastline it is also where you can find the magical, smugglers cave – “Smoo Cave”. It is really something to see with its steep steps down to the secluded bay and under, into the belly of the cliffs is this enchanting hidden world! I love coming to Durness but even from sea it is spectacular.

Loch Eriboll

East of Cape Wrath is a very beautiful Loch and one of the widest and longest Loch’s in the area. Ard Neackie is a mound of land attached to the shore of the loch by a line of shingle and sand. It is the site of four large lime kilns that were built in 1870. The island at the mouth of the loch is called Eilean Hoan and is now a nature reserve for the RSPB, a transformation from its previous use as a burial place for the local Norse inhabitants.

The loch has also been used as an anchorage for the navy since the 1920’s and crew members would often leave the name of the ships in stone letters up on the hill, including the world’s largest battleship HMS Hood which laid anchor here in 1937. In 1941, the Hood was sunk off Greenland by the German warship Bismarck – with a loss of 1400 lives, making the stone markers a poignant reminder of this sad tragedy. Today, many of the stone markers are being covered by the heather, however the local primary school has beautifully painted and cleared those of the Hood to keep them visible. The views from the hill of the stones are breath-taking, I have often come to this point and always want to take time to remember those who sadly lost their lives

Tongue

When you see this place you could not imagine it has such history, it is silent yet utterly majestic. I remember my first time seeing this place and having to just stop and stare at it, the sands are amazing! Its unusual name thought to come from “tunga” or tongue of land projecting into the loch. But although the Norse probably lived here between the 900s and 1200s, no settlement has been found yet. The Norse are thought to have built the now ruined Caisteal Bharraigh (or Castle Varrich), a small tower spectacularly located on the summit of a bluff dominating the Kyle of Tongue just to the west of the village which can be reached on foot. The origins of the castle are unclear, but some believe it could be the “Beruvik” mentioned in the Norse Orkneyinga Saga. Some say it was built in the 1500s, by either the Bishops of Caithness or by the Mackay family.

Perhaps Tongue’s most significant moment in history came in early 1746 when the ship Hazard, on route for Inverness, fled into the Kyle of Tongue to evade the HMS Sheerness, a Royal Navy frigate. It was carrying over £13,000 in gold coins to fund Bonnie Prince Charlie’s rebellion, and its crew took the gold ashore in an effort to carry it overland to its destination.

The Mackays were supporters of the government and their forces caught up with the crew of the Hazard next morning at Lochan Haken, near the southern end of the Kyle of Tongue. The gold was thrown into the loch by the crew before they were captured, though most of it was later recovered by the government. What adds significance is the story that when word of this reached Bonnie Prince Charlie he sent 1500 of his men north in an effort to regain the gold, and they were defeated enroute. Some believe that had these men still been available a short time later at the Battle of Culloden the outcome might have been different. It is more likely that Culloden was so one-sided the missing troops would have made little difference, but who can say for sure? There is so much more history than this and all of it can be found at Tongue

Thurso

A Scottish equivalent of the Gold Coast, the prestigious O’Neill Cold Water Classic Series has found a surfer’s paradise in the north and regularly includes Thurso as one of its five stunning world-wide competition venues. You need to be hard core to come into these waters, but it must be amazing and exhilarating all at once! Thurso boasts a wide range of beaches and we often visit as we have family nearby. It has sandy beaches, rocky beaches and seaweed filled beaches all with views dominated by the distant cliffs of Dunnet Head to the north east with its iconic lighthouse and those of the island of Hoy, with the stack old man of Hoy, one of the Orkney Islands, to the north. You can also see the Isle of Stroma which was once inhabited, though now it is only home to some very lucky sheep.

A proud people live here with Thurso’s origins revealed in its name, which comes from the Old Norse for Bull’s River. The Vikings were well established here from as early as 900AD, using the river mouth as a port and a fishing base. After Caithness became more securely part of Scotland in medieval times, Thurso continued to grow around its fishing and trade, in a triangular area formed by the River Thurso to the south east and the shore of Thurso Bay to the north. This area is still known as Old Thurso or the old town. There is a very informative museum in the centre.

John O’Groats

At the very top of Britain sits the interesting little place called John O’Groats which sits within some of the most stunning landscape that you will see on this journey. Famous as the starting or finishing point for journeys to and from Lands’ End it was named after Jan de Groot. The Dutchman was granted the ferry franchise up to Orkney by King James IV in 1496 and he also started the development of the harbour which still stands today.

The coastline is dominated by tall cliffs and long sandy beaches as well as the fascinating Stacks of Duncansby further around the coast – tall spiky jags of rock geodes reaching out of the water. The area is full of thriving, natural wildlife and the rocks teem with wild birds. In the waters you can see seals, dolphins and minke whales as well as killer whales slightly further out to sea. Evenings are often bejewelled by the Aurora at certain times of the year. The evenings dance of lighthouse reflections is hard to beat, I think there is as much to see in the night as there is in the day.

Scapa Flow

Within the beauty of the Orkney Islands rests Scapa Flow – where the great ladies go to die. Overwhelming yet nostalgic, the beauty of this natural harbour and safe haven is a maritime graveyard with many secrets below its surface.

The Vikings were the first of the maritime explorers to use the 120 square miles of water during their expeditions to Orkney and the expeditions are recorded lovingly in the Orkneyinga Sagas from the 11th Century. After the Battle of Largs King Haakon IV of Norway anchored his fleet at St Margaret’s Hope where they saw an eclipse of the sun. His army would have made as much noise as possible in their belief that they could avoid an apocalypse by scaring away the wolf Skoll (the moon) from eating the Sun. On their return from the battle, the remains of the fleet were anchored for the winter before travelling back to Norway but the King passed away whilst staying in Kirkwall at the Bishops Palace.

During the Napoleonic wars, Scapa Flow was used by the Admiralty as an anchorage for trading ships destined for the Baltic ports. They would wait under protection of the Martello Towers before a warship could chaperone them to their destination.

In the early 20th century the Admiralty again took an interest in Scapa Flow against the new enemy – Germany. To prevent access through the channels, old merchant vessels were strategically sunk and coastal and boom defences were built to protect the Grand Fleet. During the first World War, a few of the Grand Fleet ships sank – including the tragic accident where the HMS Vanguard – a strategic battleship – exploded whilst at anchor. Over 800 men died during the devastating incident, but this was nothing compared to what would happen next.

At the end of the War, Germany were forced to surrender the majority of its fleet as part of the Armistice agreement. Seventy-four of their ships arrived at Scapa Flow believing that they would surrender in peace, only to be scuttled and sent to their watery graves when Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter gave the command after mistakenly understanding that the peace talks had failed and his own fleet would be overrun. Over fifty of the German ships were sunk in a single day – the greatest loss ever recorded. Whilst most of the ships were raised in a massive salvage mission, seven of the ships still haunt the waters bed as well as the debris from many others.

Scapa Flow returned to its peaceful state after the end of the war and many of its defences were removed or taken down. This proved to be a fatal mistake as in October 1939 the HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed by a U-47 and sunk – taking its crew of 800 with it. With the defences taken down and the block ships previously placed for the first war having been moved by tide and time, the German submarine had managed to sneak its way in undetected and undeterred.

Immediately the defences were strengthened – the Churchill barriers closed the eastern approaches and the Italian prisoner of war workers were made to help and later built their own little chapel which was designed and built by Domenico Chiocchetti and remains as a moving symbol of peace.

Scapa Flow was highly significant during the Second World War for much of the naval activity. It was the starting point for the hunt for the Bismarck and the Tirpitz.

Whilst warships are no longer seen in Scapa Flow with any regularity, the wrecks of the ships that were there now provide a phenomenal and once in a lifetime experience for wreck diving and each dive is added to by the artificial reefs that have developed around the wrecks, offering star fish, urchins, jellyfish, shoals of brightly coloured fish and more as a stark yet awe-inspiring contrast to the history of their home. The sea life is often visible from the surface with seals and basking sharks, whilst seabirds soar above your head. There is also an excellent dive centre which has an award winning interactive display of the wrecks. For those who are sentimental this is a place of reflection and one whose beauty and memories will haunt you forever.

Stromness Harbour

In its protected bay, Stromness has been an ideal fishing location since the earliest inhabitants settled in Orkney. Coming from the Norse strom and ness meaning tidal stream and a peninsular of land respectively, it has an impressive entrance by sea into the harbour through the Point of Ness and the holms.

The first recorded inhabitants of Stromness were in 1595, villagers starting industry to support and supply the merchant ships that would sail via the North of Scotland to avoid the wars erupting throughout Europe. The whaling boom in the 18th century and the later herring boom also provided work and the Stromness women and girls were famed for being able to gut 60 herring a minute!

With the many sailors and merchants, Stromness was well known for its drinking establishments and when the harbour was full, the local inhabitants would avoid the centre of town which would be full of thirsty crew desperate for a drink after months at sea. This continued until 1920 when the ever growing Temperance movement convinced the people of Stromness to vote for the town to be alcohol free. This continued until after the Second World War.

Stromness also has a fine history of shipbuilding and their sloops and schooners would sail around the UK making deliveries until iron ships replaced wooden ones in the early twentieth century.

Wick

Wick was originally the principle Viking town in the area due to its natural harbour and the people of Wick have made use of this ever since. When the pier was originally built in 1768, only 400 barrels of salted fish were caught and processed. However, this changed when the British Fisheries Society stepped in and within a decade 200 fishing boats were based in Wick and the annual catch had increased to 13,000 barrels of salted herring. By the mid-19th century, Wick was considered to be the busiest herring port in Europe – thanks in part to the harbour improvements made by Thomas Telford. By the 1860s there were 1100 herring boats operating out of the harbour and they were supported by no fewer than 650 coopers in the town. Most activity took place during a 12-week period in the summer when the vast shoals of herring were passing around the Caithness coast. During this time the town’s normal population of 6,000 increased to 15,000 as migrant workers, many from the western and northern isles, flocked in to help process and pack the fish, mend nets, and provide all the other services demanded by such a high level of economic activity. At the height of the season the town’s 47 inns were between them selling 800 gallons of whisky each week. To put all this in perspective, Wick’s total population today is around 8,000.

Just north of Wick lies the dramatic ruins of Sinclair and Girnigoe castles and The Castle of Old Wick, often referred to as the Old Man of Wick, sits atop the edge of the cliffs overlooks the sea, whilst the Wick Heritage Centre contains an interesting array of artefacts from the old fishing days.

Lybster

The village of Lybster was created by General Patrick Sinclair in 1802. A wealthy landowner – he planned the village completely and named a section of the village “Quatre Bras” in honour of his four sons who fought at the Battle of Waterloo. Part of this is on Main Street which is an enormously wide street and one of the widest in all of Great Britain that runs straight through the village.

At the other end of Lybster is its harbour and the reason why the village developed. By the 1850’s Lybster was the third busiest fishing port in Scotland. Today, it is one of the prettiest harbours that we will visit with white picture postcard cottages on the green grassy slopes surrounding it.

Whaligoe Harbour and Steps

Whaligoe was prospected by Thomas Telford as a potential port and his judgement was that it was a “Terrible spot”! Undaunted, Captain David Brodie decided to buy the location and spent £8 to get the steps cut in. He was rewarded in 1814 with the harbour supporting 14 herring boats. There is a dispute that rages today over how many steps there are. Records show that the Captain had 330 steps cut into the rocks, however locals insist that there are 365 – one for each day of the year. On a wet day the steps can be treacherous, despite being well maintained by locals and on a fine day, you can easily lose count as you enjoy the spectacular scenery and wildlife that surrounds you.

Helmsdale

Originally a Viking settlement, Helmsdale was also home to Helmsdale Castle which was built in 1488. It was here in 1567 that the 11th Earl of Sutherland was poisoned by his aunt in order for her son to become the new Earl. However, her plan backfired when her own son accidently drunk the poison and died. Shortly after Isobel Sinclair committed suicide in order to avoid the Gallows herself. The castle fell into disrepair over the years since and by the 1800’s it was in ruins and was sadly knocked down in 1970 to provide the site for a new road bridge.

Helmsdale as a village was mainly populated in the 1800’s as a result of the clearances. Wealthy landowners decided to move families who had lived on their land for 100’s of years away so they could put more cattle and sheep out for grazing livestock, which had more value than the people who lived there. In this part of the world, the first Duke of Sutherland was one of the most ferocious in ensuring that the land was cleared. These forced evictions led many to the ports and harbours being populated as a preference to being shipped across to the colonies or to the USA. A new village was designed and the harbour was built and developed over the next 80 years to enjoy the herring boom.

Dornoch & Dunrobin Castle

On the edge of the Dornoch Firth, Dornoch as a town dates back over a millennium and the first inhabitants were the Picts or the “painted people” and there is a remarkable collection of Pictish stones that were collected by the Dukes of Sutherland at the Dunrobin Castle Museum. There are over 20 stones including 6th and 7th century boulders with carvings etched into them, right up to later 9th century intricately carved stones.

Dornoch also played its part in the witch trials and it is here that the last person in Britain was tried and executed for the crimes of Witchcraft in 1727. Accused of turning her daughter (who had a deformity in her hands and feet) into a pony, she lost her trial and was tarred and feathered and paraded through the town before being burnt at the stake.

Although the town is small, Dornoch boasts miles of beautiful sandy beaches, the Royal Dornoch championship golf course, an impressive cathedral, a nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest as well as three castles – the 15th century Dornoch Castle, Skibo Castle which is the home of Andrew Carnegies Billionaire Club and the spectacular Dunrobin Castle.

Dunrobin Castle, which resembles a French chateau with its towering conical spires, has seen the architectural influences of Sir Charles Barry, who designed London’s Houses of Parliament, and Scotland’s own Sir Robert Lorimer. The most northerly of Scotland’s great houses, it is the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Dunrobin Castle is also one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, home to the Earls and later, the Dukes of Sutherland.

It is a magnificent castle. Perched on a high terrace above walled gardens, with fairy-tale spires and turrets, rises above the North Sea like an illustration from a storybook. The designed landscape and grounds are captivating. There is an amazing retreat within the grounds packed full of antiquated local and international finds, full of fossils and taxidermy some of the likes I have never seen and you could spend a week here and not have seen everything.

Towering majestically over both the Castle and Golspie is the Sutherland Monument atop Ben Bhraggie. The 1st Duke of Sutherland looks forever out over his former home from the heather-covered hilltop.

For many seasoned travellers there are few places in the world to match the mountains, moors and beaches of Sutherland. The combination of colour and texture is quite magical. If you could make a cloth with these colours it would be worn every day.

I have always had a fascination for this castle. On the one hand it is hard to find a more breath taking castle and grounds but for me the sadness of what it will always stand for and represents will always be apparent. Money used in the redesign and upgrade from what was a plain keep to the excellence we see today was funded from the “clearings” of the people who worked the land for hundreds of years to make way for more profitable live stock. Though this is not the fault in any way of the present owners, and they provide a vital and essential worth to the local community.

Inverness

Considered to be the capital to the highlands with the River Ness and its attractive bridges, Eden Court theatre and the Inverness Cathedral, sitting proudly on its banks. It is a bustling city with plenty of shopping. The museum is incredible, as is the art gallery which is not too far from Inverness Castle. Inverness is home to plenty of exceptional dining establishments and also has its own airport with destinations including London, meaning that if you are leaving us at this stage of the journey, your departure from the boat can be easily arranged.

Caledonian Canal

Conceived in 1773 the Caledonian Canal took nearly 50 years to build and was completed in 1822 after being designed by the famous Scottish engineer Thomas Telford. With its distinctive “Neptune’s Steps”, the canal connects Inverness on the east coast with Fort William on the west coast across 60 miles of stunning scenery including the Great Glen and Loch Ness – it is considered one of the greatest waterways in the world with 29 locks, 4 aqueducts and 10 bridges, an absolute feat of human engineering. This is amazing to see and even more amazing to be on and experience with so much to see and explore in and around the canal. Little children look on in the hope that they can one day be part of the canal. As a child myself, I used to look on as yachts and cruises made their journeys and would wish with my friends to become a part of the canals story. You will not forget this experience.

Fort William

Nestling in the shadow of Ben Nevis – Scotland’s highest mountain, Fort William is the site of the two famous Battles of Inverlochy in 1431 and 1645. Today, you can visit the battlefield and stand under the unforgiving terrain of Ben Nevis and hear the distant echoes of the Clan war cries in the air. The highest Mountain in the British Isles and standing at 1,346 metres, Ben Nevis has around 100,000 ascents every year. Many flock to it in order to come down by bike, walk, run and even ski. The entire town is surrounded by picturesque mountains and is often the location of movie sets – most notably Braveheart, Highlander, the Harry Potter series and some of the scenes from Monarch of the Glen.

Corpach

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. Military buildings that still exist and are of particular note include the main torpedo stores (which still have some of the original internal fittings present) and 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 waters ahead.

Glencoe

Glencoe, I think conjures up everything we think of as Scottish. This narrow glen is home to some of the most majestic and breath-taking mountain scenery in the world. Each twist brings another gasp of amazement and a vista that is hard to forget.

Historically, Glencoe is best known for the massacre of the MacDonald clan. On the 27th August 1691 King William offered all opposing Highland clans a pardon for their part in the Jacobite rising – if they agreed to pledge allegiance to him before a magistrate by New Year’s Day. Having set out in good time, Alasdair MacIain, the Clan Chief of Glencoe, arrived at Fort William on 31 December to take the oath only to be told that he would now have to travel some 70 miles to the sheriff at Inveraray. After setting out on his long journey during these winter months MacIain finally took the oath on 6 January 1692. He was given assurances that his allegiance would be accepted and that he and his people – the McDonalds of Glencoe – would be safe.

Meanwhile, John Dalrymple, Master of Stair and the Secretary of State was hoping for an excuse to make an example of one of the Highland Clans. When he heard that Alasdair MacIain had not sworn allegiance by the designated date he was delighted: “My Lord Argyle tells me that Glencoe has not taken the oath, at which I rejoice. It is a great work of charity to be exact in the rooting out of that damnable sect, the worst in all the Highlands”.

So, on 2 February, 120 troops arrived at Glencoe under the command of Captain Robert Campbell of Glen Lyon who was himself related in marriage to the Clansman. They were given hospitality by the MacDonald’s of Glencoe as was customary in the Highlands. For the next ten days and nights the troops were given food, drink and lodgings.

On 12 February Glen Lyon received written orders from his superior, Major Duncanson: “You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebels, the McDonalds of Glencoe, and put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have a special care that the old Fox and his sons do upon no account escape your hands, you are to secure all the avenues that no man escape”. At 5am on the morning of 13 February 1692 the killing began. Alasdair MacIain of Glencoe was shot dead, his wife was dragged away from her fallen husband and stripped naked and died the next day. Houses were set alight. Captives were bound hand and foot before being slaughtered and many of the clan ran from their homes and fled into the mountains. In total, thirty-eight men, women and children were killed in the massacre. Many more died of exposure as they tried to escape across the mountains in the dead of winter. The visitor centre in Glencoe tells all about this bloody history and after learning the stories, the spectacular mountains and glens will seem to echo with distant cries for mercy.

Loch Leven

Loch Leven, the burial place of the clan MacDonald of Glencoe. It is truly magnificent and has nine small islands creating a colourful mix of heather and grass and the attractive village of Glencoe which comfortably lies on its southern shore. Eilean Munde – where the MacDonald clan rests is just opposite the village. The distinctive Ballachulish Bridge crosses the narrows of Caolas Mhic Phàdraig, which have a fast tidal stream that can run up to seven knots. Most Scottish cottages have used the slate from Ballachulish.

Shuna Island

One of the Slate Islands, Shuna is simply bustling with wildlife. This island supports red, fallow and roe deer as well as otters, seals and dolphins and many more, all thanks to its tranquil and isolated location. Exceptionally for the local islands, Shuna is quite forested, which gives home to many birds including the Nightjar – an elusive and nocturnal bird. Make sure to listen out for the male’s charring song, rising and falling in the night air.

The shores of Shuna are a mix of rocky slopes and small beaches in sheltered bays and dotted around are the burial mounds that are all that remains of the islands Stone Age inhabitants. Shuna Castle is a splendid no expense spared romantic piece of architecture built in 1911 by adventurer and philanthropist George Alexander MacLean Buckley, though very sadly, it was abandoned in the 1980’s.

Castle Stalker

Literally translated as ‘Castle of the Hunter’, Castle Stalker sits on a small rocky island called the Rock of the Cormorants which is also the battle cry of the Stewart clan of Appin. With a turbulent history of murders through the ages, illegitimacy, and lost ownership through drunken gambling and garrisoning troops during the 1745 Jacobite Rising, this iconic castle is one of the most photographed locations in Scotland.

Loch Linnhe

Although just one loch, upstream of the Corran it is traditionally known as the black pool and below the salty pool. The only sea loch along the Great Glen Fault it is the place where many of the other lochs feed into it along its 31-mile stretch. The Great Glen Fault cuts through Scotland from the west to north east all the way past Shetland and beyond/ Loch Linnhe is home to the iconic Castle Stalker as well as Seal Island.

Everywhere you look, the loch offers a picture postcard view. Watch out particularly for photo opportunities for dolphins and golden eagles as they soar upwards towards Ben Nevis in the distance.

Lismore

A mere 12-miles long, Lismore is home to around 160 people and Gaelic is often heard as you wander 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 isles for those botanists among us. For the bird lovers -buzzards, herons and skylarks are frequently seen in the skies and grassland around.

The island is also home to many archaeological sites including Iron Age duns and Bronze Age cairns. The Pictish broch’s at Balnagown Croft are said to be some 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. This little Isle punches above its weight.

Ladys Rock

At the entrance to the Sound of Mull sits Eilean Musdale and the lighthouse that bears her name. Built in 1833 by Robert Stevenson – the grandfather of the acclaimed writer Robert Louis Stevenson , the lighthouse replaced a tall standing stone that had sat there for centuries.

Just southwest is Lady’s Rock, where Lachlan Maclean left his wife to die in 1527. Having decided to murder her, he rowed the unfortunate Lady Catherine out to the island to leave her to die. The very morning after, he looked out from his home at Duart Castle and seeing no sign of life and assuming that she was dead – he sent a message to his deceased wife’s brother the Earl of Argyll at Inveraray Castle – saying he was bringing her home to be buried. Upon arrival he was met by not just the Earl, but Lady Catherine as well after she had been picked up by a passing boat in the night. Poor old Lachlan had to endure a meal in the dining hall, before fleeing in the night whilst all those concerned made no mention of the situation!

Additional information

Room TypeMaster State Room, State Room 1, State Room 2, State Room 3, State Room 4, State Room 5
No. Of Guests1, 2, 3
1

Oban

2

Tobermory

3
4

Plockton

5

Kyles of Lochalsh

6

Applecross

7

Gairloch

8

Ullapool

9

Cape Wrath

10

Scourie

11

Durness

12

Loch Eriboll

13

Tongue

14

Thurso

15

John O’Groats

16

Scapa Flow

17

Stromness Harbour

18

Wick

19
20

Whaligoe Harbour and Steps

21

Helmsdale

22

Dornoch & Dunrobin Castle

23

Inverness

24

Caledonian Canal

25

Fort William

26

Corpach

27

Glencoe

28

Loch Leven

29

Shuna Island

30

Castle Stalker

31

Loch Linnhe

32

Lismore

33

Ladys Rock

Tour Reviews

5.00 based on 1 review
July 11, 2017

A dream for the most distinguished pallets.

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