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This wonderful, 12 day, Outer Hebridean cruise will, if the weather is kind, give us time to explore fabulous St Kilda; the remote Monach Isles; many dramatic islands of the Outer Hebrides; and the spectacular Small Isles. Our starting point is Oban, the gateway to the isles.
Our sea adventure vessels will anchor in scenic, lonely islands, in tranquil bays and, throughout the trip, we see incredible wildlife – soaring sea and golden eagles, many species of sea birds, basking sharks, orca and minke whales, porpoises, dolphins and seals.
Aboard our small ships you can do as little or as much as you want. Sit back and enjoy the trip as you travel through the Sounds; pass the islands and sea lochs; view the spectacular mountains and fast running tides that make extraordinary spiral patterns and glassy runs in the sea; marvel at the lofty headland lighthouses and castles; and, if you want, become involved in working the wee cruise ships.
Our ultimate destination is Village Bay, Hirta, on the archipelago of St Kilda – a UNESCO world heritage site. Hirta is the largest of the four islands in the St Kilda group and was inhabited for some 2000 years before the villagers were evacuated in 1930, never to return.
The sea cliffs (the highest in the UK) of the St Kilda islands rise dramatically out of the Atlantic and are the protected breeding grounds of many different sea bird species (gannets, fulmars, Leach’s petrel, which are hunted at night by giant skuas, and puffins).
These thousands of seabirds were once an important source of food for the Islanders. The breathtaking islands of Soay and Boreay have rare, ancient species of feral sheep and the St Kildan wren and field mouse are both unique subspecies.
Traveling back from St Kilda, we could stop at a remote anchorage on the Monach or Heisker islands, which lie some five miles west of North Uist and are famous for their wildflowers in the Machair, sandy white beaches and for a huge grey seal colony.
Throughout the trip, we will explore the many wonderful, breathtaking islands of the Outer Hebrides and the Small Islands.
Guests can choose to book St Hilda (maximum 6 passengers), Seahorse II (maximum 11 passengers) or Gemini Explorer (maximum 7 passengers). St Hilda is a traditional, wooden ex-Tall Ship. Seahorse II is an ex-Norwegian Ferry. Gemini Explorer is an ex-Cruising Lifeboat.
All three ships have been converted to cruise the western islands of Scotland in comfort and style. The roomy deck saloons aboard our small ships are where everyone dines and socialises and the outdoor decks are perfect for spotting wildlife, relaxing and eating al fresco and, throughout the cruise, you will have the services of your own skipper and cook. The small ships’ tenders can also take you ashore for some wonderful, serious coastal and cliff walks or you could just wander along the shore beachcombing and examining the pretty seaside rock pools.
Oban: Your departure point will be Oban (Dunstaffnage Marina), the gateway to the Hebridean isles. After a short introduction to life on board our small ship we will set sail to our first destination. Afternoon tea (clotted cream and scones) will be served en-route.
Tobermory: One of the most picturesque towns in the Western Isles. If you wish, we can make time to visit the local distillery or visit eagles (Mull is the best place in the UK to see eagles).
Rum, the Small Isles: We will pass close to the Small Isles of Muck and Eigg to arrive at Rum the largest of the Small Isles, with an ancient volcano, where we can spend a night at Loch Scresort. Rum Island is a National Nature Reserve and famous for its herds of red deer and sheer sea cliffs which are home to nesting sea eagles. A visit to the Kinloch castle near the anchorage is definitely worthwhile.
Canna, the Small Isles: We can set sail for the scenic anchorage at Canna and its neighbouring Sanday. There are seabirds galore on the island's high sea cliffs - puffins, shags, razorbills, black guillemots, Manx shearwaters - and breeding there, in the high crags, are sea eagles. There are two lovely beaches, three churches, a tiny ruined castle and a population of less than 20! A short climb up Compass Hill gives wonderful views of Skye and our destination, the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
Castlebay, Barra: We can anchor at the village of Castlebay on the island of Barra of the Outer Hebrides. Castlebay was where much of the film Whisky Galore was made about the WW II stranding of the S.S. Politician in Eriskay Sound with her cargo of 260,00 whisky bottles! Castlebay was once an important herring curing station and near our anchorage, surrounded by water, is Kisimul Castle, the ancient seat of the MacNeils of Barra.
Berneray: We up anchor and head for the island of Berneray, sailing south from Barra. On our way we pass the spectacular uninhabited islands of Sandray, Pabbay and Mingulay. We clearly see the derelict crofts and abandoned house on Mingulay as we pass its Village Bay. If there is not too much Atlantic swell we return north after a circumnavigation of Berneray, passing under the cliffs of famous Barra Head lighthouse.
Vatersay: Anchorage off the beautiful sweeping beach and sand dunes of Vatersay.
Hirta, St Kilda: If the weather is kindly we up-anchor early and head out through the Sound of Pabbay for Hirta, St Kilda. Two nights at anchor on Hirta and a day ashore.
Monach Island: On the return from Hirta we can spend a day anchored off the Monach Island.
Lochboisdale, South Uist: If the Atlantic is being too unfriendly for St Kilda, from Barra we will head north, up the island chain, pass the Sound of Barra and the islands of Hellisay and Gighay, to our next quiet anchorage in Lochboisdale on South Uist. We can explore the incredible endless beaches and flower-rich Machair of the islands of South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist.
Loch Skipport, South Uist: We will cruise along mountainous, eastern island shores towards the remote and beautiful anchorage Loch Skipport - one of the classic Hebridean anchorages, dominated by wild Hecla, South Uist's second highest mountain (606m).
Loch Drumbuie: Just south of Oronsay island, another Inner Hebridean island, lies secluded Loch Drumbuie. A squeeze between high sided cliffs and we are in a perfectly sheltered anchorage. We can spend a tranquil night here.
Loch Spelve: A narrow entrance leads us in to the tranquil waters of Loch Spelve with its surrounding ancient oak forest. The anchorage gives us a different perspective than our previous views of the wonderful mountains of Mull. There are resident otters along the loch's shoreline.
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Length of Trip: 2 weeks