Sailing Expedition to Orkneyjar (Orkney) & North Rona

Voyage No. Start date End date Start port End port Days Price
BE170721 Sat 17 July (15.00) Mon 26 July (10.00) Ullapool Ullapool 10 £1400 Book voyage »

Please note: all of Bessie Ellen’s bookings are now handled by Nikki’s own agency, VentureSail Holidays. By clicking ‘Book voyage’ you will be taken to a VentureSail booking form in order to secure your berths.


This year, for the first time in her 115 years, Bessie Ellen will head to the seas North of Scotland to discover the wonders of Orkney and the outstanding wildlife there.  This 10 day passage-making voyage will enhance our closeness to nature and the sea, exploring the ragged beauty of North Rona   and Sula Sgeir before  making landfall in these beautiful island archipelago.  With excellent sailing and wonderful wildlife, what could be a better way to travel.

Voyage Description

Starting from Ullapool, after an induction from the ships’ crew, you will help set the sails as we head out to sea, getting used to the sails and rigging before anchoring in the early evening at Tanera More, the largest island of the Summer Isles.  This small island, once an important herring port was home to Frank Fraser Darling who experienced remote living during the war that led to his acclaimed book ‘Island life’.  This quiet bay is plentiful in bird life while ashore the flora is in abundance and to walk along the shore in the heather looking out towards Achiltibuie and the rounded peak of Suilven beyond is a dream.


The following day, our Captain will organise the voyage crew into ‘watches’ as we alter course up the coast towards Stornoway for a wee stopover before the leg out to North Rona.  This amazing island along with Sula Sgeir lying to the west,  is too good to pass by for  birdlife. this stunning rock outcrop and Gannetry is featured in numerous documentaries about the annual Guga harvest by the Men of Ness.  Please note:  Landing on here is extremely difficult and may only be attempted in the most settled of weathers.


From here, before night falls, we set out for Orkney  a decent weather forecast is integral to the journey round Cape Wrath  the clue is in the name, strong tides and winds can whip up a nasty sea making a passage by boat extremely uncomfortable.  Allowing 24 hours for the passage including a night sail, should see us arriving in Stromness during the following afternoon.  Should the weather not be in our favour, Scotland  and the Outer Hebrides encompass a multitude of islands, beaches and lochs  each with their own unique history and character just waiting for you to explore.

On arriving in Stromness, we begin our wandering around the island group, feeling our way  gently through the tides to discover the land the Norsemen. left behind.  The vagaries of the weather will determine the anchorages and islands that we visit rather than a set itinerary.

Highlights will include

  • Old Man of Hoy (if he’s in)
  • Ring of Brodgar (Neolithic stone circle)
  • Skara Brae Neolithic village
  • Scapa Flow
  • North Ronaldsay Sheep Wall
  • Plenty of the smaller islands


Having immersed ourselves in prehistory and the solitude of these islands, departure will be imminent as the ship heads towards home.  With time in hand, a few nights in remote lochs of Lewis will provide a stunning finale to our Northern adventure.



The freedom of travelling by sea allows one to see plenty of species of our natural world and of course, out at sea, dolphins, whales and seabirds are in their natural habitat.  Ashore, however,  you may be lucky to see at least four of Scotlands big “5”

  • Golden eagle
  • Red deer
  • Otter
  • Harbour seal

It is unlikely that we will see a red squirrel but we hope that you will also not escape the magic of the ocean and get to see at least two of the following:

  • Common Atlantic dolphin
  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Minke whale
  • Orca or Killer whale
  • Atlantic grey seal
  • Humpback whale (rare)


Seabirds abound here, in fact they are in abundance at this time of year throughout the western isles.  No doubt you will see:

  • Fulmar
  • Kittiwake
  • Puffin
  • Cormorant
  • White-tailed eagle
  • Guillemot
  • Great skua
  • Razorbill
  • Shearwater
  • Oystercatcher
  • Petrel (leaches are rare)

Numerous summer land birds visit the islands and the air is full of birdsong.  One voyage, on Barra/Vattersay alone, 69 species were documented over a 2 hour period.


So, plenty to see, keep your eyes open, binoculars handy and camera at the ready for that once in a lifetime money shot.




Useful Information

How to get there:

By Rail:Inverness to Ullapool 1hr 20 mins

Fly: To Inverness From many UK airports as well as continental flights to Europe and Scandinavia.

There is parking space in Oban if you arrive by car.

Please note that you will need to arrange your own travel insurance, which covers you for the duration of your voyage. We recommend Topsail Insurance, which offers single policies from about £20.

Start Location:

End Location:

Where to Stay:

There are a number of B&B’s as well as a small handful of hotels in the area.

Read our Frequently Asked Questions for answers to a few common enquiries that we receive.