Adventures in the Hebridean Sea- St Kilda, Barra and the Uists
|Voyage No.||Start date||End date||Start port||End port||Days||Price|
|BE210821||Sat Sat 21 August (15.00)||Mon 30 August (10.00)||Oban, North Pier||Oban, North Pier||10||£1400||Book voyage »|
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Our sea around the west coast of Scotland offers some of the most stunning cruising grounds in the world and our departure from Oban opens up a world of spectacular sailing and adventures whatever the weather.
We like to run each voyage as a “hands on” adventure, taking you where the wind blows making the best of the forecasts, exploring the many sea areas of islands and lochs around the Western Isles. With some of the most inspiring landscape in the world there is a lot to explore and we are never short of options what ever the weather. With this in mind, and for you to enjoy the full experience, we do not run to specific itineraries.
Lying 40 nautical miles off the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda can be notoriously difficult to reach. Atlantic swells and contrary winds mean that it is not always possible to make the passage, plus we know that anchoring and landing can be tricky and at times uncomfortable. However, when the forecasts are good, the islands are as spectacular as any and worth the wait to get there.
Late summer and a last run to the infamous St Kilda. Join me on this working passage under sail to the most remote island in the British Isles.
The trick of the journey is to get the wind and the weather just right to allow time to sail there and of course back again plus a calm few days to get ashore and explore the island.
On leaving Oban via the Sound of Mull, the Northern route takes us on and out to the more remote Hebridean Isles. Rhum, by far the largest island, possesses a cluster of formidable volcanic peaks, Askival (Ash Mountain) the highest peak dominates the landscape, and the name itself tells of the Viking settlers here.
Canna, in many ways is the prettiest of the isles, impressive high basalt cliffs teem with birds, puffin, guillemots and razorbills favour the western side, while high above, sea eagles glide effortlessly on air currents. The sheltered harbour offers a perfect afternoon stop-off for a good walk with plenty of points of interest. Canna house, the home of John Lorne Campbell and his wife Margeret Fay Shaw who spent a lifetime collecting songs and story form the Gallic speaking islanders- has an enchanted garden and is open to wander peacefully under the trees admiring the islanders vegetable garden. For those hardy folk, just beyond the bridge over to Sanday, a perfect white sand beach welcomes you to kick off your shoes for a paddle or swim. A perfect end to a perfect day
Westward lie the Outer Hebrides, remote and utterly enchanting. The land here features the oldest rock in the world and is made up of hundreds of islands, both small and large, inhabited and uninhabited. The east side of the islands is made up of islets and sea lochs running deep inland, while out west where the Atlantic pounds the shore, untouched white sand beaches stretch for miles and crystal clear waters just waiting to be explored by you!
The passage to St Kilda takes you through the Leverburgh channel, where strong tidal currents whip the ship through the rocky pass at the rate of knots. Once though, we are at the edge of the wide Atlantic Ocean, the swell lifts the ship and the with wind in our sails we start the 45nm passage out to the isles of St Kilda.
Escorted by a company of gannets who’s aeronautical acrobats seem to taunt the waves, sailing across the sea one feels a certain amount of excitement and in trepidation as the lookouts scan horizons for the first glimpse of the island. Cloud formations gather, depicting the presence of land, and suddenly like a fortress the island of Hirta rises up out of the blue. On the approaches, the seas and air abounds with life, dolphins escort us, a whale blows not so far off and the gannets wheel and squawk, in thick clouds above.
Paradise beckons, the turquoise waters of the anchorage surrounded by the emerald green of Dun could be any remote island in the world. The peace is startling. Once ashore the time is yours to explore, from village bay take the steep hill to the top of the highest cliffs in the UK, then, turn to the west pass the radar station often shrouded in the mist, before descending by the southern rocks before returning to the village. The stories of St Kilda are unique and none more so than the group of islanders who lived there.
Leaving Hirta behind, one has to make a tour of Boreray and the Stacs ‘Lee and Armin’. Stac Lee is the largest gannet colony in Europe and the noise and smell is powerful. A few sheep remain on Boreray but landing can only be done if incredibly calm. However, the experience is amazing and ever so slightly out of this world.
Returning home, I would love to take you down the outside of the Hebrides, on the western shores past the Monachs where the song of the seal carries across the flat sand and a fantastic lighthouse stands high and proud, warning sailors of the impending reef. Now deserted for many years, the place has a magical eerie feel but worth a short visit. Further still, our return to the Minch passes in the very south of the outer Hebrides between Barra head or Berneray and Mingulay where once again, a short stop here is probably one of the best experiences ever, where seals laze upon white sand and basking sharks gently tack back and forth grazing on the rich plankton. High upon the cliffs, the world of the fulmar opens up before us. Wandering endless ocean, these seabirds come home to roost on the dark cliffs here and from the top it is a perfect spot to catch the wondrous flying skills of this beautiful bird.
Barra and Vatersay provide a good night anchorage before heading back across the Minch towards Coll. The voyage across will certainly produce some big whales.
In every corner of every island there are hidden anchorages full of history and beauty, too many to cover, but come and experience for yourself the wonders of our rich coastlines.
Wildlife is guaranteed at this time of year and not a week passes without seeing at least 3 of the big 5. Red Deer, Otter, Seal, Golden Eagle and of course the Red Squirrel.
The Treshnish Isles will provide us with seals and eagles fly close by. Lunga is designated a SSSI for its abundant plant life. Many of the rare and endangered plants are native to the island.
Grey seals inhabit the waters , while birdlife includes storm petrels, kittiwakes, puffins and razorbills. It is possible to stand amongst the puffin burrows whilst watching the toing and froing of the parent birds as they feed their young with mouths full of eels.
Whales and dolphins are often seen out to theNorth of Colonsay and Canna, mostly Minke but Orca have been known to visit these waters.
How to get there:
By Rail: Queen Street Station, Glasgow. Train links from all over UK. Glasgow – Oban runs 4 scheduled trains a day in summer.
Fly: From Bristol, London Gatwick, Stanstead, Luton, BirminghamUnited Kingdom Belfast City Cardiff East Midland Exeter Leeds Bradford Manchester Norwich and Southampton.
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.
Where to Stay:
Oban has many hotels and B&B .
McCaigs Folly, Oban
Oban whisky distillery
Lunch at the Seafood Bar for the best shellfish and sandwiches.
Walk Kerrera to stretch your legs.
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