At the dawn of a new decade, we cannot help but look forward to lighter evenings, fairer weather, longer passages and a whole year of opportunities to clock up our sailing miles.
Being so far north, the Hebrides enjoy the longest days in the summer months and freedom from light pollution on the darkest nights, providing an astronomical feast for the eyes with the most spectacular star-gazing and regular appearances from the Northern Lights. Our sailing schedule offers a wealth of opportunity to explore Scotland’s Western Isles, even venturing to the mysterious St Kilda, a world heritage site, nature reserve and outpost for the very edge of the world.
The sensational Scottish islands (all 750 of them!) are considered by many to be the jewel in the crown of Scotland’s immense coastline, with remote islets, secluded sea lochs and sheltered coves often entirely inaccessible by land. It certainly takes time and effort to reach these sparkling seascapes, but intrepid adventurers are rewarded for their efforts with an expanse of vivid azure and the whitest sand that really must be seen to be believed.
Binoculars are essential here; the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and the cold waters of Scotland’s staggering mountains create an incredible marine microclimate brimming with plankton, laying rich foundations for a spectacular food chain. Resident orca, curious dolphin pods, friendly puffins, plunging gannets, basking sharks, humpback whales and even golden eagles make for the sea safari of a lifetime. Local seals are so familiar that islanders give them names; sailors have been known to dive in and join them!
Closer to land, wildlife spotters might catch sight of red deer, wild goats and ponies, rare flora, fauna and butterflies; we could go on for some time. A feast for the eyes awaits, and for the table too, as hungry sailors can refuel with fresh langoustines, scallops and crab. The catch, as some see it, is Scotland’s infamous midge population – but happily, they are very unlikely to join you aboard your vessel.
Often racing through four seasons in a day, the Western Isles may not be famed for consistently fair weather but reliably provide outstanding sailing conditions – and the magical light upon tranquil Hebridean waters when storms pass is a sight to behold. Atlantic gales can roll in year-round, but the lee of Scotland’s beautiful island chains and volcanic peaks provide protected waters and sheltered anchorages from almost all wind directions. Our crews know the secret spots and safe havens for reducing sail and regrouping – and come rain or shine, you will be immersed in the most spellbinding landscape with plenty to see.
On Dry Land
Stepping ashore, each enchanting island is steeped in individual history, culture, identity and charm. There are endless trekking opportunities for restless sea legs, climbing to the highest peaks or beachcombing on deserted powdery stretches of coastline. Inhabited islands offer colourful fishing ports, vibrant galleries, cafes, museums and shops, with culinary delights ranging from the world’s greatest black puddings to the very finest of fine dining. Uninhabited islands offer unparalleled nature reserves – and peace like nowhere else in the world.
After a busy day exploring the islands and their literary links (George Orwell completed 1984 on Jura), centuries-old distilleries (Islay alone is home to eight, creating some of the finest whiskies in the world) and dramatic rock formations (the mystical Fingal’s Cave inspired Mendelssohn’s overture), you can retreat to your cabin and compare notes with your shipmates; no two experiences of the Hebrides are ever the same.
The Queen is widely known to have adored her annual family holidays in the Western Isles aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia – so much so that she wept at the ship’s decommissioning. We understand entirely. These islands are a world away from hurried modern living; their beauty is universally moving and will forever hold a special place in the hearts of visitors.
Stop dreaming and start planning!