Month: July 2023

The Best Places to See Puffins in Scotland

Bessie Leg 1 & 4 Puffins Lundy

If you’re a nature lover wishing to see one of Scotland’s most adorable seabirds, the puffin, there’s no better way than on an adventure sailing holiday to the Hebrides. The craggy coastline and secluded islands of the Hebrides make it one of the best places to see puffins in Scotland. These remote islands provide ideal nesting sites for these colourful and intriguing birds. Join us as we set sail to three spectacular puffin-watching locations: the Treshnish Isles, St Kilda, and the Shiant Isles.

Puffins, sometimes known as “clowns of the sea,” or “sea parrots” are mesmerising seabirds with vivid orange beaks, dramatic black and white plumage, and a funny waddling stride. Puffins are well-adapted to a life on the water, as their wings are designed for underwater propulsion, allowing them to be excellent divers. They primarily feed on small fish, such as sand eels and herring. Breeding colonies are a significant part of puffin life. They nest in burrows or rocky crevices on cliffs and islands, where they lay a single egg. Both parents take turns incubating the egg and caring for the chick after it hatches. Puffins are monogamous and often return to the same nesting site year after year, forming strong bonds with their partners. Whilst puffins can be spotted all over the world in off the beaten track locations, the best places to see puffins in Scotland are truly remote, and often only accessible by boat! 

When is the best time to see puffins in Scotland?

Plan your trip during the breeding season, from late April to early August, to experience the magic of puffins engaging in courtship displays, caring for their chicks, and thriving in their coastal colonies.

The Treshnish Isles

The Treshnish Isles are a series of small islands off the western shore of the Isle of Mull in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Lunga, Staffa, Bac Mr, and Dutchman’s Cap are the main islands in this archipelago. Highly regarded as one of the best places to see puffins in Scotland, the largest of the Treshnish Isles, Lunga, is famous for its thriving puffin colony. As you sail towards Lunga, you’ll be welcomed by stunning views of puffins sitting on cliff ledges, performing courtship dances, and plunging into the water to grab fish for their brood. The island provides ideal nesting conditions for these birds, with its rocky terrain and abundance of burrows. Visitors can get quite close to the puffins with careful approach, providing amazing chances for observation and photography.

The St Kilda archipelago

Our sailing expeditions to Scotland often venture to the ‘islands at the edge of the world’, St Kilda.  This UNESCO World Heritage site consists of four main islands: Hirta (the largest and only inhabited island), Dun, Soay, and Boreray. Sailing to St Kilda is an adventure in itself, as it requires crossing 42 miles of the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. However, the effort is rewarded with an unforgettable encounter with one of the most significant seabird colonies in the world. Among the millions of seabirds that inhabit the islands, the puffin population stands out as one of the most iconic. Puffins find their nesting spots on the steep cliffs of St Kilda, creating a stunning spectacle as they come and go with fish to feed their chicks. The isolation of St Kilda has allowed its wildlife, including the puffins, to thrive undisturbed.

The Shiant Isles

The Shiant Isles, also known as the “Enchanted Isles,” lie in the Minch, a strait that separates the Inner and Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The Shiant Isles are home to a diverse range of seabirds, with puffins being one of the major attractions. These islands are a vital nesting site for the puffins, providing an ideal habitat for breeding and raising their young. Only accessible by boat, whilst being fairly close to the mainland, the Shiant Isles are one of the best places to see puffins in Scotland off the beaten track! As you approach the Shiants on your sailing vessel, you’ll be welcomed by the raucous calls of seabirds filling the air. The cliffs of the Shiants are dotted with puffins, offering an incredible opportunity to observe and photograph these charming birds up close.

Set sail on a puffin spotting adventure

All our sailing expeditions to Scotland provide a gateway to some of the most remarkable places to see puffins in Scotland. From the Treshnish Isles’ abundant wildlife to the remote splendour of St Kilda and the enchanting Shiant Isles, each destination promises an extraordinary encounter with these lovable seabirds amidst breathtaking natural surroundings. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or simply a nature lover, our sailing adventures offer an unparalleled opportunity to witness the comical charm of puffins in their natural habitats.

Sustainable Sailing, Northern Lights & Whale Watching in Norway

Noorderlicht Whale Watching

Experience the magical world of Northern lights and whale watching in Norway on a sustainable adventure holiday by boat. Immerse yourself in nature as you journey through the Norwegian fjords for a truly transformative experience. There is no sailing experience needed to jump aboard – just a taste for adventure! 


The Northern Lights 

The crown jewel of the Arctic sky, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, add a touch of otherworldly beauty to our Norwegian sailing holidays. Visiting during the winter months means experiencing the Arctic phenomenon of the polar night, with an even greater chance of a Northern Lights display. As darkness falls, this celestial spectacle unfolds, painting the sky with vibrant colours. Many of our sailing holidays in Norway begin in Tromsø, known as the “Gateway to the Arctic”. A prime location for Northern Lights sightings, its proximity to the auroral oval, a region where the lights are most frequently visible, increases the chances of witnessing this feat of nature. 

Whale Watching in Norway 

Norway’s Arctic waters are home to an array of whale species. While embarking on a sustainable sailing holiday, you’ll have the opportunity to encounter these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Many of our sailing and whale watching in Norway holidays take in Skjervøy, situated along the coast. This area is renowned for its herring and plankton populations, with these abundant food sources attracting a wide variety of whales, from humpback whales to orcas. 

Spend days at sea with the experienced crew, who know all the best spots for whale watching in Norway. Keep your binoculars at the ready to witness these powerful mammals as they breach and feed in their natural habitat, undisturbed by our small sailing vessels.

Sustainable Sailing in Norway

But it’s not just the extraordinary natural phenomena that make our Norwegian sailing holidays remarkable. Our fleet of sailing vessels range from historic tall ships to modern expedition yachts. Each vessel operates under sail wherever possible ensuring minimal impact on the local environment. By joining a sailing experience you are also choosing a more sustainable way to experience this increasingly fragile destination.

All our adventures are fully crewed, with all meals included in your ticket price. Throughout each voyage guests can actively participate in sailing, whether it’s assisting with the rigging or learning celestial navigation techniques. Or you can simply sit back and enjoy the marvellous views on deck. Our voyages to Northern Norway are perfect for solo travellers, couples, or groups of friends, with the option to book a berth, cabin or even charter a vessel to your needs.

Set sail on your Northern Lights and whale watching adventure

The History of the Brigantine

Florette sailing

We’re all familiar with the infamous pirate names of Captain Hook, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Long John Silver and the sea-faring tales from wooden pirate ships, complete with cannons, flying the skull and crossbones at the top of the mast.

While we give thought to the storylines of their adventures, the pirate ship itself is little more than a prop. In reality, pirates would have had their lives shaped by the ship on which they lived, their days governed by the way she performed in heavy seas; their comfort determined by the layout of the interior, and the storage space for supplies. Such pirates have often sailed on a brigantine; a large, sail-powered vessel used in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. This versatile sailing boat had many purposes in addition to piracy, such as trade, military operations and international exploration.

The Origin of the Brigantine

The origin of the brigantine is unclear, but it likely evolved from earlier medieval vessels such as galleons and caravels. Its design hinges upon increased speed and manoeuvrability, making it well-suited for both long voyages and combat operations. The brigantine was the top choice for merchants due to its speed, provided by an abundance of sail area spread over two-masts. The foremast supports a full square-rig and the mainmast has a rig with a gaff sail, square topsails and topgallant sails. In other words, around 2,600 sq. ft of sail area powered around 60-80 ft of hull, giving a top speed of around 8.2 knots – fast for a sailing ship of this size! It was able to sail with a skeleton crew of 12, which left plenty of space for cargo or treasure. Larger boats had room to sleep up to 125, essential for manning cannons and guns if needed for military operations.

The military history of the Brigantine stretches back to the American War of Independence in 1783. They were privateers – essentially as pirate ships operating under the orders of a state or sovereign. They preyed on enemy merchant ships, disrupting trade routes in much the same way as independent, lawless pirates we think of today. After the war, many of these former privateers were converted to being merchant ships themselves. This allowed them to use their inherent speed and manoeuvrability to transport goods and people around the world.

The brigantine was popular among explorers, with its agile nature perfect for navigating across oceans and discovering countries during the Age of Exploration. The brigantine was well-suited to navigating through narrow waterways and exploring rugged, undulating coastlines. Pioneers who used brigantines included Christopher Columbus, who sailed the Pinta on his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. Francis Drake also sailed a small brigantine called The Elizabeth during his circumnavigation of the world in the 16th century.

The evolution of the Brigantine

Over time, the brigantine design evolved, and by the mid-18th century, there was a split in nomenclature. A newly shortened term “brig”, referred to a smaller, two-masted ship with square-rigged sails on both masts, rather than just the fore-mast. Eye of the Wind is one such boat, built in 1911 as a schooner, now rigged as a brig with square sails on both masts. Brigs became popular among traders and privateers as they were able to operate with a smaller crew than a brigantine. Both boats co-existed for another century or so before ultimately being replaced by both schooners, and later on, steam ships.

By the late 19th century, brigantines were seen as an old fashioned way of sailing, and fell out of use commercially. However, the last few original brigantines were still being built in the early 20th century. Replicas have been built since then – many of which are still in use as charter boats today. One such brigantine is the beautiful Florette. Built in Italy in 1921 to serve as a cargo ship, Florette is now part of the VentureSail fleet, offering sailing holidays from the Med to the Caribbean. The history of brigantine Florette is fascinating, with active service in WW2, and adventures all over the globe. As the last originally built Mediterranean brigantine still sailing today, Florette is a true piece of maritime history.

Sailing on these historical vessels is more than just a holiday; it is an opportunity to embrace the authenticity of a bygone era. As you step aboard, you become part of a living legacy, connecting with the spirit of seafaring that has endured for centuries. Book your voyage and embark on an extraordinary journey through time – no swashbuckling or pillaging experience required!

Celebrate 120years of Sailing History with Bessie Ellen

Bessie Ellen 120th Tour White Logo

Step aboard the magnificent Bessie Ellen and embark on a remarkable journey through time as she celebrates 120 years of heritage sailing. Built in 1904 and lovingly restored, Bessie Ellen stands as a living testament to her maritime history, overflowing with stories from the past.

In her 2024 season, she will set sail around the British Isles, unveiling the mesmerising landscapes and seafaring heritage of the United Kingdom. Join her on one of her celebratory voyages as you immerse yourself in a hands-on sailing experience that will transport you back to a bygone era.

BESSIE ELLEN’S Round Britain Tour Schedule

Legs of the Journey

Spanning fourteen legs, Bessie Ellen’s voyage will showcase the coasts of Cornwall, the rugged shores of Wales and Scotland, the mystical Orkney Islands, and the East Coast. Each leg of the journey offers a unique opportunity to delve into the rich heritage of traditional sailing, exploring the history behind Bessie Ellen and her seafaring ancestors.

All the different legs promise an immersive experience where you can actively participate in sailing the ship. Feel the thrill of taking the helm, and learn the art of hoisting the sails through traditional rope work. As you engage in the fascinating practice of celestial navigation, you will connect with the age-old methods of guiding a ship by the stars. It’s an incredible chance to embrace the seafaring traditions of the past and acquire skills that have been passed down through generations.

Bessie Ellen’s Heritage Sailing History

To truly appreciate the significance of Bessie Ellen’s 120-year celebrations, it is essential to understand her remarkable heritage. Originally built in Plymouth in 1904, this west-country trading ketch has quite literally witnessed the changing tides of history. She began her seafaring life as a cargo ship, navigating treacherous waters and transporting goods across Ireland, Wales and the West Counties. Over the years, she has weathered storms, explored distant shores, and forged a deep connection with the maritime world.

In more recent years, she has been restored with meticulous attention by her current owner and skipper Nikki. Her wooden decks, towering masts, and traditional rigging transport you to a time when sail ruled the seas. The stories etched into her timbers whisper of daring adventures, incredible discoveries, and the relentless spirit of exploration.

Read about the history of the west country trading ketch

Preserving our Sailing History

Preserving historic vessels like Bessie Ellen is vital to our seafaring maritime heritage. These traditional wooden vessels serve as tangible links to our maritime past, allowing us to connect with the traditions, skills, and stories of those who sailed before us. They embody a bygone era when sailing was at the forefront of exploration and trade, reminding us of the bravery and resilience of our seafaring ancestors.

Maintaining historic vessels ensures that future generations can experience the magic of sailing on these iconic ships. By keeping them in sailing condition, we are providing opportunities for people to engage in hands-on experiences, learning traditional skills, and immersing themselves in the rich history of seafaring.

Preserving historic vessels encourages the ongoing development of traditional shipbuilding and restoration skills. The knowledge and craftsmanship required to maintain these vessels are passed down through generations, ensuring that invaluable skills are not lost to time. These skills, rooted in centuries of seafaring expertise, contribute to the broader maritime industry and support a thriving ecosystem of maritime trades.

By joining Bessie Ellen’s 120-year celebrations, you are becoming a part of this living history. You will have the opportunity to converse with experienced crew members who possess a wealth of knowledge about the ship’s heritage. Listen to their tales of life at sea and absorb their passion for preserving the art of traditional sailing.

Bessie Ellen’s 120-year celebrations offer an opportunity to step into the world of maritime heritage. As you sail around the British Isles, you will be enveloped in the stories and seafaring traditions that have already shaped Bessie Ellen’s journey. Feel the wind in your hair, embrace the spirit of exploration, and create your own memories aboard this magnificent vessel. Celebrate her remarkable journey as she continues to sail into the future, preserving the legacy of heritage sailing for generations to come.

Sailing Across the Atlantic Ocean

Guests hoisting sails on Florette

Have you ever dreamt about sailing across the Atlantic Ocean?

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean is a feat reserved for the boldest of travellers seeking the ultimate adventure. For those yearning to experience life on a traditional sailing boat and immerse themselves in the wonders of the natural world, a hands-on, ocean-going sailing adventure could offer the perfect opportunity. 

In this blog post, we will talk about the unique experience of sailing the Atlantic Ocean and the profound connection it gives us to the natural world. 

A Voyage of Hands-On Adventure

From the traditionally rigged to the classic modern yacht, every Autumn a handful of our fleet make the journey across the Atlantic to spend their winter season in the sunshine islands of the Caribbean. While prior experience on the water is recommended, our professional and experienced crews are on hand to quite literally, show you the ropes. As a guest, you become an integral part of the crew, actively participating in hoisting sails, taking the helm, and engaging in all aspects of sailing a boat. The rhythmic motion of the ship’s hull, the vast expanse of the sea, and the gentle creaking of the rigging create a relaxing and adventurous experience.

Sailing by the Stars

As we leave land in the distant horizon, the night reveals the clearest of skies, untouched by man-made light pollution. This unique experience allows guests to watch a celestial spectacle that city-dwellers seldom experience and practice their hand at plotting and navigating the route by the stars. While all our vessels are fitted with modern GPS equipment, there are opportunities to partake in celestial navigation, an age-old skill that utilises the stars to plot positions and guide routes. Embracing this ancestral practice connects us with our rich maritime history and instills a sense of awe and wonder. Cornish lugger Grayhound is particularly interested in maintaining this age-old knowledge and is aiming to cross the whole Atlantic using celestial navigation for as much of the journey as possible!

Show prices in Euro


Connection to the Natural World

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean gives guests a unique opportunity to connect with the ever-changing beauty of the natural world. Surrounded by the vastness of the ocean, finding solace and tranquility, away from the demands of the modern world. Our offshore sailing holidays offer the chance to unplug and reconnect with yourself and the environment. Bask in the wonders of the inky night sky, work together to hoist the sails and harness the power of the wind as you watch for whales, dolphins and flying fish on the horizon. This ocean-going escape from the daily grind rejuvenates the soul and nourishes the spirit with the healing power of vitamin-Sea.

Embracing the Elements

We can’t guarantee sunshine but we can guarantee variety! An ocean-going adventure will offer the full spectrum of the elements. From oily seas and gentle breeze, to wave-breaking trade winds filling the sails and propelling you along the waves. Our crews are adept in manoeuvres through wind, rain, and sun, using weather radar technology to chart the safest and most efficient route. Each day brings new surprises, allowing guests to develop resilience, adaptability, and a deep appreciation for the natural world and its elements. All our offshore sailing voyages allow for buffer days to adjust the itinerary to suit the weather as needed. 

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean

Taking part in an offshore sailing adventure across the Atlantic Ocean is a truly transformative experience that you will never forget. It’s that bucket list experience that combines the thrill of adventure, sustainable travel, celestial navigation, and a profound connection to the natural world. As you immerse yourself in this unique sailing journey, you will make lasting memories, gain newfound skills, and develop a deep appreciation for the vastness and majesty of our oceans. So hoist the sails, chart your course, and set off on an extraordinary voyage reminiscent of the pirates of the Caribbean, guided by the winds and the stars.

What boats can take me across the Atlantic?

If you’re looking for a traditionally rigged vessel where you become part of the crew, letting the stars guide your route, Cornish lugger Grayhound or tall ship Blue Clipper are the boats for you! Eye of the Wind has been making the crossing for many years so she fills up really quickly. If you’re interested in going on the waiting list for next year, give us a call in the office!

If you want a little more comfort and luxury, our modern classics Chronos and Rhea sail every Autumn from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. They offer a modern winch system and en-suite cabins but you’re still very much included in running all aspects of the boat.

Any questions? Feel free to get in touch with our friendly team, who are on hand to answer all your questions, big or small, about our mile building adventures. You can contact the office by phone on +44(0)1872 487288, or drop us an email at [email protected]. We look forward to welcoming you on board!