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2021 Sailing the Outer Hebrides & Orkney Islands

  • Vessel: Bessie Ellen
  • Where: Scotland
  • Duration: 10 days
  • Embark: Ullapool - 17 July 2021, 15:00
  • Disembark: Ullapool - 26 July 2021, 10:00

Discover and sail the wonders of the Orkney Islands and North Rona on tall ship Bessie Ellen.

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 while exploring the rugged beauty of North Rona and Sula Sgeir before making landfall in this beautiful island archipelago. With excellent sailing and wonderful wildlife, what could be a better way to travel.

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 birdlife 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 around 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.

As with all Bessie Ellen’s sailing holidays, your ticket price includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks and Drinks. Curtained bunk berths are int he spacious shared open saloon below decks with bedding provided – you just need to bring your own towel.

Simply click “Enquire Now” to reserve your berth for five days whilst you sort your travel plans. No booking form or deposit is required until you are ready to book!


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Bessie Ellen

Guest berths: 12 Rig: Gaff Rigged Ketch

Bessie Ellen offers quality sailing holidays on board a classic tall ship with over 100 years of history, and is now one of the last West Country trading ketches.

This ship worked through both world wars during the last era of wind-powered trade, when ships like Bessie were seen all over England. She is featured on the National Historic Ships Register, which identifies her as a historic vessel that needs to be conserved.

Now, her working life is very different, and she spends her days cruising around British and Spanish waters, offering sailing holidays. With an experienced and hospitable crew, Bessie Ellen provides her guests with a comfortable and authentic tall ship experience. Skipper Nikki occasionally nods back to Bessie’s past by loading her up with cargo for ocean passages, transporting beer from Harbour Brewery and making the most out of the emission-free transport that Bessie offers.

Sail with Bessie Ellen and Nikki, around Cornwall, the Hebrides, St. Kilda and the Canary Islands, and not only enjoy sailing aboard a tall ship, but experience unique coastlines, abundant wildlife, and excellent food. While enjoying all of this you will also be able to feel smug about having such an environmentally friendly holiday, as Nikki tries to be as green as possible in every aspect of her journeys – everything down to providing guests with toiletries that are microbead free, and so don’t harm the marine life.

Choose from weekend breaks, weeklong trips, or 10-day explorations for a truly unforgettable holiday.

More about Bessie Ellen


  • Are meals included?

    Yes - and we pride ourselves on the quality of food served!

  • Can you cater for dietary needs?

    Yes, please let us know at the time of enquiry

  • Do I need to bring bedding or towels?

    All your bedding (duvet and pillow) is provided but please bring your own towels (washing and/or swimming)

  • What language is spoken on board?

    English is the main language spoken, however on occasion we have crew onboard who are multilingual.

  • What are the sleeping arrangements?

    There are 12 comfortable berths in the former cargo hold. This is an open plan area that is also used for meals and relaxing

  • How many toilets/showers does she have?

    Bessie Ellen has two toilets/showers for guests.

  • Is there WIFI?

    No, but you will be able to reach 3/4G when you are close to land.

  • Is there age limit?

    No, but we advise over 16's for scheduled voyages as there is an open saloon sleeping arrangement. There is no limit for private charter.

  • Can I charge my phone or camera?

    Yes. We run generators every day in the morning and evening, which run the 240 volt system of normal 3 pin sockets.

  • Are there life jackets provided?


  • Are waterproofs available?

    No. Please bring your own. There are a few spare for emergencies only.

  • Do I need to be a seasoned sailor?

    Not at all. We give everyone who joins us on board the choice to do as much or as little as they like, whether the know how to or not.

  • Do I have to do watches?

    During a passage crossings you may be asked to be part of our watch rota, this is not compulsory but is definitely part of boat life that guests enjoy when at sea for long periods.

  • Will there be time to get off the boat?

    Yes on most of our trips we try and explore the areas we are sailing around each day, except for passage crossings where of course we are at sea for most of the voyage.

  • Will I be sea sick?

    Everyone reacts differently but we recommend if you are worried to take some medication 24 hours before travelling.


From: Ullapool

To: Ullapool

There is a direct bus to/fro Inverness, Bus Station to/fro Ullapool, Ferry Terminal. Services depart twice daily and operate every day. The journey takes approximately 1h 20m. Inverness is the nearest Scottish city with good train and airport links to the rest of the UK.

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