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Sailing in search of the Orca Whale

  • Vessel: Bessie Ellen
  • Where: Scotland
  • Duration: 7 days
  • Embark: Oban - 26 June 2021, 15:00
  • Disembark: Ullapool - 2 July 2021, 10:00

Sail with Bessie Ellen as she makes her way from Oban to Ullapool along the West coast of Scotland while searching for the infamous Orca Whale

From Oban to Ullapool this exciting new voyage takes us on a journey discovering our wild coast in search of the Orca Whale (Killer Whale) that live here. It is well documented that one whale, known as John Coe, and his companion Aquarius, live and feed in the waters of the Minch.  These two Orca make up a pod known as the Scottish West Coast Community of 4 pairs (m&f) and their territorial range is huge, from Western Ireland to Stornoway.

Your voyage begins in the charming highland town of Oban from where we set out for a new adventure for Bessie Ellen. Heading out to the Sound of Mull, the ship’s crew will delight in teaching you the elemental skills necessary to sail the ship, names of lines and their jobs alongside a trick at the wheel and navigation.

Our first night will be in a quiet Loch at the western end of the Sound, Drom Buidhe, loch of the golden shores, a stunning and peaceful anchorage surrounded by hills rising steeply from the water’s edge – perfect for eagle and otter. The following morning we head out towards Canna and the Minch – a protected sea between the Inner and Outer Hebrides well known for whale sightings of both Minke and Orca. From Canna, the Outer Isles of Uist and Harris beckon with stunningly remote anchorages, perfect for a walk ashore to take in the views across this watery landscape. Wander through the remains of scattered black houses, providing a glimpse into the past of clan life before the clearances, now a lonely and remote coast with few inhabitants other than fish farms.

Beyond lie the Shiants, a small island group of basalt providing cliffs of epic proportions. It is so quiet and peaceful here with the wildlife and birdlife seeming to have no fear of man, especially the skua who have a nasty habit of diving at you to protect their nests!  Seals moan their mournful song from the caves over on Eilean Mhuire and the puffins on Garbh Eilean flock in from the surrounding waters.  A small bothy lies by the spring and it is well worth the walk to the ancient settlement that overlooks the sea to Skye. On a good day, the silver-grey sea makes whale spotting easy as smooth black hides break the silky waters.

It is from Shiant that we start to look in earnest for the Orca as the NW point of Skye is very much John Coe’s territory. Featuring the large dorsal fin, identifying the whale is anything but easy unless we have a good lookout, especially in choppy waters.

We head north up towards Stornaway before heading east towards the mainland and the well known Summer Isles.

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, Norway, and Demark, you’ll not only enjoy sailing aboard a tall ship, but experience unique coastlines, abundant wildlife, and excellent food, all sourced locally and prepared on board.

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: Oban

To: Ullapool



Head for Queen Street Station, Glasgow with train links from all over UK. Glasgow – Oban then runs 4 scheduled trains a day in the summer.


There is parking space in Oban if you arrive by car. Secure parking can be found at Stoddarts of Oban. Ring Sally on 01631 564176 to reserve your space or take your chances and find parking in a residential part of town.


There is a direct bus to Inverness, Bus Station station from 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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