Our private charter was a great example of a tailor-made, perfect Hebridean adventure holiday. Hebrides Cruises can provide everything from delicious taste experiences through fresh self-caught seafood, hand-dived scallops and local single-malt tastings and fantastic hiking around scenic mountain lakes to close-up wildlife encounters. Our private charter guests had a truly memorable experience!
Our guests arrived and were treated to the famous scones cooked by Granny Mary and Steve’s beautiful canapés. After not too long we were steaming towards the Sound of Mull. Passing Lismore Lighthouse, Skipper Rob spotted a white-tailed eagle chasing a young herring gull. What a dramatic introduction to Hebridean wildlife! It was soon followed by another sighting of a white-tailed eagle on Grey Isle off Craignure on Mull. We continued up the Sound of Mull and into Tobermory Bay with a beautiful display of all the weathers Scotland can offer – rain, and in between, glorious light shining through the clouds onto green hillsides. In Tobermory the guests enjoyed fresh local langoustines as a starter for dinner.
In the morning the guests, who were all whisky enthusiasts from Germany, visited Tobermory Distillery with a private tour from a local expert. Tobermory is a small distillery where everything is still done manually, so it is truly a genuine insight into the world of whisky. Once our guests were back on board we headed out west and south to the small Island of Gometra. On the way we spotted a small Minke whale feeding just at the entrance to the Sound of Mull. Skipper Rob took this as an indication that there was probably mackerel beneath us. A few lines were soon dropped into the sea and the first mackerel of the trip were caught. We were lucky to have fantastic sunshine and no wind, so all of our guests were basking in t-shirts on deck and helped wildlife guide Vivi in spotting porpoises displaying very strange behavior for them – leaping full body out of the water! Soon we were at our anchorage and the guests went ashore on Gometra to greet the locals – the red deer! That evening we had more seafood – the mackerel caught earlier as sashimi (served raw with wasabi and soy sauce) and sea bass with a vanilla butter vinaigrette.
Rob had his mind set on Canna, one of the beautiful “ Small Isles”. We looked for wildlife on our way and spotted plenty of diving gannets, but no cetaceans. Steaming into Canna we went past a skerry which is a grey seal haul out. Many heads popped up as we went past – seals always seem as curious of you as you are of them. The guests and Vivi went ashore to explore the ruined castle, the small shops and to walk up Compass Hill for fantastic views of Canna and neighboring Sanday and Rum. Back on board, we enjoyed more local delights – Inverlussa mussels and venison sausages.
Our next destination was Carbost with a visit to Talisker Distillery on Skye. We hopped over to Skye spotting more harbour porpoises on the way (but where were all the dolphins!?). Steaming into Loch Bracadale we were surrounded by gannets in large numbers, all diving for fish in dramatic head first plunges from great heights. The guests went to the distillery and later both crew and guests went to the famous pub, Ullinish Country Lodge, for a pint and great live music (with some of the guests even being dragged into the dancing by the locals!). Back on board we got the best of what the sea can offer – hand-dived scallops dived by Rob that same morning and cleaned by the guests themselves.
That morning, as two of the guests were fishing, they had the company of two curious common seals, maybe hoping for an easy breakfast! Our next destination was Loch Scavaig at the foothills of the Skye Cuillins. En route, Vivi and Florentina were standing on deck with Vivi teaching gull identification, when Florentina suddenly exclaimed “That’s not a gull!” And she couldn’t have been more right! A white-tailed eagle came flying right towards us and flew past at very close proximity while Vivi frantically scrambled for her camera. These rare raptors are the biggest bird in the UK – a very impressive sight! We stopped for lunch and some walking in Loch Scavaig. Two of the guests even completed the formidable task of running around nearby freshwater Loch Coruisk in less than 2 hours! The dinghy ride from and to the boat was made extra special by all the curious common seals. While enjoying lunch we even spotted some of them doing fantastic jumps out of the water. Our anchorage for the evening was Inverie on the very isolated peninsula of Knoydart (with more harbour porpoises spotted on the way). The guests wanted to show their appreciation to the Crew by inviting everyone for dinner (Steve was delighted to have a night off!) in the famous restaurant and pub, The Forge, the most isolated pub on mainland UK! The Cullen Skink was everyone’s favourite.
That morning the guests braved the cold conditions by jumping in the sea which was probably no more than 12 degrees! We left Loch Nevis in a thick fog that didn’t clear until we steamed past Mallaig. As soon as visibility improved Vivi was out on deck to try to spot whales and dolphins as this area is famous for its whales. Soon enough there was gannets diving in big numbers, a great sign! Anticipation was growing…and then THERE was a fin! Rob quickly altered course and we all enjoyed great views of a big Minke whale feeding close to the boat. As quickly as the activity had started it stopped and the Minke went off in search for more fish elsewhere. We steamed into the Sound of Mull and up into Loch Sunart to anchor at Glenmore Bay. The guests went ashore to visit Glenbeg Distillery and Nadurra Nature Centre. Back on board we got the best surprise – Rob had dived for more scallops! We all helped in the cleaning (with some of the guests doing more eating than cleaning) and enjoyed scallops for starters and chicken Balmoral for main course. With full bellies we thought this evening couldn’t get any better when Vivi discovered that there were bioluminescent algae in the bay. We watched the sea sparkle under a sky full of stars. To top it all off we called, and got replies from, a shy tawny owl.
After a lovely brunch prepared by Steve we arrived back in Oban to say farewell to our guests at midday. The Hebrides never ceases to deliver magical moments for those willing to explore!