The scenery of western Scotland has got to be to be some of the finest in the world. If you are very lucky you will see it from its best vantage point, one that not many people get the chance to do, namely the sea.
The Majestic Line operates two boats that explore the west of Scotland. Skye, Mull, Iona, Islay and The Caledonia Canal are all on the agenda here. The vessels are converted fishing boats and hold 11 guests and four crew. We found the cabins comfortable and the food superb. Everything was sourced locally and the small well stocked bar helped warm both us and the conversation before and after dinner!
You will see some spectacular wildlife depending on what time of the year you travel. Porpoises, basking sharks, whales, puffins and dolphins are all on the cards but to me the most majestic were the sea eagles flying so close to the boat you could see the glint in their eyes. At dusk red deer come down to the shore to feast on the seaweed and seals swam along side to look at you whilst the sound of the curlew floated lazily across the loch.
We berthed each night in silent lochs or beside uninhabited islands with the sound of water lapping against the hull. The lack of street lights had us gazing in awe at the night time sky with the stars blazing out in all their glory and there seemed to be twice as many as we see at home. We were even lucky enough to see the Northern Lights on occasion dancing above the peaks of the mountains.
The large lounge lets you sit and read the local papers or relax chatting and looking at maps or guide books but to be honest most of us spent our time on deck scouring for eagles with our binoculars or sitting on the benches soaking up the sunshine and watching the landscape go by.
A tender takes you to and fro between the ship and the shore. Either landing on the beach or on harbour pontoons. This arrangement is very flexible and the ship will pick you up when you wish, you either phone the boat or stand on the jetty and wave and they will stop what they are doing and come and get you. This system lets you take short or long walks at the ports of call to fashion your own cruise experience. A favourite is to be dropped off by tender on one part of the coast for a one-way walk and getting picked up again at the end.
At Tobermory for example we decided to take a walk above the town with superb views of the harbour whilst others explored the shops, museum and pubs. After sailing along Loch Sunart Martin decided to anchor in the shelter of the uninhabited island of Oronsay. Some of us thought we might like a twilight walk on here and after a ”Sure , no problem.” And we found ourselves following the tracks of deer across the beach.
I can thoroughly recommend this cruise as you see Scotland from a view point denied to so many people and you do really get under the skin of these islands. We had beautiful weather but even on the one day it rained the greys of the mist and rain mixed with the colours of the autumn leaves left sitting in the wheel house chatting to the skipper and just soaking up the beauty of it all.
6 night cruises out of Oban leave every Saturday for either Mull or Islay from March until October. Oban is easily accessed by one of the most stunning train journeys in Europe.