Exploring the Isles of the West – 9 night guided cruise
|Availability||Sat 2nd June to Mon 11th June||0 places (Fully booked)|
Marc Calhoun is a writer and traveller, he has been cruising with Northern Lights for many years, his knowledge and enthusiasm for the people and history of the Hebrides is extraordinary. This exciting itinerary is the result of conversations with Marc encouraging him to devise a wish list of some favourite islands we could incorporate into a cruise. For more about Marc, and his travels to the Scottish islands, see his two books, Exploring the Isles of the West – Firth of Clyde to the Small Isles, and Exploring the Isles of the West – Skye and Tiree to the Outer Isles. Also see his website at http://marccalhoun.blogspot.com/.
Marc will offer his advice and knowledge on the various islands. Depending on the island, he will lead guests on a short walk near the landing place, followed by a longer, and more strenuous walk further afield. (Note that some walks may involve crossing trackless, rough, steep, and boggy terrain. As such, they may not be suitable for all guests, and sturdy, waterproof footwear may be required.) As usual with all our cruises, if you wish to explore on your own you’re more than welcome to do so.
Oronsay, this tidal island is connected to Colonsay at low tide. We hope to land directly on Oronsay to visit the priory ruins, including the magnificent Prior Colin’s Cross. We’ll also view probably the best collection of carved medieval grave slabs in Scotland.
Inchkenneth: Another important outpost of the early Celtic Church. Sites to be seen are the ancient burial ground, Celtic Cross, and the ruins of St Kenneth’s Monastery. The solitary mansion on the island was once lived in by Harold Boulton (who wrote the lyrics to The Skye Boat Song), and from 1935 to 1965 by the Mitford family.
Texa: With possible connections to St Kenneth, this island’s monastery may have been an important site in the early Celtic Church. Texa is exposed to the open sea, and is rarely visited.
Erraid: The island base used by the Stevenson’s for the construction of Dubh Artach lighthouse. The lightkeeper’s homes are now used for retreats by the Findhorn Foundation. Another Stevenson connection is RLS’s use of the island in Kidnapped, where he briefly stranded David Balfour (until David realized it’s connected to Mull at low tide).
We arrive back in Oban for your departure after breakfast on Monday 11 June.
Wildlife highlights we’ve enjoyed on similar cruises:
Cetacean encounters most commonly with Minke, Humpback’s are a less frequent visitor, occasional sightings of Fin and Sperm whale – the Hebrides have a resident Pod of Orca and the area is occasionally visited by an Icelandic pod – frequent encounters with Common, Bottlenose & Whitebeak dolphins, Risso & Whitesided dolphins are also occasionally sighted – Basking sharks have been scarce the last few years but are still seen and seem to be returning, we know the hot spots!
Birds of prey like Buzzards & Kestrel are widespread, the dashing Sparrowhawk & Peregrine needing more patience & luck is needed to catch sight of the diminutive Merlin – Black Guillemots (known as Tysties) in their striking plumage – Acrobatic Choughs on their Scottish breeding strongholds of Colonsay and Oronsay – Smart Dippers & Grey Wagtails bobbing along stream sides – Strikingly plumaged Red & Black-throated Divers on sealochs – Responsible viewing of Golden & Sea Eagles as they afford privileged views on their territories, hunting for prey to feed their chicks in spring, with sightings of successfully fledged young ending the season – Charming Eider Duck creches of ducklings – Hooded Crows, strikingly different from their southern cousins – Insects such as the striking Golden-ringed Dragonfly, astonishingly beautiful Fritillary & Scotch Argus butterflies, or the rare Great Yellow Bumblebee found only on a few Scottish islands – Haunting calls of breeding waders on the Machair, meadows & moorlands, with significant numbers of Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Snipe, Redshank, Ringed & Golden Plover, Oystercatcher & Lapwing – Spectacular wing-clapping displays of raptors like ghostly Short-eared Owls & sky-dancing Hen Harriers over their moorland breeding grounds – Scarce moorland breeding birds such as Twite, Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Stonechat & Wheatear, all strikingly different – Incredibly acrobatic Ravens giving everything else in the sky a flying lesson – scattered colonies of sensitive breeding Arctic & Common Terns – Sessile oakwoods shelter significant numbers of breeding Redstart, Wood Warbler & Spotted Flycatchers during the spring and summer.
DID YOU KNOW?
The first signs of habitation on Hirta (the largest island in the St Kilda archipelago and the only one you can really land on) are thought to have occurred c. 600 AD.