North Hebridean Explorer (including North Rona) – 9 night cruise
|Availability||Sat 30th June to Mon 9th July||0 places (Fully booked)
An adventurous itinerary of northern offshore islands very much subject to weather and sea conditions. Wildlife should be rewarding plus sites of interest on remote islands.
Destination: guests arrive at Oban for around 1230 with vessel Hjalmar Bjorge departing at 1330 for Canna on day one.
Our route north will, of course, depend on prevailing weather conditions. Hopefully after a first night at Canna we will cruise up the west side of Skye and on to the Shiant Islands. From there we will head up the east coast of Lewis before making our passage to North Rona where, if at all possible, we will spend one or two nights on anchor. We will then sail west to Sula Sgeir and again, if possible, we will land there. From here we’ll head south, down the west coast of Lewis and towards the Flannan Islands with an overnight stop in West or East Loch Roag. There may be time to visit Scarp before commencing our return home via the Sound of Harris and back to Oban on the last morning.
If the weather is kind to us then possible highlights include the seabird colonies on the Shiant Islands and the gannetry on Sula Sgeir, puffins and more seabirds on the Flannans plus golden and sea eagles on Scarp. There should be dolphin and other cetacean sightings throughout; in recent years some of better sightings have been in the north of the Hebrides, such as those involving orca and humpback whales (fingers crossed). There are sites of archaeological and historic interest on Canna, the Shiants, North Rona, the Flannan Isles, West Loch Roag and Scarp.
Wildlife highlights we’ve enjoyed on previous cruises:
Birds of prey like Buzzards & Kestrel are widespread, with Sparrowhawk & Peregrine needing more patience & luck is needed to see the diminutive Merlin – Black Guillemots (known as Tysties) in their striking plumage – Rasping Corncrake heard & sometimes seen if we’re lucky, in Flag Iris beds or our traditional hay meadows – 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 – Fulmars with their highly effective & pungent nest defence – Snowstorms of Gannets at their colonies on Sula Sgeir & the Flannans, or plunge diving for food on the open sea – 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 – Kittiwakes calling their names at breeding colonies or roaming the Minch on feeding sorties – Storm Petrels are regular as we cross the Minch or on the approach to St Kilda, the Flannans & North Rona – Scarce moorland breeding birds such as Twite, Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Stonechat & Wheatear, all strikingly different – Rum’s massive Manx Shearwater colony allows incredible views as they raft offshore around the Small Isles or shear the waves in feeding parties – Incredibly acrobatic Ravens giving everything else in the sky a flying lesson – overwhelming sight, sound & smell of seabird colonies with their breeding Puffins, Guillemots & Razorbills, & later in the season Pufflings & Jumplings entertain as they paddle around the boat or form rafts with their parents after fledging – Skuas, both Arctic and Bonxies, vigorously protect their young on islands or shadow the boat, parasitizing other seabirds of their food – scattered colonies of sensitive breeding Arctic & Common Terns
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!
Please Note: The above map indicates an area within which we are likely to travel. Weather and the interests and abilities of guests influence the skipper’s final decision. Sightings and findings are examples from previous similar cruises; the list is neither exhaustive nor guaranteed.
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.