Mull, the Small Isles and Lunga cruise – May 2018
The day of the Royal Wedding was the start of our third cruise of the season. A full compliment of ten guests (6 of whom had cruised with us previously) were welcomed aboard in bright sunshine by the crew ( Skipper Charlie, assisted by Tim, Chef Steve and crew Michelle). The pontoons were busy today with lots of tall ships looking splendid. Guests quickly got to know each other over home made scones, served during the skipper’s briefing. Tomorrow was to be a wee bit windy, so a plan was made to head up the Sound of Mull to overnight in Loch na Droma Bhuide. Here we enjoyed fine dinner of smoked mackerel starter (avocado with beetroot salsa for vegetarians), followed by lasagne (regular and veggie) which was a big hit, and cranachan for dessert.
Day 2 Dreich! A relaxed start was the order of the day as the forecast was for strong winds. So guests tucked into a hearty breakfast of Steve’s special porridge (made with toasted oats and coconut milk), bacon and eggs, plus the usual cereals and toast. After which we pulled up the anchor headed to colourful Tobermory where guests went ashore for a couple of hours walking, some venturing as far as the lighthouse, some just taking in the sights of the harbour. Back on board for lunch of ginger noodles with smoked salmon, roasted root vegetables and Boston beans, which guests were heard to declare were “to die for”. The afternoon saw us heading past Bloody Bay, Mull, a great spot for sea eagles – and we weren’t disappointed, seeing 2 eagles plus chicks on the nest. Onwards around Ardnamurchan Point in a bit of a swell and grey skies. However Manx sheerwaters and great northern divers were spotted and lemon drizzle cake was served, so everyone was happy! We arrived at Loch Scresort, Rum at 5.30.
Day 3 The day was rainy as predicted but guests were keen to go ashore for walks on Rum. All had fun exploring the island, and browsing in the various craft shops etc, and peering though the windows of Kinloch Castle (no tour available today sadly!). Back on board for lunch of Tarka Dal with rice and raita and flat breads. Great Northern divers were spotted here, then the anchor came up and we headed north to try and avoid the stronger winds predicted for south of our location. Anchored in Soay sound and went ashore to visit the remains of the basking shark fishing station once run by the conservationist Gavin Maxwell.
After exploring the ruins of the main house and storage area, guests went exploring over very boggy ground, but a wonderful time was had by all exploring the island, and a sliver of blue sky was spotted as we were picked up by the dinghy. This was a taste of things to come for the rest of the cruise, as the skies cleared for a lovely evening. We moved on slightly to see the stunning Loch Scavaig, where beautiful waterfalls cascaded down the towering cliffs – on the way to our beautiful anchorage in Camasunary, Skye, for the evening where a black throated diver was seen. Dinner was another culinary feast of bacon-wrapped halloumi with aubergine, tex-mex chicken with corn on the cob and homemade bbq sauce, chocolate orange mousse and then cheese and biscuits for those who could manage a further course. All guests ended the day full and happy after a great day ashore and some wonderful food!
Day 4 An early start, with anchor up just after 7am, and departed in sunshine and a strong breeze. There were lovely views on our long passage down to wards Coll, accompanied by bacon butties and elevenses of cake.
As we neared the Cairns of Coll we noticed a group of gannets and soon saw a pod of large common dolphins coming towards the boat to ride along with us for a while, much to the delight of everyone aboard. Travelled down the coastline of Coll and anchored in a lovely sandy Crosspol Bay where guests went ashore armed with a packed lunch for a few hours exploring this lovely low-lying island. Corncrakes were heard by everyone and even spotted by a couple of guests. Another great sighting was golden plovers. At the appointed time for pick up one guest proclaimed that she wanted to stay forever in this wonderful place. Back on board, anchor up, freshly baked madeleines served while another pod of (smaller) dolphins were spotted feeding by the boat, and minke whales were seen in the distance, also a couple of Bonxies. We motored past the lovely Treshnish Isles to our anchorage for the evening in Gometra harbour. A lovely calm evening with stags on the hills, where we had another wonderful dinner of celeriac remoulade with black pudding (avocado for veggies), roast beef with bubble and squeak and a fantastic apple crumble.
Day 5 Anchor up after breakfast (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs) and we headed out towards the Treshnish Isles in lovely sunshine and calm seas to one of the key highlights of the cruise – puffins at Lunga! An early start meant that we could have the island to ourselves before the hordes arrived on the day boats. There were hundreds of puffins on the water and some friendly ones hopping around atop the cliffs.
The bird life at Harp Rock was astounding, the sound of screeching guillemots and puffins and shags was so loud, a wonderful spectacular, every crevice in the rock occupied by several birds. Such a special place. And it was not just the birds that wowed – the island was covered in wild flowers, a stunning sight! Guests spent a few hours here, some climbing to the top of the island for stunning views. We lefts as the day boat crowds arrived and were relieved we’d had our own special time on this fantastic island. Lunch back on board was pasta with salad, potatoes, sausage, beet and cabbage salad. Anchor up and cruised past the back of Lunga to see all the puffins and other birds on the water. Then we headed over to Staffa in seas reminiscent of the Meditteranean – wonderful conditions! A bit of a swell meant that we couldn’t land easily at the slipway, so it was a beach landing a bit further on, guests heading off in different directions for walks. Some walked along the basalt pathway to the entrance to Fingal’s cave, some climbing to the top of the island for lovely views, some went to look for puffins, and Margaret went to look at the old buildings there. Sadly there’s now a sign at the entrance to Fingal’s cave saying entry is not allowed. But the surroundings and rock formations were wonderful. During the dighy ride back to the boat, a Bonxie was seen bullying a gull to give up its dinner, what a bully! All agreed there had been two fabulous shore visits today, back aboard HBj the guests enjoyed sundowners in the sunshine while discussing the two fabulous shore visits we’d had today. Our anchorage for the night was a Bunessan on Mull where we enjoyed a dinner of mushroom stuffed with chorizo, manchega cheese and tomato, sausages mash and peas and sticky toffee pudding. A glorious sunset appeared for those who managed to stay awake long enough!
Day 6 A beautuful cloudless sky and fresh breeze greeted us for breakfast on anchor at Bunnessan. Breakfast today was omelettes with mushrooms as well as the usual porridge, cereal and toast. A short hop brought us to the Sound of Iona, where we dropped anchor opposite the Abbey and guests were put ashore in the dinghy to catch the ferry across to Iona for a few hours with a packed lunch. The glorious weather continued, giving opportunities to walk on Iona’s white sand beaches, covered in beautiful sea pinks, explore the lovely village and even browse the local craft shops.
The island was very busy with lots of visitors arriving by ferry and it felt unusual to be surrounded by people again. We reassembled at Fionnphort just after 2pm for our dinghy ride back to HBj, anchor up, cuppa tea, sunbathing and keeping an eye out for wildlife.
As we motored aloing the Ross of Mull, the scenery was spectacular – towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls and the wonderful Carsaig Arches. A pod of bottle nose dolphins decided to join us to have fun bow-riding – a familiar activity aboard HBj! It was lovely to see the adults teaching the juvenile dolphins how to play and we were lucky to have them with us for around 20 minutes. Magical! Our anchorage this evening was Loch Spelve and as neared, another 3 bottlenose dolphins came over to say hello. Before anchoring, we went to see one of our known spots for sea eagles and spotted two! Just to complete the wildlife spectacular we were joined by another 3 dolphins as we dropped anchor.
Day 7 – The last day of the cruise! But the wildlife spectacular was not yet over – as we had a fabulous golden eagle flypast as we exited Loch Spelve. A fantastic sight. Finally ot was time for the guests to have a slap-up breakfast before our arrival into Oban on a swelteringly hot day. But the fun wasn’t over for 2 lucky guests who had booked to stay for the following week’s cruise (destinbation St Kilda) too. There was more than a bit of envy from the other guests, who were considering stowing away!
DID YOU KNOW?
Monachs. The main islands of Ceann Ear, Ceann Iar and Shivenish are all linked at low tide. At one time it was possible to walk all the way to Baleshare, and on to North Uist, five miles away at low tide.