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
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.
Destination: Guests join motor vessel Hjalmar Bjorge around 1600 on Saturday 2 June in Oban. Our departure shortly thereafter will see us on anchor for our first evening meal aboard.
We will aim to make a grand circuit around Mull and Jura. If conditions allow we’ll venture as far south as Cara and Gigha; a route that opens up a large selection of amazing islands to visit.

garvellachs by Marc CalhounThe Garvelachs: On Eileach an Naoimh lie the extensive ruins of St Brendan’s monastery, including the largest corbelled stone beehive cells in the Hebrides.





Belnahua by Marc CalhounBelnahua: A historic island whose slates have roofed the world. The ruins of the quarry are still in place, just as they left them 100 years ago.

Scarba: The guardian of the Corryvreckan whirlpool, If the wind and tides are right the whirlpool is an amazing sight. If we manage to land, a hike to a whirlpool viewpoint is possible.

EileanMor by Marc CalhounEilean Mor of the MacCormaig Isles: A fascinating tiny island, once the hermitage of St Charmaig. Sites to see are its pilgrim chapels, Celtic crosses, St Cormac’s effigy, and his hermitage cave.

Cara: Once an outpost of St Fionnlugh, Cara is home to the mysterious Brownie. If he lets us get ashore we’ll sit in his giant chair.
Jura: With its vast raised beaches, Jura’s West Loch Tarbert is one of the most remote places in the Southern Hebrides. 


Oronsay by Marc CalhounOronsay, 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 by Marc CalhounInchkenneth: 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.

Treshnish Isles (Cairnaburgs and Lunga): The castles on the tiny Cairnaburgs once controlled the seaways. They were pummeled by cannon during the Jacobite battles of 1715, but substantial remnants, and a solitary chapel, are still to be seen. Lunga is famous for its puffins, but not to be missed is Dun Cruit (Harp Rock), home to a vast assortment of other seabirds. For those who like caves, Lunga has a dark subterranean passage that leads from the centre of the island to the shore.
Ulva/Gometra: Several good selection of walks are available on Ulva. And on Gometra a walk to Baileaclaidh is possible, one of the largest clearance villages in the islands.

Erraid by Marc CalhounErraid: 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).

Coll: If time permits we’ll venture west to Coll; its waters are prime for whale watching.


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.



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