Celtic Explorer (Oban to Cork) 9 night cruise
|Availability||Sat 14th Sept to Tues 24th Sept||
We’re exploring a new area for our last cruise of the season! Join us as we explore the stunning islands on the West Coast of Ireland, including the Aran Islands and the Skelligs. This cruise will be guided by Vivi Bolin (wildlife guide, ex-St Kilda warden and former resident of Cork)
Destination: Guests join motor vessel Hjalmar Bjorge around 1600 on Saturday 14 September in Oban. Our departure shortly thereafter will see us on anchor for our first evening meal aboard.
Our intended route is to head south and via the West side of Jura and Islay, with possible stops here, and on Colonsay. We will then make the journey to the North of Ireland and commence our tour right around the West. Our itinerary here will be flexible, but we do want to include many of the small islands (similar to the Flannans and Rona) with early Christian ruins – monastic sites, beehive cells and oratories:
- Tory – large inhabited island with interesting sites
- Inishmurray – a must-see island with its intact cashel
- Inishglora – Monastic ruins and beehive cells
- Clare Island – Large inhabited island and possible overnight stop
- Caher Island – 5th Century monastic ruins – the last station of Crough Patrick pilgrimage
- Inishturk and Inishbofin – possible overnight stops
- St MacDara’s island – another must-see island with its intact pilgrimage sites and oratory
- The Aran Islands, home to the several bronze age and iron age forts, and other sites of historical interest
- Scattery Island (in Shannon Estuary) – a possible overnight stop here with its round tower
- Illauntannig – monastic ruins and beehive cells
- Great Blasket – Ireland’s St Kilda!
- The stunning Skellig Islands, forming one of the most important seabird sites in Ireland, and boasting abundant sealife. We’ll include the monastic site of Skellig Michael, a UNESCO World Heritage site (and location for recent Star Wars films – bring your light saber!)
We complete our Celtic voyage by rounding the south-west tip of Ireland, and our last stop will be Crosshaven Marina in Cork where the cruise ends on the morning of Saturday 14th September after a hearty breakfast.
Please note that this cruise starts in Oban and ends in Cork so you will need to plan your travel accordingly.
Highlights: Ireland’s position in the North Atlantic means it’s ideally placed for some amazing seawatching opportunities and as we sail down its west coast, we’ll be in the right place at the right time to witness autumn’s incredible seabird passage. Huge numbers migrate southwards between July and October, with September being a peak time for both the numbers of birds and the variety of species possible.
Spectacular movements are typical and the sheer number of birds flying south can be awe-inspiring, with potentially 5 species of shearwaters, 4 species of petrels (including the possibility of the rarer Fea’s), with auks, gulls and all 4 skuas forming a fine supporting cast, along with thousands of gannets. Although the main seabird breeding season at the Skelligs will be over by September, large numbers of auks and gannets will still be present on the open sea and on passage.
Ireland is also home to Choughs and although we may see this charismatic member of the Crow family as we pass Colonsay, the south and west coast of Ireland is its UK stronghold.
Ireland is also a regular port of call for North American migrants as the country is the first landfall the birds reach after crossing the Atlantic. Although Ireland’s west coast has recognised ‘hotspots’ for birding, much of the area remains little visited, so it has huge untapped potential. So wherever we land or anchor, we have a chance of finding something unusual… maybe a Nearctic wader or an American warbler if we’re lucky.
Cetacean highlights: The waters off Ireland can be as productive as the Hebrides and to date, 25 species of cetacean have been recorded in Irish waters. Spending time travelling around the west and south coasts offers a tremendous chance to connect with a rich variety of species and our timing couldn’t be better as autumn marks the peak season for cetaceans. Common Dolphins congregate in large numbers and pods of hundreds, even thousands, have been recorded. Also seen regularly are Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise, Minke Whales, Humpback and the magnificent Fin Whale, and there is also a chance of Orca and Risso’s Dolphins as the icing on the cake.
DID YOU KNOW?
A small bothy on Stac Lee was formerly used by St Kilda fowlers. It is big enough to accommodate two people and is dry inside.