10th October - Exploring the Small Isles and Inner Sound
Enjoy the comfort and elegance of Hebridean Princess as she explores the sheltered and distinctly different Small Isles, together with rugged mainland gems on a cruise of varied adventure.
10th October 2017.
When embarkation was complete and the mandatory safety drills had taken place, we sailed from Oban to our overnight anchorage in Bloody Bay, Sound of Mull.
11th October 2017.
Having left behind the urban chaos of Glasgow, and even of Oban in the evening, we found ourselves in a new world: the tranquillity of Loch Scresort of Rum. Guests made their way on foot, or with the aid of the buggy, to the extraordinary Kinloch Castle, where we enjoyed the amazing collection of artefacts from almost all over the world, many certainly from the Far East. There are also many sporting trophies, stags' heads, portraits and sunny landscapes from around the island, which, for us, was looking more autumnal, brooding and impressive.
The architecture may not be too everyone's taste, although the complex plumbing always fascinates; but it is a shame to see how the building has deteriorated in recent years. Our enthusiastic guide explained that the community on the island, along with the Friends of Kinloch Castle, would like to achieve a community buy-out, but the scale of the challenge facing them is certainly daunting.
After the usual splendid lunch on board, guests relaxed as we cruised up the Sound of Sleat, through the narrows of Kyle rhea, and under the Skye Bridge, to our beautiful evening anchorage, below Hallaig and the flat-topped hill of Dun Caan on Raasay.
12th October 2017.
Anchored in a sheltered and tranquil Plockton, we took a coach ride which delivered us at Attadale Gardens on the southern shore of Loch Carron, a long inlet of the sea. Here we were given a warm welcome by members of the Macpherson family who own the property, and whose infectious enthusiasm brightened the rather damp, dull morning. It is quite late in the season for much of the planting in this garden (not helped by recent heavy rain), but several bushes in their glowing autumn colours gave life to the scene, and the unusual number, and varied nature, of the sculptures within the garden made it a memorable morning.
We were also given teas and coffees within the family house, and a talk by the owner, which was appreciated by everyone.
While we enjoyed a superb seafood buffet lunch on board, Hebridean Princess cruised round to Kyle of Lochalsh, and in the afternoon, a short coach ride took us to the impressive and atmospheric castle of Eilean Donan, situated at the joining of three sea-lochs. It was, as ever, rather busy, but, as a group, we were given our own tour, and the guides in the main rooms were easily heard and interesting. The present castle buildings are not ancient, but, as an example of the most extraordinary holiday-homes in the Highlands and Islands, created by very wealthy men, it can stand with Kinloch. And it still deserves to be one of the most photographed buildings in Scotland.
13th October 2017.
From the quayside at Kyle, our coach took us across the impressive bridge to the romantic Isle of Skye. Although it was breezy, and appropriately misty, most of the mountains were clear, and the run up to Portree was authentically magnificent, torrents streaming down the dark hillsides, and clouds scudding over the high summits of the Cuillin. We stopped briefly at Sligachan to admire the wide river which was in full spate.
In Portree, the capital of the Island, guests were able to wander around the neat town, and enjoy the picturesque harbour within the sheltered setting of the fine bay. From here, we continued along the northern peninsula of Trotternish, enjoying views of the steep escarpment, the stack called the Old Man of Storr, and the chaotic landscape of the Quiraing, where Stuart left us to walk across the peninsula.
Shortly after, we had lunch in the fine setting of the Flodigarry Hotel, which is close to an older cottage where the famous Flora MacDonald once lived. Then we rounded the northern tip of the island, to explore the museum of " black houses " at Kilmuir. A few guests walked up to the graveyard where Flora was buried, and one saw an otter cross the road before we returned to the ship via Uig.
After dinner, a fine time was had by all-or nearly all-as Colin Ramage and Iain Anderson, who call themselves "Cairdeas ", gave us a splendid ceilidh.
14th October 2017.
The neat cottages of Shieldaig, a small, planned fishing village, looked attractive in the soft morning light, backed by the autumn colours of the hills. Guests took the boats ashore and enjoyed the morning in their own ways. Some guests cycled whilst others went briskly in different directions, several on the path which wends its way out on a headland in Loch Torridon. One guest sketched, while others photographed the scene.
Later in the morning we enjoyed coffee and perhaps even a piece of excellent cake, and Nanny's cafe became busy-even the Chief Purser and the Captain appeared!
After lunch the Princess cruised westward, rounded the north end of the island of Rona, and ran along under the impressive eastern cliffs of Skye. Opposite the strung-out township of Braes, we turned eastwards to berth at the Clachan pier of the attractive island of Raasay, which is topped by the flat summit of Dun Caan, which we had been seeing for some days.
15th October 2017.
Whilst a few hardy souls set off on walks on the island, Lyn from Raasay House took some guests on a short minibus tour to the old iron-ore mines. Several of guests ended up in the wonderfully-restored Raasay House, where coffees and cake were consumed, and the warmth and shelter much enjoyed.
After lunch Hebridean Princess left the pier and headed round the south end of the island, heading once again for the Skye Bridge and the Kyle Rhea narrows. A few showers still obscured the view from time to time, but shafts of light and rainbows lit up the autumnal hills.
16th October 2017.
Oban was grey as the ship anchored in the bay, but things were brightening as the first boats began transporting guests to the shore. Some guest looked around the town, others went for a brisk walk, one was in search of a special black pudding! Several guests visited Oban Distillery; the tour was well done, the Visitor Centre most attractive-and the whisky itself seemed to meet with approval!
After the usual splendid buffet lunch, various requirements necessitated some manoeuvring of the ship which gave guests a delightful mini-cruise to the south of Oban. The sun came out-briefly-; the scenery was gorgeous, and our guide Robin drew attention to the remnants of Atlantic oakwood along both shores, and the occupation in caves along the shores, by hunter-gatherers around 6000 BC.
Later Robin gave a short introduction on the themes of Clans-Culloden-Clearances, trying to cover nearly 900 years of Highland History-moderately lucidly-without any props. The final evening was, as ever, splendid, with Champagne Reception and Gala Dinner; something special to remember. Suddenly, it seemed, our cruise was over.
17th October 2017.
Disembarkation took place in Oban this morning and we hope all our guests have a safe onward journey.