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Issue 44 - A true pleasure cruise

Scotland Magazine Issue 44
April 2009

 

This article is 8 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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A true pleasure cruise

The itinerary for the Britain in Bloom cruise, circumnavigating Scotland, reads like an epic seafaring adventure.

Perhaps not in the footsteps of Shackleton to the South Pole, but an exciting journey nonetheless. The raw, rugged coastline and wild, unspoilt islands of the west coast are best explored by sea. This island hopping cruise from Edinburgh visits Orkney, the Summer Isles, Skye, Staffa, Iona, Islay and Gigha on board the MS Andrea, a small Arctic Expedition ship, which, like a private yacht, can navigate narrow inlets and shallow hidden bays.

Our first port of call is Kirkwall, Orkney, the archipelago of distinctive Norse-Scottish culture and archaeological treasures. On a coach tour we visit Skara Brae, the prehistoric village dating back to 2,700 BC, the Pier Arts Centre of world class contemporary art in Stromness, and the ancient stone circle, the Ring of Brodgar. The Orcadian wilderness is stunning – such pure beauty in the painterly seashores and changing light of the sky.

These cruises particularly attract birdwatchers, naturalists and photographers who scan the horizon with their binoculars and cameras ready to spot geese, skuas, dippers, terns, kittiwakes, perhaps a sea eagle, seals, dolphins and minke whales.

There are inspiring briefings each evening from Stefan Kindberg, expedition leader, about the next day’s shore excursions and illustrated lectures on the Hebrides, Scotland’s own Galapagos islands.

We take a Zodiac dinghy ride to Tanera Mor in the Summer Isles, shimmering in the soft morning mist. Abundant in wild orchids, this tiny island is owned by Bill Wilder who, with 10 residents, run the post office, cafe and prawn fish farm. The seas are warmed by the Gulf Stream, creating the ideal tropical environment for Inverewe gardens at Loch Ewe. It’s indeed a scorching day as we stroll around to see Chinese rhododendrons and blazing blooms from Chile to South Africa.

On the paradise island of Gigha we step ashore onto a Caribbean-style white sandy beach; here the tranquil Achamore garden boasts rare exotic plants, Brazilian gunnera and banana trees.

Life on board is so relaxing with comfortable lounges and a bar – enjoy live music before and after dinner. The popular sunspot aft deck is where by day guests sit, relax and read – later watching the salmon pink sunset sink behind a distant Western Isle. The sea air and energetic walks summon up a hearty appetite for fine feasts from breakfast to dinner and with lively conversation amongst the international guests, the house party ambience is informal, friendly and fun.

Moored off Skye one morning, it’s a magical sight to arrive at Dunvegan Castle by boat, the McLeod clan Hebridean fortress perched on a rock beside the seashore. Later, anchored off Loch Skavaig, we follow a mountain trail to reach the secret, serene Loch Coruisk, almost lost in the heart of the Cuillin Hills. In 1831, J. M. W Turner painted this scenic spot with dramatic, stormy vision.

Amemorable highlight is a visit to Staffa, the extraordinary sugar-loaf wedge of rock with basalt pillars rising from the sea; we walk along the grassy cliffs to observe the puffin colony before venturing by boat inside Fingal’s Cave. The rhythmic roll of waves inside this majestic cathedral of nature inspired Mendelssohn to compose the Hebridean Overture. En route back to the ship, a thrilling encounter is in store when Stefan shouts to point out a school of sharks swimming close by, their fins zigzagging rather scarily through the calm water.

This exhilarating voyage of discovery has given a glimpse of the intimate link between islanders, the sea, land and wildlife, a Celtic heritage of tradition, Gaelic culture and breathtaking natural landscape. Hop around the Hebrides on an awe-inspiring Noble Caledonia cruise for the perfect escape which will refresh the spirits and soothe the soul.

Information
Noble Caledonia
Garden and wildlife cruise itineraries around the
Western Isles, Inner and Outer Hebrides,
Orkney, Shetland
www.noble-caledonia.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0)207 752 0000