*All of our Scotland voyages start and finish in Oban.
Background to the Western Isles…
The view from Oban on the west coast of Argyll is dominated by the central mountains on Mull, the largest of the southern islands of the Inner Hebrides. Mull is home to more than 250 species of birds, including golden and sea eagles, hen harriers and short-eared owls. Otters are common, and Minke whales and basking sharks are found in the the surrounding waters. The island’s only town is colourful Tobermory, in a sheltered bay in the north of the island. There are lots of lovely anchorages in the many sea lochs around the coast.Off Mull’s western tip is Iona, with its Abbey, the site from which St Columba spread Christianity to the Scots and Picts on the sixth century. It is a tranquil place, with white sandy beaches.
Further north on Mull’s coast are various small islands, including Staffa – famous for Fingal’s Cave – and Lunga with colonies of puffins and other sea birds.
Out to the west, and the last stop before America, lie Coll and Tiree. Low-lying, they offer little resistance to Atlantic breezes and like the Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast they enjoy low rainfall and much higher than average sunshine. Both have many beaches of fine white sand. In addition to the other wildlife common to the area Coll is home to the rare corncrake.
North of Mull and round Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point on the coast of Britain, are more sea lochs and the Small Isles – Rhum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. Rhum, the largest, is a national nature reserve and has a population of only 30 people but herds of wild goats, ponies and native cattle. It is noted for its birdlife, is the main home of the white-tailed sea eagle and host to up to 70,000 manx shearwaters, which migrate annually from the South Atlantic to nest in burrows on the hillsides.
St Kilda is an isolated archipelago of volcanic islands that lie 40 miles to the west of the main archipelago chain. With the highest sea cliffs in Britain, St Kilda is the most important sea bird breeding station in north west Europe. This dual World Heritage Site has the largest colony of guillemots in the world, the oldest and largest colony of fulmars, the biggest colony of puffins in Britain and over one million birds in total.
North Uist is a paradise for wildlife and beach lovers and lies between Harris and Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. It is characterised by its ‘drowned landscape’ of peat bogs and lochans, and its string of bountiful beaches. There are several prehistoric sites nearby, such as the huge chambered burial cairn of Barpa Langais.
Islay, the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’, has numerous malt whisky distilleries where you can sample a ‘wee dram’ and get close up to a wealth of wildlife. There are more than 100 breeding species of birds here – from eagles, harriers, peregrines and barn owls to corncrakes, choughs and many types of wader. Thousands of red, roe and fallow deer roam the island. Otters are common, and pilot, minke and killer whales share the surrounding waters with dolphins and seals.
Close to the coast of Kintyre is Gigha, another delightful small island, with white sandy beaches, 50 acres of gardens at Achamore House, and a 13th century chapel. The island was bought from a private landlord years ago in a ‘community buyout’, largely made possible by Lottery grants, and is now owned by its inhabitants. After years of decline the population of just over 100 is now growing and the economy has revived.
Oban is well connected by train to Glasgow, with a three hour journey time. Oban Train Station is a two minute walk away from where Leader will be berthed. On booking you’ll be sent a pack with full information on how to find Leader and details on suggested kit list etc.