Plunging through the chilling waters, the freeze flowed through my forehead.
The bow of the Seahorse II played its part as the perfect diving board as I leaped into the murky depths of Loch na Droma Buidhe.
This was my metaphor – to throw myself into the unknown and experience my journey of the Scottish Western Isles to the fullest.
I joined nine voyagers at the Dunstaffnage port on the St Hilda Sea Adventures cruise just north of Oban.
The ship’s skipper led us on board alongside his two-person crew. I unpacked my bag into the spacious twin cabin berth with a sink, mirror, towel, wardrobe and dressing gown. With its little porthole, I could gaze out on to the water from my own bed in the hull of the ship. But there was no time for sitting about as we gathered in the deck saloon to discuss our navigational plans.
With our coordinates set and anchor lifted, we disembarked for Loch Spelve, tucked away in Mull.
Creeping into the loch’s mouth, the lowering sun filled the evening sky. An orange glow played the perfect night light as it encapsulated us sailing through the still water.
As morning broke, we cruised towards Duart Castle. The 14th Century keep commands the channel and entrances to Lochs Linne and Etive and the neck of the Firth of Lorne.
The recognised seat of Clan Maclean may be familiar to some as it was the setting for the 1999 movie Entrapment, starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones.
Its Searoom exposed the tranquillity of our surroundings from the castle’s viewpoint stretching to the mainland from where we set sail. A good afternoon was spent here staring out at sea, but with more sailing to be done, we set off once more.
I woke from a nap as we arrived in Tobermory. My feet touched dry land and my eyes were met with an array of colour – houses, shops, pubs, all different to each other on the port’s edge.
Blues, reds, yellows, from one building to the next. The only difference being, as darkness sets in, the streets are pitch black and the only visible lights are the ones above the pubs and hotel entrances.
A pod of porpoises leapt around our boat as we meandered for Loch Sunart – watching their sleek heads breaking the water up and down was fascinating. I had never experienced anything like this before.
The sea loch is the longest in the Highlands and bound north and south by the Ardnamurchan and Morvern districts. The area is home to Ariundle Oakwood Circular, an enchanted woodland with trees towering over and waterfalls dancing in between.
We left and headed for the popular Loch na Droma Buidhe, also known as the Loch of the yellow hill. I can see why it gets that name as the autumnal colours over the rolling hills were softened by the beaming rays of golden sunset behind us. The detail in the landscape was just breathtaking.
SPLASH – I jumped into the water. It was freezing yet so refreshing. This was probably one of the most memorable moments of the trip. Where else could you fully submerge yourself, literally, in the beauty of the Scottish Western Isles? My swimming performance was followed by a kayaking session stalking seal pups around the vessel.
Curiosity getting the better of me, I approached the doors of the Ardtornish Estate on Loch Aline’s bay.
I was greeted by a luxurious hall and a gleaming white staircase leading to numerous bedrooms and a stunning view of the loch. There was even a sauna and a steam room.
But then, a turn for the worse, or so I thought, as an older gentleman stood before me as I turned down one of the corridors. I owned up to my snooping, but surprisingly the man wasn’t bothered. Next thing I know I’m given a private tour of the grounds and then found myself downing pints with him and others in the local pub.
With a few games of pool under my belt, I trotted back to the ship for a well-earned rest.
My penultimate day consisted of travelling back towards Oban, but not before skimming past Castle Stalker and the Jubilee Bridge along the old Appin railway line. I found it fascinating that the trains were scheduled to tie in with movie viewing times at the nearby Oban cinema.
Disappointment grew as we slithered through Loch Linnhe as I knew Dunstaffnage port was just ahead. My journey was coming to an end.
I took a bite into Scotland and it tasted so good. The flavours of nature, wildlife and scenery exploded around my mouth as the sea’s breeze caught up in my face. To have this experience was amazing, and only made possible thanks to the dedicated crew of the St Hilda Sea Adventures.
- St Hilda Sea Adventures
- Scottish Castles, Sea Lochs Cruise
- The five-nights cruise travels along the majestic Sound of Mull, famous for its wildlife and bordered by the Isle of Mull and the Morvern Peninsula, and along historic Loch Linnhe.
- Maximum of 11 guests.
- Price: £250-290 per person per night. Price includes all meals, fruit, hot beverages, pre-dinner aperitif, wine with dinner and the services of the crew.
- Contact: Call 01776 810802 or 07745 550988 or visit www.sthildaseaadventures.co.uk