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Messing about in boats

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What nobody in Scotland appreciates about Scotland is that it’s right outside their front door.

Trudging through the never-ending, monotonous cycle of working nine-to-five, everybody dreams of exotic trips to the Maldives, laying back on an Algarve sun lounger or tinkling wine glasses in Tuscany.

Very rarely does a magical adventure round the many Scottish island gems off the west coast come into play – until now.

Setting off from Oban, our home for the week was the Elizabeth G – a beautiful, converted former rescue and support vessel for the Norwegian fishing fleet.

Lowering ourselves down to the sleeping deck, we were shown to our snug cabin. It was small, with bunks and a little porthole which sat just at sea-level.

Nothing glamorous. But it was comfortable and warm, and we weren’t here for finery.

It was the promise of beautiful scenery, excellent food and the hope of seeing some of Scotland’s amazing nature up-close that captured our imaginations.

Our first stop was in the secluded natural harbour of the quaint Tobermory on Mull.

Arriving just before sunset, we caught a glimpse of the town’s famous brightly painted harbour-front houses. But it was the next morning when they really looked the part.

Basking in the morning sun, the red, blue and yellow houses sitting in front of a dark stormy sky looked like something straight off a picture postcard.

We spent the morning exploring Tobermory’s little shops and cafes before taking a walk along the coast to a nearby waterfall – which offered tremendous views (and photo opportunities) looking back onto pretty Tobermory.

Our next two nights were spent exploring little inlets along the coast of Mull and the mainland, as we geared-up for crossing to the remote Isle of Coll.

The weather hadn’t been the best for two days, so as soon as our skipper Rob saw a break in the wind, we were off onto the high seas.

This was our chance to see whales, dolphins and maybe even basking sharks.

We didn’t quite get what we hoped for, but arrived on Coll happy, having seen porpoises, puffins and unusually lots of manx shearwaters, blown inshore by the high winds overnight.

Coll was an incredible place. So flat, and isolated. With only a very small, and hardy, community living on it.

We rented two bikes from the Post Office, one of only two tiny shops on the island, and set-off on our own little tour.

The wonderful three-hour round-trip of the island brought us well into the afternoon and it was time for dinner.

And on the Elizabeth G, you could always be assured of one thing, if the weather let you down and the wildlife eluded you, you could always rely on the quality of the grub.

Our chef Steve, a former soldier, was arguably the most talented individual on the boat.

Never have I seen a man perform such culinary miracles in a cupboard-sized kitchen, cutting, cooking and preparing food with ballerina-esque balance in some very, very rough seas.

And his pinnacle came when skipper Rob hand-dived scallops for the whole party – cooked to perfection by Steve.

Heading back towards our port of origin, Oban, we stopped overnight on the Ardnamurchan peninsula – one of the most remote communities on mainland Scotland.

It was absolutely serene.

We spent our last full day having a picnic lunch, watching otters on the shoreline, followed by a whisky distillery tour.

We arrived back in Oban with full tummies, a sense of adventure and slightly weather-beaten – we’d had a great time.

So when planning your summer getaway, you don’t need to look too far from your own front door.

  • Hebrides Cruises run multiple tours of different Scottish islands between April and October each year, including Mull (£1,250), St Kilda (£1,450), Mingulay and the Shiant Islands (£1,800) and many more.
  • There is still availability on tours for 2015, and they are already taking bookings for 2016. Call 01631 711 986 or visit


A bit of background: The Elizabeth G

The Elizabeth G has an excellent pedigree as exactly the sort of vessel to take you to the Islands on the Edge of the Atlantic.

She was built as a towing and support vessel for the Norwegian fishing fleet, also working as rescue vessel, before moving to Shetland for survey work.

She was named ‘Elizabeth G’ after the wife of her Shetland owner.

Hebrides Cruises purchased Elizabeth G in 2004 and completed a major refit and rebuild, providing a panoramic rear dining saloon, and an outside observation deck.

The six cabins were refitted and refurbished, and showers and toilets installed for a life of providing adventurous cruises to the Hebrides with excellent hospitality on board.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, she was also kitted out with stabilisers, ensuring a comfortable journey for guests wishing to explore the farther flung islands.


The wildlife: What did we see?

We went with the dream of spotting whales and basking sharks.

Sadly, we didn’t manage. But there was a minke whale spotted by some others on our boat.

With that said, we still captured some amazing wildlife moments.

Highlights included, porpoises swimming alongside the boat as we headed out to the Isle of Coll and otters fishing and sunbathing just 100 yards away, as we sat and ate a picnic lunch on the Ardnamurchan coastline.

Hebrides Cruises say they don’t guarantee any wildlife sightings. But, with the wealth of wildlife in the Scottish seas, you will see something.

From whales to deer, to dolphins to puffins, just keep your eyes open – one of them might pass you by.