After many years of the usual cruising itinerary of Caribbean to Mediterranean, we decided it was time for a new, slightly cooler adventure. We set our sights on the West Coast of Scotland, the Outer Hebrides, and sailing Oyster 72 ‘Luskentyre’ home to her namesake beach on the Isle of Harris. Luckily for us it was the summer of 2018, when a long heat wave was lazily residing over the UK, providing perfect conditions for exploring closer to home.
We started our Scottish adventure in Oban, berthed in the marina on the Isle of Kerrera, a charming spot with fantastic views from every vista, and a wonderful, simple restaurant serving fresh local produce. Provisioning for the trip in Oban was a delight, the abundance of fresh seafood available on the quay in the centre of town was fantastic, and locally produced meats and cheeses easy to come by. Of course we stocked up on Whiskey, an essential for any Scottish sailing trip, after a tour of the Oban Distillery, the first of many distillery visits!
Setting out from Oban towards the Isle of Mull, the rugged beauty of the islands left everyone speechless, an ever-changing landscape, meant that whatever the weather you wanted to be on deck. Negotiating the tidal streams and occasional whirlpools certainly kept things interesting, a factor of navigation well worth remembering whilst cruising this area.
Arriving into Tobermory, a town famous for its colourful waterfront houses, we picked up a mooring buoy in the protected bay, and were able to go ashore at the small marina in the town. Ashore there is of course a small distillery, shops, a fantastic bakery and a local museum, but also great walking trails that run along Tobermory bay.
It’s not just the stunning landscape and quaint seaside villages we found so appealing in Western Scotland, most importantly it was the phenomenal sailing we enjoyed. The protection of the islands provided incredible flat-water conditions, hoisting everything including the Asymmetric spinnaker with 20 kts of wind, we zoomed across to the Isle of Rhum, topping out at 12 kts, even the persistent drizzle that day couldn’t dampen our spirits! The island of Rhum has few visitors and stands alone as a quiet, rugged spot perfect for hiking; this was our first taste of the true tranquillity and magical sense of remoteness on offer in Scotland.
Next up was the Isle of Skye, we first dropped anchor off Carbost for a trip to the Talisker Distillery, and then it was onto Dunvegan. After rounding Neist Point Lighthouse, we cruised into the protection of Loch Dunvegan and anchored directly in front of Dunvegan Castle, a settlement dating back from the 13th century. The castle and gardens sit on the Macleod estate, and with a small jetty it made for the perfect spot to further explore the island.
A cruise to the Isle of Skye, is not complete without a visit to the renowned ‘Three Chimney’s’ restaurant, just across the Loch from Dunvegan a fantastic gem of a restaurant, which champions the very best of fresh local Scottish produce.
The pinnacle of our trip, and something that had been right at the top of our bucket list was sailing Luskentyre back to her ‘home’, the spectacular Luskentyre beach, with its miles of golden sands and crystal clear Atlantic waters, it looks more at home as a Caribbean beach rather than a Scottish one. We rounded the Southern tip of the Isle of Harris in 35kts of winds, and lashing rain, not the weather we had hoped for! As we headed up towards the Sound of Taransay, and approached Luskentyre beach, as fate would have it, the wind calmed, the sun came out and it was glorious! Of course a quick dip in the sea for the brave had to be done, followed by a hearty warming bowl of smoked Haddock chowder with the most wonderful of lunchtime views. What made this visit even more special was that we were able to share this moment with the original owners of ‘Luskentyre’. They were welcomed back on board, and were so happy to see her anchored off her namesake beach. In turn they then most kindly took us on a tour of the top spots on Harris, a ruggedly beautiful island with waterfalls, wild horses and sea life, the lot! We ended our trip in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, luckily just in time before a big low pressure rolled in.
Cruising in Scotland really opened our eyes to the fantastic destinations available on our doorstep in the UK, great sailing, quiet and protected lochs, and excellent local seafood provided a real adventure trip all from the comfort of an Oyster. The most magical aspect for us was the peaceful stillness offered up by a protected loch, with only the sounds of nature for company, just heaven! Currently our summer plans for 2020 are undecided, but with any luck we’ll get to go back.
Interested to learn more about cruising in Scotland? Click here to read our insider sailing guide.