An opportunity came along and I grabbed it! I’m working with a small cruise company based in the Hebrides to offer art cruises from 2021 onward. To save you waiting until then to experience the stunning nature and wildlife in the Hebrides on board a small cruise ship, we’ve created this 4-day cruise exclusively for artists. It’s like a creative retreat on a boat!
On this amazing trip we will search for whales and dolphins from special viewing decks, travel with migrating seabirds, watch patiently for otters and seals, scan for golden and white-tailed eagles and learn about the ecology of Scottish islands. This cruise will be a catalogue of iconic species! With a chance of seeing minke whale, orca, basking shark and up to 4 dolphin species we will be kept busy admiring them and every day will take us through different island landscapes.
The guides aboard the Monadhliath (our cruise ship) are highly experienced ecologists and both crew and guides are very familiar with the area we cruise, known as the Minch. During this cruise they will be collecting cetacean data for Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust via their Whale Track app. They will also teach us how to use the app and take part in data collection- how cool is that!
This adventure will give us a chance to go ashore and explore islands and beaches and opportunities to get painting boards and sketchbooks out and spend a bit longer at one location each day for some artwork. The art element is untutored and leaves you time and space to explore and experiment as you feel like, in the company of fellow creatives. You need to bring your own paints and brushes, but we’ll provide equipment such as painting boards, water containers, masking tape and a sturdy canvas bag for carrying materials. We’ll also carry some spare materials for you to use. You will receive a sketchbook journal which I’ll encourage you to use for some creative writing as well as sketching and painting.
We meet in Stornoway at 2pm where you will be welcomed aboard the MV Monadhliath, with a welcome drink and a talk on the trip ahead. You’ll have time to settle in before we head for our first night anchorage at Loch Sealg. A chance for a brief walk ashore and visit a waterfall, spy some deer and almost certainly spot an eagle or two before dinner.
In the morning we make our way to the Shiant Islands which will be about an hour away from previous night’s anchorage. From early August the seabirds will have left the colony and be on the sea feeding around the islands, parents with their young of the year can be seen before departing for a winter on the Atlantic Ocean.
Thousands of seabirds breed here on the Shiants each year, and the noise of so many birds in a small area can be incredible. Puffins, guillemots, razorbill, shags, kittiwakes, fulmars and skuas are among the species that return here each year to raise their chicks. Roughly 10% of the UK’s puffins and 8% of razorbills breed here each year, making these islands one of this country’s most important sites for breeding seabirds. Thanks to a new rat eradication programme, storm petrels are now also returning to breed on the islands.
There are a few different walks that we might take, each spectacular in its own way or just sit for as long as you wish. On a clear day, we can enjoy great views across the west towards the mainland and the mountain ranges of our destination Skye. We will try and anchor at the Shiants for the night, so no need to rush.
We head for the north end of Skye at the Trotternish peninsula. This is the longest crossing we will have at about 3 -4 hours, but there will be time at the start and end of the day for artwork. We will be sailing through the best cetacean and basking shark waters at peak time. We will look out for feeding seabirds which indicates a food source and generally this is where we find minke whales, occasionally orca and species of dolphin such as common short-beaked, risso’s and white-beaked. There will be no rush and we can touch our toes on Skye with walks or time to sit. Skye has a very healthy population of otter and this evening will provide our best chance to see these characterful members of the mustelid family which includes pine martens, badgers and stoats.
Our final day will take us to Portree, the bustling main town on Skye. There is an opportunity to visit the town and a chance to see a little of the interior of this mountainous island. Guests booked onto the Sense of Place art holiday in Lewis & Harris will take the ferry from Uig to Tarbert, from where is it an hour back to Stornoway by minibus.
MV Monadhliath is a fully converted former fishing boat, specifically designed for wildlife observation and coastal live-aboard cruising and charter. This makes her perfect for comfortable cruising around the Hebridean islands. Monadhliath has 2 strategically constructed bespoke viewing platforms above her stern giving an unrivalled viewing experience 6 metres above sea level. Six secure and comfortable bucket seats are mounted on the upper platform allowing extended viewing time, which allows you to sit in comfort whilst spotting the abundance and varied wildlife around the Outer Hebrides.
We only have 5 guest spaces on this cruise, so places are very limited. There are three cabins available for single use, and one larger cabin for sharing. The boat has 2 showers, 2 passenger toilets, a drying room, fully equipped galley and a comfortable saloon.
The introductory price for this 4-day fully-catered cruise is GBP1190 per person in the shared cabin (plus GBP150 to have a cabin to yourself). This includes:
The cruise starts in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and we will meet on the boat at 2pm. The departure time ties in with the ferry sailing from Ullapool, which gets in at 1pm (departs Ullapool 10.30am).
At the end of the artist cruise guests booked on the Sense of Place art experience 23-30 August will travel back to Stornoway with me. For the other guests options include taking a coach from Portree to Glasgow or another destination, or staying on the boat for an extra night (for a small additional charge) to travel on to Mallaig, which is connected to the rail network.
We’ll be happy to advise you on travel connections and accommodation before and/or after the cruise. You can use our Getting There page as a starting point to plan your journey.
A non-refundable deposit of £300 secures your space, the rest is due 8 weeks before the start date. Personal travel insurance is required. Flights and travel to/from the departure and arrival locations stated above are not included.