Hebridean painting & wildlife cruise

Over the Sea to Skye ~ Small cruise ship painting experience visiting Isle of Skye and the Small Isles

Dates: 1-7 September 2021 – fully booked
Tutors: Nicky Sanderson (art); experienced ecologists aboard
Activity: Drawing & painting (watercolour & mixed media); Wildlife watching (also wild swimming, if you wish)
Departure & destination port: Mallaig
Locations: Isle of Skye; Small Isles of Canna, Rum, Eigg and Muck & Ornsay

We’ll be repeating this adventure and while you’re waiting for the new dates you can check out the photo gallery from the 2021 trip:

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This art cruise combines a daily plein air drawing and painting workshop with spotting and learning about the rich wildlife in the Hebridean isles. It’s like a creative nature retreat on a boat! Departing from Mallaig where we meet for our welcome night, we will sail across to the Isle of Skye and the nearby Small Isles of Canna, Rum, Eigg, Ornsay and Muck. While cruising the Small Isles, the dramatic backdrop of the Cuillins on the Isle of Skye is ever present. Capture the stunning beauty of the Hebridean seascapes with your paints and guidance from artist Nicky Sanderson, whilst learning about the island locations, their history and their wildlife from the knowledgable crew. If wild swimming is your thing you’ll get plenty of opportunities to live your passion!

“A wonderful experience combining painting, wildlife watching and living on a small ship.  Took me into another world for a week where I developed my painting style.  Very helpful and knowledgeable tutor and crew including a first class cook.” {Stewart, Glasgow}

Over the sea to Skye

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.West coast beach

The guides aboard the Monadhliath (our cruise ship) are highly experienced ecologists and both crew and guides are very familiar with the area. Throughout the 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!

Art inspired by stunning surroundings

This adventure is created for artists by artists. We will go ashore and explore islands and beaches, with plenty opportunities to get painting boards and sketchbooks out and spend a bit longer at one location each day for creating artwork. You’ll get a wealth of ideas and techniques to enhance your creative work with guidance from our art tutor Nicky Sanderson, who also leads the Sense of Place art experience in the Outer Hebrides. Check out her profile page here.

Watercolour Nciky Sanderson

You will feel a connection to nature as you explore these seascapes, and landscapes formed 3,400 million years ago, still sculpted today by wind and rain and human hand. Each day will have a different theme and artistic focus. Your sketchbook will form a record of the sights you see and by the end of the trip will contain a wealth of inspirations tucked away inside. Drawing with mixed media, using graphite, charcoal and ink, along with quick washes of colour from your paints will provide the basis of your work. You will have the opportunity to experiment with using the local environment as your tool – have you tried drawing a bird with a feather? Or a crab with a claw? Or painting the sea with seawater? Your own preferred paints (water colours or acrylics) should provide the colour you need for working on paper. Other materials are available for you to try.

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.



Day 1
You arrive in your own time at our hotel in Mallaig where we spend the first night. We meet early evening for a welcome reception with dinner and an introduction to the week.

Day 2
In the morning you’ll have a bit of time to explore Mallaig before we board the MV Monadhliath for our art cruise and the the dramatic Loch Scavaig with the Black Cuillins on Skye as a backdrop. There will be time to go ashore to Loch Coruisk, an old crater and reputedly home to a mythical ‘kelpie’ or water horse, where we can admire the stunning mountain scenery. We’ll keep an eye out for otters patrolling the shore and visit the common seal colony.

Day 3
In the morning we sail to the island of Canna, very green and verdant, and the westernmost of the Small Isles archipelago. Canna, along with its neighbour Sanday, is home to seabird colonies including puffins, golden and white-tailed eagles, breeding waders and otters. There is also a rich diversity of flora, ancient monuments and sites of historical and archaeological importance.

There are a few different walks we might take, each spectacular in its own way or just sit for as long as you wish.

Dolphins feature

Day 4
A morning sail will take us to the mystical island of Rum and the opportunity of whale and dolphin sightings along the way. There is a chance to visit Kinloch castle or walk along the shore. We will watch out for both eagle species and red-throated divers and might see the island’s population of red deer. Our anchorage for the night will be in Loch Scresort in front of Kinloch castle.

Day 5
Today we head for Muck in the morning, taking in some of Rum’s magnificent coastline, and later towards Eigg. The Isle of Eigg is a diverse island with coastal land, unimproved farmland, willow and hazel scrub, native woodland, raised bog and moorland. With a rich variety of flora and fauna the highlight will be the chance to walk up the striking An Sgurr of Eigg. Our final night will be at anchor at Eigg.


Day 6
We head north on our way to our final destination, the sound of Sleat and Isle of Ornsay, set on the east side of the Sleat peninsula – the softer side of Skye known as ‘the garden of Skye’ due to the lush vegetation. The beautiful and photogenic Sandaig Bay, or ‘Camusfearna’, is the home of Gavin Maxwell’s “Ring of Bright Water”. Set at the entrance to Loch Hourn, the Sandaig islands have a beauty and a tranquillity of their own. Scattered islands, sandy beaches and beautiful vistas make this an artist’s paradise, not forgetting the unique history of this special setting. After this we sail across the Sound of Sleat to the picturesque little village of Isleornsay where we will anchor for the final night.

Day 7
An easy relaxed sail back down the sound of Sleat, we head for Mallaig, arriving back in harbour about 12noon.

Painting & wildlife cruise route Sept 2021
1. Mallaig 2. Loch Scavaig 3. Canna 4. Rum 5. Muck 6. Eigg 7. Sandaig 8. Ornsay 9. Mallaig

Our boat, the MV Monadhliath

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.Boat 2

​We only have up to 6 guest spaces on this cruise, so places are very limited. There are two cabins available for single use, and two cabins for sharing. The boat has 2 showers, 2 passenger toilets, a drying room, fully equipped galley and a comfortable saloon, which we can also use as out indoor studio in case of wet and windy weather.

Prices & other info

The price for this 7-day fully-catered cruise experience is GBP2300 per person in the shared cabin (plus GBP400 to have a cabin to yourself). This includes:

  • 6 days (5 nights) accommodation on board the MV Monadhliath
  • 5 days art tuition
  • All meals and snacks on board
  • 1 night hotel accommodation in Mallaig (with breakfast; all rooms en-suite)
  • Welcome drinks and dinner in Mallaig on the first night
  • Wildlife knowledge shared by expert guides
  • Services of your crew
  • Artist-friendly itinerary, equipment (painting boards, water containers etc.), sketchbook journal, some art materials
  • Detailed pre-travel information with everything you need to know and bring (including kit list of basic art materials).

The cruise experience starts and finishes in Mallaig on the Scottish West Coast. The easiest way to get to Mallaig is by train from Glasgow Queen Street station on the West Highland Line, which is often considered one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world. The journey takes around 5 hours and 30 minutes but is well worth it.  Information and timetables are available here.

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 £400 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.