Day 1: Wednesday 15 July – Oban to Tobermory, Mull
Our holiday starts near Oban, and we board the Seahorse II, meet the crew and familiarise ourselves with the vessel, our base for the next eight days. Departing north-west, we travel through the Sound of Mull, a narrow channel separating the island from Morvern peninsula to the east. Raptors will have high priority on this holiday, and with the highest density of White-tailed Eagles in Scotland there’s no better place to begin than Mull. We may pass near Golden Eagle territories as we cruise, and have excellent chances of seeing these graceful giants too. Arriving into Tobermory in the evening, there may perhaps be time for a short excursion into the town where a rare Edward VIII post box can be found by the pier.
Day 2: Thursday 16 July – Lunga and Gometra
From Tobermory we round northern Mull and head for the Treshnish Isles. On the open ocean we scan for Gannet, Fulmar, Great and Arctic Skua, auks, gulls and perhaps Manx Shearwater and tiny Storm Petrel. If conditions are favourable, we will land on Lunga, a tiny island blanketed with breeding seabirds each summer! Many thousands of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Shag nest on the west facing cliffs and we will of course devote time to the Puffins. Offering one of the closest encounters the British Isles, the careful birder can enjoy wonderful views (often at your feet) as these inquisitive birds go about their day to day business. A great spectacle and a photographer's delight! Arctic Tern and Eider both nest on the island too and locally bred Twite, Rock Pipit and Wheatear may be found feeding among hardy wildflowers as we stroll the clifftops.
After this fantastic experience we head east and back towards Mull, coming into Loch Na Keel. A great area for eagles and from sea level we will enjoy great views of seabirds including Shag, Cormorant, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Black Guillemot and perhaps diving Gannet. Smartly plumaged Red-throated and Black-throated Diver visit this area on fishing forays and the sea-loch can often be home to summering Great Northern Diver in July. We anchor off either Gometra or Ulva for the night and there may be the chance to visit one of these quiet islands, both with fascinating histories and tales of depopulation if time allows.
Day 3: Friday 17 July – Staffa and the Sound of Iona
In the morning we will have a little time to enjoy the wildlife of Loch Na Keel again before travelling out to sea and towards Staffa. This small island is famous for its magnificent sea caves and we plan to visit the most famous of these, Fingal’s Cave. Here the towering, six-sided basalt columns are one of the most spectacular natural marvels of the Inner Hebrides, a highlight of our tour. In the afternoon we head south keenly watching for seabirds and cetaceans before arriving in the Sound of Iona and our sheltered anchorage for the night.
Day 4: Saturday 18 July- Iona
A full day visiting Iona, an attractive island nestled off the western tip of Mull. With a very different feel to its towering neighbour, Iona is small at just over three miles across its widest point we will have time to exploring it thoroughly. Largely low lying but for a rocky core, rich wildflower meadows support Corncrake, a very special bird. A small population returns to breed each summer, and though July is not necessarily the best time of year to hear or see this elusive bird we will certainly try, armed with knowledge of favoured locations. Waders may be found feeding on beautiful sandy beaches and there are passerines and seabirds to be found here too. Iona is considered the birthplace of western Christianity and you may wish to visit the island's famous Abbey, founded in AD563 by Saint Columba when he travelled over from Ireland.
Day 5: Sunday 19 July – Colonsay
The next leg of our adventure sees us go to Colonsay, a gem of an island full of birdlife yet rarely visited by tourists. A quiet and beautiful place, with two possible anchorages so our exact itinerary will be flexible according to weather. Colonsay offers a variety of habitats, including ancient and cultivated woodland, moorland and peat bogs, some of the finest beaches in Scotland, and the distinctive machair – a habitat unique to the Hebrides. We explore on foot and can expect a wealth of wildlife with vocal Chough possible, as are Twite, Stonechat, Wheatear, raptors including Merlin and an outside chance of Corncrake. Otter families may be observed around the seaweed covered, rugged coastline and at this time butterfly and wildflower enthusiasts will be in their element with chances of Large Heath butterfly and much to see on the machair and in boggy ground.
Day 6: Monday 20 July - Colonsay to Jura
We leave our overnight mooring, plotting a course south-east towards our seventh island. Jura will soon be in sight and when we arrive off its west coast we take our time to explore, cruising first through Shian Bay where we would expect to see feeding seabirds including divers. Following the coast south we cut into Loch Tarbert, a large sea loch which virtually bisects Jura. Slowly the land begins to narrow as we watch the skies for both eagles, Raven and Hooded Crow, while maintaining an eye on the shoreline for summer waders, seals and Otters. After an enjoyable afternoon we lay anchor for the evening at a sheltered spot within the sea-loch.
Day 7: Tuesday 21 July - Jura to Mull
After a little more time enjoying the wildlife of the Loch Tarbert, we travel north with Jura’s third highest peak, Beinn Bhreac a feature on our eastern flank. By afternoon, we come alongside southern shores of Mull and here enter the narrow channel at Loch Spelve. One of the richest areas for wildlife, waders including Greenshank, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper may be found on the shoreline and if we are lucky Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl might be seen over the fields and moorland. We overnight nearby at an enchanting location reliving tales of adventure while sharing our last evening together.
Day 8: Wednesday 22 July - Mull to Oban
All good things must sadly come to an end, and after a wonderful voyage of exploration we cross the Firth of Lorn arriving into Oban where our holiday ends.