This very exciting holiday is truly unique, with a 7-day cruise aimed at wonderful St Kilda, for an overnight stay followed by a full day on the main island, Hirta. Your holiday also includes transfers from Nethy Bridge, and a night in Stornoway before we embark.
On this spectacular tour we enjoy six nights on the ocean wave, climaxing in an expedition westwards to reach the outpost of St Kilda, one of Scotland’s five World Heritage Sites. There are no guarantees, but with reasonable weather we hope to moor overnight here, and spend a full day on the largest island, Hirta. This should give us time to look for the St Kilda Wren, a distinctive subspecies, and St Kilda Field Mouse. Soay Sheep, and the history of this remote community will likewise be of great interest. Our chances of both Storm and Leach's Petrels will be very good (rarely seen by day-trippers) and sunrise and sunset will be spectacular in good weather. Extra time at sea will also be very good for cetaceans.
Why choose THIS trip to St Kilda?
St Kilda is a difficult place to visit, even in summer months. The weather can intervene at virtually any time, and many a cruise fails to reach the islands. We have carefully designed this itinerary to give perhaps the best chances of visiting St Kilda. Our voyage begins and ends in the northern Outer Hebrides, meaning we are at the closest point to the islands, just 40 miles away. Trips beginning in Oban first have to reach this point, taking perhaps a day of your holiday at both the beginning and end. This means your 'window' for reaching the islands is much smaller, whereas we can simply 'head west' at any time, and our skipper can clearly see the archipelago before setting off towards the islands.
We plan to be ashore on three different days, giving time to thoroughly explore, a fantastic experience.
St Kilda is rightly famous for its huge seabird colonies. The spectacle and clamour of one million birds at the height of their breeding season in north-west Europe’s largest seabird colony is an unforgettable experience. Highlights include Puffin (more than 250,000 – the largest colony in Britain), Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel and Leach’s Petrel (over 90,000 birds, and 90% of the European breeding population). The rocky cliffs contain extensive ledges for breeding Fulmar (more than 100,000 – the largest colony in Western Europe), Guillemots and Razorbill. The St Kilda Gannet colony is the largest in the world, estimated at over 120,000 birds.
Perhaps the most notable land bird is St Kilda’s own distinctive subspecies of Wren, 2-3g heavier than mainland birds. Wrens are common in the village arera, and in 2012 we watched family groups close to our landing point. The other endemic subspecies to find is the St Kilda Field Mouse as it scurries about deserted houses in search of food. A third notable local creature is Soay Sheep – Europe’s most primitive domestic breed, and these are numerous in the village area.
During our voyage, we visit many other remote places, perhaps including the Shiant Islands, twelve miles from the northern tip of Skye. This is another major Puffin site, hosting around 240,000 birds, two percent of the world’s population! As we sail, Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Great Skua around the ‘flurries’ of fish, hosts of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake, the occasional Storm Petrel, and more will the seas can teem with birds. We should encounter Otter on rocky beaches and inlets, and Minke Whale, Basking Shark, Bottle-nosed, Common and Risso’s Dolphin and Harbour Porpoise, are all very possible.
About our vessel
Comfortable accommodation is provided for twelve persons in six twin berth cabins, each with hot and cold water and independent heating. Cabins are compact and small with 'bunk' style beds, and ladders on-board are steep. Duvets, linen and towels are provided. There are three seperate toilets and two showers. Communal accommodation centres around a large deck saloon with seating and large viewing windows. Open air seating is also available, and these are excellent areas for eating and viewing. Mobile telephone coverage is patchy and variable. There is ample power on board for charging batteries etc. and a tumble drier is availabile. Hair dryers are not supplied. The vessel carries good water stocks for general purposes. Crew accommodation is separate.
'Full board' includes a variety of cereals and a good choice of Scottish breakfast, lunch (or packed lunch if ashore), and dinner, all prepared by our excellent cook. Special diets are catered for. Tea, coffee, drinking water or hot chocolate are available, and we also have tea and cakes around 5pm. For safety reasons, hot meals and drinks are not provided whilst the vessel is at sea. The galley is equipped with gas cookers, microwave, fridge and deep freeze.
Getting ashore is usually by dinghy, and you will need to be reasonably mobile to climb short ladders and alight on rocky shores.
The wheelhouse is well equipped and instrumentation includes radar, two GPS navigators, two VHF radios and one DSC controller, Navtex, MF single sideband radio, autopilot and depth sounder. There is a diving compressor feeding the bottle bank on deck. There is also a dive ladder and tender with outboard motor. The skipper and crew hold valid First Aid Certificates, and we will be within range of the coastguard at all times in case of emergency. Smoking is permitted on the outside deck only.
Our thanks to Murdo MacDonald for some of the images on this page!