To quote Princess Anne 'sailing on a sunny day in Scotland is the nearest thing to heaven anyone will ever get on this earth…' and I couldn't say it better myself. Scotland has some of the best scenery and wildlife in the world and I was lucky enough to experience it all… by sea.
Scotland can have unpredictable weather so I had packed and prepared for every eventuality. Armed with my wellies, oil skins, numerous cans of baked beans, earl grey and enough chocolate biscuits to 'feed the 5000' we prepared to set sail on a yacht from the small, quaint fishing village in the North West Highlands of Scotland, Gairloch, for our four-day sailing adventure.
Day 1 - The Isle of Skye
After setting sail from Gairloch, it wasn't long until we enjoyed our first wildlife sighting. Merely 30 minutes out of the harbour, with the wind in our sails and the misty mountains in the horizon, we caught a school of dolphins swimming at the bow of our boat. I can't quite describe how great seeing them jumping out of the water was - it was so unexpected and to explain it quite simply - just magical! The peaceful sound of the waves with these amazing animals swimming with us is definitely a moment which will stay ingrained in my memory for ever.
Our first stop was the Isle of Skye where we anchored off the North East corner of this majestic island. Despite being one of the most well-known of the Scottish Islands, seeing the Isle of Skye from the sea is a completely different experience and you really get a feel for the towering cliffs and private inlets, not to mention multiple bird watching opportunities. As we were sailing in the peak of the summer, sunset is not until around 10pm so dinner this evening was pretty special. Not only did we manage to cook our fresh fish dinner on board the yacht for 7 people (pretty tricky with only one stove!) but we then got to enjoy it while watching the sun set behind these imposing cliff faces. I felt like we were the only people in the world looking at this view!
Day 2 - The Outer Hebrides
After our first night on board we were delighted when we awoke to favourable winds so we could commence our crossing to the Isle of Harris and what a crossing it was! Picture bright blue skies, grand cliff faces and an abundance of birds soaring over us, we couldn't have hoped for more. After exploring the island we decided to continue onto the small and rural Isle of Scalpay. This island is only accessible via a recently constructed bridge and with only one village shop, pub and school it felt like stepping back in time, to a traditional Scottish settlement. We arrived in the early afternoon and with bright sunshine beaming down we decided to walk up a nearby hill and marvel at the wonderful 360° views of the hundreds of tiny islands surrounding us and what a view that was!
Day 3 - North Uist
The following morning after waving goodbye to these beautiful views and numerous sheep, the winds were once again in our favour and we set sail to North Uist. You may not think it, but Scotland has a plethora of chalk white sandy beaches with clear blue skies - on a sunny summers day they could pass for the tropics! North Uist is home to an abundance of them and we were lucky enough to enjoy some time splashing about and paddling in the clear waters. Tonight would be our first evening moored to a pontoon and oh boy was I excited to be able to hop onto land and enjoy some pub grub at a local inn - I don't think fish & chips has ever tasted so good!
Day 4 - Gairloch
The next morning the crew and I started our return leg back to Gairloch. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and today my oil skins and wellies were finally tested. Although there was a lot of wind it made the journey all the more exciting as the scenery looked particularly dramatic and eerie. We left the boat in Gairloch and sadly began our journey back to England. While I may not have been cruising on the Royal Bloodhound like Princess Anne (my dream) I think I may have had the next best thing and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Scotland from a different viewpoint. A trip I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a beautiful, fun and truly memorable experience.
To end with another one of my favourite quotes, possibly from a less regal source (Wind & the Willows) but I do really believe 'there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.'
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