What do our boats get up to in the winter?

Saturday, 17 February 2018

A question many of our guests ask is what we do in the 6 months we are not cruising – do we lock up the boats and go off to the Caribbean for the winter?! In fact, running a small-ship cruising company is a year round job – much of the really hard work takes place in the off season! As soon as the cruising season is over we start work on improving and maintaining our vessels for the following season for the continuing safety and comfort of our guests. But its really enjoyable planning and working to make things even better for our guests - and with winter views like this at Corpach on the Caledonian Canal, who's complaining!

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Our 2018 season will be the last one where Elizabeth G can offer such affordable prices before her conversion to ensuite and with fewer guests on board.  With most months booked out for 2018, we added extra Scottish cruises to the calendar for Elizabeth G fans to have an opportunity to cruise with her this autumn at the cheaper price.  A 6-night cruise is only £1285 per person - a real bargain with four expert crew on board, including a specialist Wildlife Guide, accompanied onshore excursions and gourmet food.

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Hand dived scallops are best!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Much of the scallop produce on sale in Scotland is dredged and the problem with dredging is it lacks discrimination.  Towing 1 tonne of heavy dredging gear through the seabed leaves it like a ploughed field killing much of the life on the seabed and destroying the complex benthic habitat.  Hand diving for scallops is best for the environment and for flavour – we only ever serve hand-dived scallops on board. Hand diving for scallops is a sustainable method of fishing; the diver hand picks the scallops from the seabed leaving the smaller undersized scallops to grow and spawn.  There is no waste or bycatch.  Our owner and Skipper of Hebrides Cruises, Rob Barlow is very passionate about the way we source our shellfish and makes sure that it has not come at the expense of the marine environment. 

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New sanctuaries for whales and dolphins

Sunday, 4 February 2018

We were delighted to hear that the Scottish Government is to fund consultation on four Marine Protected Areas in Scotland for whales, dolphins and sharks. The Scottish Government have announced funding to allow public consultation on four proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scottish waters. The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) based in Tobermory on Mull has been working hard, in partnership with others, to call for the government to progress the MPA’s. HWDT have provided important research on cetaceans and basking sharks on the west coast of Scotland to provide the scientific evidence needed to make the case for providing these protected sites.

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Meet Lynsey Bland, Wildlife Guide

Friday, 2 February 2018

Apart from managing our vessels and providing everything our guests need on their cruise, the mission of all crew members is to ensure the cruise is educational, inspirational and fun for our guests.  No one-takes this more to heart than Lynsey and we are delighted she is returning as main Wildlife Guide aboard Proud Seahorse for 2018.  Lynsey has a passion and love for the Hebrides and her in-depth knowledge of wildlife makes the cruise very memorable for all guests.  

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Tenth anniversary with Chris Gomersall

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Our partnership with Chris Gomersall, leading our wildlife photography cruises to the Hebrides and St Kilda, began ten years ago through a mutual appreciation of the wildlife of the Hebrides and St Kilda and the adventure of being at sea. Not only has Chris give our guests an exceptional insight into wildlife and photography, but he has provided us with amazing images from our cruises. A little known fact is that Chris took the very first photograph of a white-tailed eagle born in the wild on Mull in 1985 following the reintroduction of the species.

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Our onboard Wildlife Guides are the best there are. Expert in their fields and passionate about wildlife, we feel very privileged to have them as Crew members, providing our guests with an exceptional insight into the wildlife we encounter.  Georgina Kelly  is a field ecologist with years of experience within research and consultancy and a wildlife expert in seabirds and cetaceans amongst other species.

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Our new “Big 5” cruise was in response to suggestions from our guests for a focus on finding the major Scottish wildlife icons. Autumn is one of the best times of the year to get close sightings of wildlife so we established an end-of-season Inner Hebrides “Big 5” wildlife short cruise which would “bag” five rare species in our cruising area. Our specialist Wildlife Guide Lyndsey was aboard Proud Seahorse and was set the challenge to find otters, eagles, red deer stags, harbour porpoise and common seals during our first “Big 5” five-day cruise.

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Wildlife Encounters 2017

Friday, 13 October 2017

We are delighted to report that our wildlife sightings have been the best ever this season, not just in numbers but in the amazing nature of the encounters. We don’t think there is any more wildlife around than normal, although species do fluctuate; the winning factor is the combined experience and knowledge of our crews.

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A great season for cetacean sightings

Saturday, 16 September 2017

With only a few weeks left of the 2017 season, it is clear that it has been a very good year in terms of wildlife sightings, especially of whales, dolphins and porpoise. Minke whales have been spotted on every single trip I have been on this season so far. The best sighting of the season took place just north of Ardnamurchan point on September 2nd. Over 300 common dolphins, 3 minke whales and hundreds of Manx shearwater and gannets, gathered together in one area of the sea, feeding on shoals of mackerel.

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We still have good availability on our Caledonian Canal Explorer 6-night cruises on September 30th(Oban to Inverness) and October 7th (Inverness to Oban) aboard Elizabeth G at £1055 per person. The variety of different environments to be experienced on this cruise is outstanding, from the magnificent sea lochs on the west coast, the backdrop of the Glen Nevis Mountain range, through the heart of Scotland via canals and freshwater lochs, fringed with forests and of course the amazing engineering of the Canal locks.  The Caledonian Canal Explorer is one-way - every day, wake up to a brand new part of Scotland as you travel from coast to coast. View the itinerary here> If you arrive to your cruise by car, we can transfer you back, otherwise there are excellent public transport links.

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The first steam aboard Elizabeth G gave us some dramatic skies, wonderful scenery and impressive seabirds. Guillemots, razorbills and common gull accompanied us up the Sound of Mull and a handful of majestic gannets were spotted. On approaching our anchorage for the evening, we spotted a couple of harbour porpoises, the smallest cetacean found in the Hebrides. We anchored in Loch na Droma Buidhe and enjoyed our first fantastic meal from chef Stevie. 

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I for one, can say that this trip was a delight from start to finish. To reach St Kilda is always an honour and to enjoy sunshine and a calm and glassy sea in the Hebrides is a real treat. Many laughs were had during the 10 days and the wildlife did not disappoint! We had good views of 6 different species of cetacean, both white-tailed eagle and golden eagles and many other bird species, including thousands of gannets around the sea stacks of St Kilda.

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In July 2017, the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is launching a new sightings app, thanks to an award of more than £79,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The app will enable everyone (boat operators and wildlife enthusiast alike) to record and submit their sightings of marine megafauna such as whales, dolphins and porpoises from all across the Hebrides. We are very pleased that Hebrides Cruises is playing a vital part in the development of the app.

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There was a real buzz at Oban Harbour on Saturday 13th May, the first cruise for our new vessel Proud Seahorse.  During the few days prior to departure, the weather forecast, along with the wind speeds and direction was giving some thought as to the best itinerary; but both guests and crew were anticipating with great excitement the prospect of the first week of cruising for Proud Seahorse.  The Crew of four were; James the Skipper, Maddy the Bosun, Peter the Chef and myself, Nigel the Guide, hoping to bring my wildlife, photographic, and Hebrides knowledge for the enjoyment of the guests.

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