Glen Etive joins the fleet of The Majestic Line – the best wee cruiseline in the world
As these pages testify, I am a self confessed cruise addict, at my happiest when on board a yacht, boat, barge or (small) luxury ship. Crossing the Pacific from Los Angeles to French Polynesia, a slow boat from Singapore to China, circumnavigating South America and island hopping around the Caribbean, Greece – and nearer to home, no-where is more stunning than the magnificent Western Isles of Scotland.
“The day was yet in its prime, a lustrous summer day which might have gilded the palm-crowned glories of an Indian isle. The sky was bright above, and the great ocean heaved around us with a motion so subdued and gentle, that our hearts might have filled with joy and gladness.” From “A Voyage Round the Coasts of Scotland and the Isles,” James Wilson.
This poetic report was written by a cruise passenger in 1842, but could well describe this wildly dramatic destination today.
Inspired by traditional Mediterranean cruising on a Turkish Gulet, The Majestic Line was launched in 2005 to offer authentic boating adventures around the Argyll coastline, Western Isles and Hebrides. The Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan are former Irish fishing vessels, comfortably furnished with six double en suite cabins, a lounge-bar-dining saloon, fore and aft sundecks; Eleven guests are looked after by a crew of skipper, engineer, bosun and chef.
Following great success over the past decade, the award winning company has just launched a third vessel, Glen Etive which joins the fleet for the 2016 season. The grand ceremony on April 5th at Holy Loch Marina was heralded by a kilted Piper, speeches from the owners, Andy Thoms and Ken Grant before the guest of honour, the actress Barbara Rafferty christened the ship in traditional manner with a dram of whisky.
Master of this new mini cruise ship is Skipper David Wheeler, formerly on the Glen Tarsan, accompanied by his wife, Michelle as Bosun, Engineer Steven Campbell and Chef Michael Weir with his important role in the galley.
The inaugural series of 6 and 10 night cruises on board Glen Etive covers an exciting, enticing range of destinations, cultural and outdoor sporting interests: up close and personal bird watching and wildlife around “Skye and the Shiants”, to whisky tasting over the waves to “Islay and the Southern Hebrides;” the departure on 21 May coincides with the Islay Festival of Music and Malt, Fèis Ìle. And instead of jetting off to the Seychelles, visit the fabulous sandy beach islands of Barra, Canna and Mingulay, the “Idyllic Isles of the Outer Hebrides”.
And what is sure to be a very popular voyage is the chance to experience the remote World Heritage site of St Kilda, once a small outpost community with its own school and church. This is David Attenborough territory indeed with its vast colony of fulmars and gannets, the distinctive St. Kilda Robin and ancient Soay sheep.
It was in 1834 when the first cruise steamer, the “elegantly furnished” Glen Albyn, sailed from Glasgow to St. Kilda, the start of popular Pleasure Excursions around the Hebrides. As they manoevered their way through the Stacs, one intrepid Victorian tourist described that when the ship’s cannon was fired, the passengers took pot shots at the gannets with rifles! Thankfully today ecologically-friendly cruisers arrving on St Kilda are armed only with cameras and binoculars. But just like those early travellers who ventured out to this bleak, barren landscape, it retains a mystical atmosphere still haunted by its extraordinary heritage of pioneering endeavour.
“There is something in the very name of St. Kilda, which excites expectation. Remote and solitary, the spirit of romance appears still to dwell in the clouds and storms that separate this narrow spot from the world.” “The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland” John MacCulloch (1824).
Meanwhile throughout 2016, Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan will set off on 3 and 6 night itineraries covering the map of the West Coast with ports of call on Mull, Skye, Colonsay, Muck, Rum, Eigg, the Slate Islands, exploring Loch Crinan and Loch Spelve as well as a fascinating journey through the Caledonian Canal to Loch Ness.
“Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream. Discover”. Mark Twain
In recent years, my partner Ken and I have experienced stunningly scenic journeys on Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan, from Arran to Mull as well as the tranquil beauty of long finger fjord-like sealochs. Life on board is casual, leisurely, fun: be as active or lazy as you wish, bird watching, a spot of fishing, read or relax on deck surrounded by a backdrop of glorious loch and mountain views. By day, enjoy a tender boat ride ashore to head off on energetic island walks, visit ancient castles, distilleries, art galleries, coastal towns, villages and fishing ports.
These intimate, wee ships have the atmosphere of a friendly house party: after an exhilarating day out in the open air, by 6pm or 7pm it’s cocktail time as guests gather for a G&T or a dram leading on to lively conversation over dinner.
As fishing boats, they are purpose built to navigate shallow waters of narrow inlets, natural harbours and sandy bays – the skipper always finding a hidden cove to anchor overnight for a peaceful night’s sleep.
My personal highlights ? Calgary Bay, Mull, watching five dolphins diving around the bow of the tender boat; listening to Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture as we approach Fingal’s Cave, Staffa; the distant silhouette of shimmering shapely islands at sunset; on deck before breakfast to capture a painterly view in the pure fresh air.
“Mull was astern, Rum on the port, Eigg on the starboard bow ….” Robert Louis Stevenson
You can be assured of superb, freshly prepared, seasonal Taste of Scotland meals on board as Chef Michael Weir on the Glen Etive proudly explains:
“I use only fresh ingredients and stock up at suppliers en route for example the mussel farm on Loch Spelve on Mull, and source lamb, pork and beef from local farms and venison from the hill. We’ll put some fishing lines over the side and we frequently catch mackerel We also can catch our own crab and even the occasional lobster by dropping our own pots overnight. We often find we are moored up beside a prawn boat or fishing boat where the skipper will happily swap some of their catch for a bottle of whisky! “
A cruise with the Majestic Line is simply unique, memorable and magical with a true sense of freedom and escape from real life. I cannot wait to step on board the new sleek, chic Glen Etive for another majestic adventure around the Scottish Islands. Now with a fleet of three charming boats, it is certainly the best wee cruise line in the world!
The great value cruise fare covers accommodation, exemplary hosts and hospitality, all meals (complimentary house wine with dinner), and ship to shore transfers. As well as joining a mixed group of couples and individuals, you can also hire your own cruise line!. Exclusive use charters are very popular for families and friends, corporate and business events.
See the website for all information, calendar of itineraries, fares and special offers: http://www.themajesticline.co.uk