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St Hilda Sea Adventures
Crinan Canal Cruise

The Crinan Canal Cruise

This trip is a unique boating holiday experience  perfect for families, couples and singles. The cruise itinerary combines sailing the beautiful sheltered sea lochs of Argyll with the fun of cruising the Crinan Canal and the opportunity to walk (and cycle) along the pathways and explore onshore. You will cruise some of the most spectacular sea lochs of the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll on the West Coast of Scotland and watch for rare birdlife and marine mammals. The Crinan Canal meanders through truly magnificent scenery and is rich in history, with many world-class heritage sites. It is a designated wildlife reserve with miles of forest walks and cycle ways. Managing the locks on the canal and the camaraderie of meeting others along the route is great fun. The combination of the excitement of being on the boat and exploring sea lochs and coastlines, makes this trip the perfect adventure holiday for everyone. Click to find out more about the Crinan Canal

Day-to-Day Itinerary


Day 1

After boarding at 3.00pm, following the safety briefing, we depart Holy Loch to head south, under mizzen sail and Kelvin diesel, along the magnificent Firth of Clyde to our first anchorage in Loch Riddon. We anchor off a small burn and a lovely, old country house with its own dock and Admiralty steps. It is a magical place to anchor for the night and dinner is often enjoyed to the backdrop of a perfect westerly sunset. This area is known as Argyll's Secret Coast because it is best accessed from the sea. At anchor at night all you will hear are the calls of the birds, the occasional cough of a fox and the sound of the waves lapping against the side of the hull. The Kyles of Bute are world renowned amongst sailors. The sheltered coastal waters and stunning scenery have historically established the area as a popular area for people who love being out on the water because of the natural harbours, sheltered beaches and tidal narrows. Ardlamont Point which we pass on the way has frequent basking shark reports.  Throughout the area there are occasional pods of dolphins and porpoise and the rocks have seals a-plenty included the more rare, and misnamed Common Seal.

Day 2

Following the first breakfast at anchor we set sail for Ardrishaig and the Crinan Canal. On the way we pass the dramatic mountains of the Isle of Arran with the chance of a seeing a basking shark or even (on very rare occasions) a whale. Porpoises and Dolphins often appear around the boat and even frolic in the bow wave as we travel up Loch Fyne to the little port and entrance of the canal at Ardrishaig. A steep rush of water, a rapid climb and we are in the first basin. A sharp turn and we pass through two more locks before settling for the night at a quiet spot alongside a grassy bank. Aperitif, wine and dinner follow!

Days 3-4

We explore the Crinan Canal and take the boat through the 15 locks (Locks 1,14 and 15 are fully automated) and admire the incredible scenery from the deck. We enjoy the calm after the first few days at sea and look for birds from a canal-side hide over one of the finest sites in Europe for salt wetland birds. It is common to see otters and wild mink along the way and herons and wrens are frequently spotted. Rare red squirrels and even rarer pine martins are in the nearby pine forests and recently beavers were re-introduced into the area. You can walk along the nine-mile towpath as we wander through the locks or for the more adventurous a forest walk amongst mature woodland that starts at Loch 9 is on offer. There is also a Woodland Trust walk giving wonderful views of the Sound of Jura and the Island of Jura itself, taking you through oak and hazel woodland to Lock 14. The whole area is steeped in mystery; if you follow the footpath at Lock 5 you arrive, after a steep 15 minute walk, to the Achnabrek cup and ring markings.  What were they for and who carved them with such skill is a long unanswered question. There are other cups and ring markings just a five minute walk from the canal-side Cairnbaan Hotel, an original coaching inn that was built in the eighteenth century when the Canal was being constructed. You can also take a trip to Kilmartin Glen and discover the ancient archaeology there and visit Danadd, known as the birthplace of Scotland as it was the capital of the Scots Kingdom of Dalriada. You can choose to drink at a local pub with fine draft ales and travel as far as you wish each day. You can even fly fish the canal for wild trout (no permit required) and there is even a salmon run through the Canal! 

We mostly operate the locks ourselves, giving us a fine sense of history as they have been opened and closed in the same way for over 200 years. 

Day 5

We leave the Canal via the sea lochs at Ardrishaig and head down Loch Fyne to the Burnt Islands at the head of the spectacular West Kyle of Bute, where we anchor for the night near a bird-breeding colony, which also has a delightful colony of Common Seals. After breakfast we launch the dinghy and motor discreetly round the Islands to have a close look at all the many different species of breeding birds and see the (rare) Common Seal colony from close up as the mothers guard their pups. Then we up-anchor to travel along the magnificant coast of Cowal to arrive at our next anchorage in Loch Goil. We pass the ancient Carrick Castle, once a Viking fort and resting place for Mary Queen of Scots, to anchor off a delightful stream in a sheltered bay of the Loch. Here you can swim off the boat, see the seals and dolphins and listen to the stags as they bellow out their cries in the rutting season. We all have to keep an eye out for submarines in this a very deep loch!

Day 6

After a final breakfast on board, we up-anchor and enjoy a relaced cruise to Holy Loch to disembark at 11.00am


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