A Guided Wildlife Tour to St Kilda and the Shiants

A Guided Wildlife Tour to St Kilda and the Shiants

On this cruise aboard Seahorse II you will be accompanied by a wildlife guide, Dr Peter Garson, who is passionate about wildlife.  As a career conservation biologist at Newcastle University he has worked on many different species in a variety of environments. From studying endangered wildlife in the mountain ranges of the Himalayas to our threatened, native red squirrels in the Scottish Borders. For his Doctorate at Oxford University he studied the local wren population, which is very different to those found on St Kilda. These wrens are relatively common on St Kilda and, with Peter's help, should be relatively easy to find!

This Guided Outer Hebridean (10 night) cruise will, if the weather is kind, give us time to explore fabulous St Kilda; the Shiant Isles; and many dramatic islands of the Outer Hebrides. Our starting point is Oban, the gateway to the western Scottish Islands.

Seahorse II will anchor in scenic, lonely islands, in tranquil bays and, throughout the trip, we see incredible wildlife - soaring sea and golden eagles, many species of sea birds, basking sharks, orca and minke whales, porpoises, dolphins and seals. Aboard Seahorse II you can do as little or as much as you want. Sit back and enjoy the trip as you travel through the Sounds; pass the islands and sea lochs; view the spectacular mountains and fast running tides that make extraordinary spiral patterns and glassy runs in the sea; marvel at the lofty headland lighthouses and castles; and, if you want, become involved in working the wee cruise ships.

Our ultimate destination is Village Bay, Hirta, on the archipelago of St Kilda  - a UNESCO world heritage site. Hirta is the largest of the four islands in the St Kilda group and was inhabited for some 2000 years before the villagers were evacuated in 1930, never to return.

The sea cliffs (the highest in the UK) of the St Kilda islands rise dramatically out of the Atlantic and are the protected breeding grounds of many different sea bird species (gannets, fulmars, Leach's petrel, which are hunted at night by giant skuas, and puffins). These thousands of seabirds were once an important source of food for the islanders. The breathtaking islands of Soay and Boreay have rare, ancient species of feral sheep and the St Kildan wren and field mouse are both unique sub species.

Please note that although St Kilda is our ultimate destination it cannot be sure - the Atlantic may not always be kind, even in summer. But, as we can see, we will explore other wonderful Hebridean islands and the wildlife is always guaranteed! Your skipper will be your guide.

If you wish to go to a specific place or to do a specific activity such as fly fishing, walking, whisky tasting, then please do let your skipper know and he will try his best to make your wish come true.

Some of the places we may visit are:

Oban: Your departure point will be Oban (Dunstaffnage Marina), the gateway to the Hebridean isles. After a short introduction to life on board our small ship we will set sail to our first destination.  Afternoon tea (clotted cream and scones) will be served en-route.

Tobermory: One of the most picturesque towns in the Western Isles. If you wish, we can make time to visit the local distillery or visit eagles (Mull is the best place in the UK to see eagles).

Canna, the Small Isles: We can set sail for the scenic anchorage at Canna and its neighbouring Sanday. There are seabirds galore on the island's high sea cliffs - puffins, shags, razorbills, black guillemots, Manx shearwaters - and breeding there, in the high crags, are sea eagles. There are two lovely beaches, three churches, a tiny ruined castle and a population of less than 20! A short climb up Compass Hill gives wonderful views of Skye and our destination, the islands of the Outer Hebrides.

Rum, the Small Isles: We will pass close to the Small Isles of Muck and Eigg to arrive at Rum the largest of the Small Isles, with an ancient volcano, where we can spend a night at Loch Scresort. Rum Island is a National Nature Reserve and famous for its herds of red deer and sheer sea cliffs which are home to nesting sea eagles. A visit to the Kinloch castle near the anchorage is definitely worthwhile.

Castlebay, Barra: We can anchor at the village of Castlebay on the island of Barra of the Outer Hebrides. Castlebay was where much of the film Whisky Galore was made about the WW II stranding of the S.S. Politician in Eriskay Sound with her cargo of 260,00 whisky bottles! Castlebay was once an important herring curing station and near our anchorage, surrounded by water, is Kisimul Castle, the ancient seat of the MacNeils of Barra.

Hirta, St Kilda: If the weather is kindly we up-anchor early and head out through the Sound of Pabbay for Hirta, St Kilda. Two nights at anchor on Hirta and a day ashore.

Lochboisdale, South Uist: If the Atlantic is being too unfriendly for St Kilda, from Barra we will head north, up the island chain, pass the Sound of Barra and the islands of Hellisay and Gighay, to our next quiet anchorage in Lochboisdale on South Uist. We can explore the incredible endless beaches and flower-rich Machair of the islands of South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist.

Shiant Isles: The so called ‘enchanted’ or ‘holy isles’ in Gaelic, they live up to their name. Situated between Lewis and Harris and northern Skye they are a haven for birdlife. They were once owned by Compton Mackenzie who wrote the famous novel Whisky Galore.

Loch Nevis: Another spectacular sea loch that runs inland from the Sound of Sleat. Surrounded by mountains and is one of the remotest sea lochs in Scotland.

Loch Spelve: A narrow entrance leads us in to the tranquil waters of Loch Spelve with its surrounding ancient oak forest. The anchorage gives us a different perspective than our previous views of the wonderful mountains of Mull. There are resident otters along the loch's shoreline.

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Reasons to book

  • Extraordinary wildlife cruises
  • Skipper & chef included
  • Hoist the sails
  • Great value for money
  • Cruises through Scottish Canals
  • Maximum of 11 guests per cruise
  • Breakfast, snacks, lunch & dinner
  • Organised whisky tours for free
  • A perfect adventure for all ages
Holiday Tips

I can't begin to explain what St Hilda has done for me and my confidence.

Ann, June 2013