The Sea Lochs of Argyll and Crinan Canal Cruise

The Sea Lochs of Argyll and Crinan Canal Cruise

This cruise is unique in that it is a combined salt and fresh water boating experience. This Scottish cruise itinerary combines sailing the beautiful, sheltered sea lochs of Argyll with the fun of cruising the tranquil, fresh water of the Crinan Canal and makes this trip a perfect, varied, relaxing holiday perfect for families, couples and singles.

Before entering the Canal at Ardrishaig, which is situated on the famous Loch Fyne, we 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. We spend time at the Kyles of Bute where there is a remarkable rare, common seal and bird colony. The Kyles of Bute are beautiful stretches of water and considered to be one of the most scenic sailing areas in the UK.

The Crinan Canal cruise 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. If you bring your own bike (or you can rent one in Ardrishaig) you can cycle the towpath and explore the canal's surroundings. To find out more about the Crinan Canal have a look at

This cruise can be reversed when we embark at the north side of the Crinan Canal (Crinan Basin) and disembark at Holy Loch marina.

Please note that your voyage is weather dependent. Weather doesn't just mean good or bad weather. There are many considerations such as tidal gates, wind direction and strength, the strength and direction of currents, overfalls, and fetch.

Some of the places we may visit are:

Loch Riddon: After boarding and following a safety briefing we depart, heading south west along the magnificent Firth of Clyde. We head for the Kyles of Bute, past Toward Point, where there are often sightings of minke whales and basking sharks. We are sometimes accompanied by pods of dolphins or small families of harbour porpoises. We pass through the famous coastal waters of the Kyles of Bute with its natural harbours, islands, sheltered beaches and fast-running tidal narrows. There is a rare colony of the misnamed "common" seal on Burnt island. At around 8pm we drop anchor in secluded Loch Riddon and our first dinner aboard is enjoyed in the loch's peace and tranquility.

Burnt Island: After a leisurely breakfast we can fish over the side for our dinner. We can also learn how to tie knots or just sit back (and photograph) and enjoy the wildlife - often observing as many as 24 bird species in one day. After lunch we up anchor and pass through the tidal "narrows" of the Kyles of Bute. We anchor close to the Burnt Island's bird sanctuary and observe greater and lesser black backed gulls nesting with oystercatchers, herring gulls, cormorants, eider ducks, Canada geese and many other species. If there is time we can launch the tender and shoot a lobster pot.

Arran: We head down the beautiful West Kyle and out over the Sound of Bute cruising towards the Isle of Arran. We lunch on the way and, once out in the open sea and weather permitting, we hoist the sails. There are basking sharks close to Arran's shore, plunging gannets and we can sail so close to Manx shearwaters, guillemots, razorbills and three metres long "lion" jellyfish that we can almost touch them!  We return to our secluded and beautiful anchorage off the Burnt Islands to enjoy a well-deserved dinner.

Ardrishaig: After breakfast we launch the tender and pick up our lobster pot – hopefully full of crabs and lobsters and all sorts of unusual sea creatures! Then set out for Loch Fyne and our next destination the sea lock at Ardrishaig at the entrance of the Crinan Canal. Loch Fyne is the longest sea loch on the Scottish west coast and the Crinan Canal connects it to the Sound of Jura. The Canal was built in 1801 for seafarers to avoid rounding the stormy Mull of Kintyre. Queen Victoria travelled though the Canal and a Crinan Canal trip became a very popular Victorian pastime. We spend the first night in the Canal and close to Ardrishaig sea lock.

Crinan Canal: The Crinan Canal has 15 locks and meanders through truly magnificent scenery. It is a designated wildlife reserve with miles of forest walks and cycle ways. You can help the St Hilda's crew and the Canal staff manage the locks, or just sit back and enjoy the scenery. Managing the locks and the camaraderie of meeting others along the route is great fun. We will have the time to enjoy the great walks, the many birds (sea and land) and the historic sites with their ancient standing stones, which are all within easy reach. There are also nice pubs serving real ale.

Crinan Canal Basin: Disembark in the Crinan Canal Basin after breakfast. The end of a truly unique and varied mini cruise.

Enquire now

Dates don't suit?

Get in touch and we will do our best to meet your requirements


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
  • Art & photography cruises with free specialist tutors
  • Cruises with wildlife guide for free
Holiday Tips

Thank you both so much! You've whetted our appetite to discover more of Scotland!

Joyce, July 2013