St Hilda Sea Adventures is a family-run business that offers Scottish island cruises. 2017 was an important milestone: our tenth anniversary of safe and successful small ship cruising. Our cruises, among the breathtakingly beautiful islands, sea lochs and mountains of the Inner and Outer Hebrides, are truly unforgettable adventures for all ages. The British national newspaper The Guardian was in accord when, in September 2017, it chose St Hilda Sea Adventures as one of the 'ten best small ship cruises in the world'!
We offer sailing and Scottish wildlife cruises on the west coast of Scotland. We operate for April to October from Dunstaffnage marina (three miles north of Oban, the gateway to the Hebridean islands!). We aim to share our knowledge and passion for the sea - and life above and below the waves - with our guests who often return and spread the word about our company.
How We Do It
We have dedicated marketing and sales operators and although most of our sales enquiries are web-instigated they are all actively completed by the salesperson - who worked on the vessel for 10 years. She intimately knows the region and always makes a point of developing a relationship with the passengers - understanding their needs, customising itineraries and travel arrangements. Our user friendly website thoroughly describes our products and is constantly being updated with travel news and special offers.
What is truly unique about this business is St Hilda, the first vessel to join us for sea adventures in 2007. She is a vessel with an incredible Scottish lineage. Built in 1973 to the highest standard (Lloyds 100A1) at St Monans, Fife, by the internationally famous Millers boatyard, (a family run business with 200 years of wooden boat building) and designed by G.L Watson, the world famous Glasgow based naval architect who created the world's first yacht design office in 1873 and designed early America's Cup challengers.
Today all three of our small ships, St Hilda, Gemini Explorer and Seahorse II, allow us to offer our guests an active adventure holiday in Scotland that is suitable for all ages. Passengers, however, can simply just relax and recharge their batteries and let the crew do all the work. We consider it important that our knowledgeable skipper and dedicated chef soon make the passengers feel as if they were on a family holiday in Scotland. Dietary requirements are always observed and the vessels are always kept clean, welcoming and shipshape.
Passengers can haul up sails (on St Hilda), paddle their kayaks, fish for dinner, windsurf, visit seal colonies, shoot lobster pots and on some cruises net for plankton. They look at the incredible wildlife above the waves or below the surface. Dinghy trips take them close to seal colonies and ashore for rock pooling and wonderful walks along wild coasts and up high mountains. We are extremely aware of the pristine waters in which we travel and operate a "leave only a wake" and a "look and leave alone" policy to respect the unique environment and wildlife.
Our current Scottish cruises cover many islands and sea lochs of the Outer and Inner Hebrides and range from St Kilda to Islay. We take our vessels through the beautiful Caledonian Canal and visit the distilleries of Mull, Jura and Islay on dedicated whisky cruises. As we sail down the Sounds of the Hebrides our customers’ wildlife and sailing experience is second to none. They dine on locally sourced food, we always shop locally, we employ local people (from shipwrights to taxis) and add extensively to the economy of local communities, some of which are remote.
We pay special attention to customers’ feedback either from our internal feedback system (guest book and e-mail follow up) or from independent reviews (i.e from Responsible Travel).
St Hilda Sea Adventures take place aboard our wonderful ex-tallship St Hilda, our ex-cruising lifeboat Gemini Explorer, or our ex-Norwegian ferry Seahorse II. The company is a family business and we converted our three small ships for Scottish island cruising. We are all passionate about food, boats, sailing and the natural environment. Recently younger family members are bringing renewed enthusiasm and digital marketing skills to the business.
Uniquely, guests on our mini cruises sail and are taught seamanship by our qualified skippers/instructors. Guests, on some cruises, can collect plankton with professional nets and can observe, film and photograph the wonderful Scottish plankton.
We appeal to all ages with many organised on board activities, from knot tying, plankton studying to sail hauling (on St Hilda). Because we only take a maximum of eleven guests (six guests on St Hilda, seven guests on Gemini Explorer and eleven guests on Seahorse II), and by the very nature of the holiday, solos, groups and families quickly gel and make friendships that often continue beyond the voyage. Our itineraries are planned and are flexible to meet all ages and capabilities with our overall aim to create a memorable sea adventure holiday in Scotland that is both fun and informal.
In winter the vessels undergo constant improvement and routine maintenance to maintain our high standards. Further en-suite cabins are planned and we already offer a wide range of accommodation (from a roomy en-suite to berths in a shared cabin with adjacent shower and toilet rooms) and, despite offering high value fun, our cruises' prices are very competitive.
In summary, we have three very special, small ships; a proud Scottish family business; a competitive pricing structure; many flexible itineraries that appeal to all ages and, finally and especially, our unique on-board and ashore activities take place on the wild and spectacular west coast of Scotland.