Whisky and the West Coast
Suggested Duration: 10 days
Whether you’re treading its white sandy beaches, marvelling at its majestic glens, or sailing between its unique islands, exploring Scotland’s iconic west coast by boat is an unforgettable experience. Set sail for a 10-day adventure that’ll have you mooring up in some hauntingly beautiful wilderness anchorages; draining a dram (or two) in some of Scotland’s most famous distilleries; and sampling fantastic food and drink that’ll make your tastebuds dance. What are you waiting for?
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Where better to start your west coast adventure than the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ - beautiful Oban, the largest town in Argyll & the Isles and home to some of the finest seafood found anywhere in Scotland. Stretch your sea legs and work up an appetite with a trip to McCaig’s Tower – the coliseum lookalike that crowns the heights overlooking the town – before slaking your thirst with a tour of Oban Distillery – one of the oldest (and smallest – it only has two stills!) distilleries in Scotland. Sláinte!
After a day exploring Oban, sail west to nearby Lochaline, which offers stunning scenery, excellent facilities, and the chance to treat yourself to a meal in the Good Food Guide's Scottish Local Restaurant of the Year – The Whitehouse.
Berthing: Lochaline Harbour - pontoons & visitor moorings, toilets, showers, laundry, fuel, water, electricity.
Glenmore Bay & Loch Sunart
Leaving lovely Lochaline behind, cruise around 33 nautical miles north-west through the spectacular landscapes of the Sound of Mull to Glenmore Bay in the entrance to Loch Sunart – adventures in Ardnamurchan await! Wild, remote and unspoiled, this is a land of hauntingly beautiful moors, towering forests, and white sand beaches ideal for exploring. A haven for wildlife, be sure and keep an eye out for whales, dolphins, otters and sea eagles along the shoreline and wildcats and pine martens in the ancient Sunart Oakwoods that shelter stretches of the titular loch.
Don’t miss the chance to bag your second distillery dram of the trip with a tour of Ardnamurchan Distillery – Scotland’s most westerly and greenest distillery. Since opening its doors in 2014, Ardnamurchan has prided itself on the eco-friendliness of its signature single malt, generating its own hydro-electric power and using the whisky by-products to feed the livestock living on the surrounding peninsula. After you’ve drunk your fill of Ardnamurchan (both the distillery and the peninsula), Salen Jetty on the northern shore of Loch Sunart offers a beautiful, secluded spot to overnight.
Berthing: Salen Jetty - pontoons & visitor moorings, toilets, showers, laundry, water, electricity, store.
Ardnamurchan Distillery © Moonshadow Yacht Charter Ltd
The Small Isles
After your Ardnamurchan adventures, sail around 33 nautical miles north-west to the spectacular Small Isles. The Isle of Rum, by far the largest of the four, boasts towering, knife-edged peaks and an incredible array of wildlife – look out for majestic eagles gliding overhead, herds of red deer grazing on the hillsides, and otters scarpering between the sea and land. If you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of the ever-popular Rum Ponies! For those looking for things to see that are a little less wild, Kinloch Castle – a grand, 19th century mansion that played a pivotal role in the history of the island – is well worth a visit.
Before you leave the Small Isles behind, be sure and make a pit stop on Canna. It might only be five miles long and just over a mile wide, but Canna’s soaring basalt cliffs make it a haven for seabirds such as shags, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, puffins, fulmars and Manx shearwaters. Pick up a mooring, row ashore, explore, and be sure and sample the locally-sourced delights of the island’s Café Canna!
Berthing: Canna - anchorage with visitor moorings, toilets, showers, laundry, water.
The Cuillin, Isle of Rum © Moonshadow Yacht Charter Ltd
Wave goodbye to Canna’s pretty puffins and cruise around 17 nautical miles north-east to say hello to Skye - an island alive with magic. The largest of the Inner Hebrides, it’s home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes. From the Old Man of Storr to the Quiraing and the Cuillin mountain range, Skye offers a plethora of sights to enthral the senses – and twist the tongue! To see the latter in all their towering glory, consider stopping off at Loch Scavaig – a rugged, rural wilderness anchorage at the base of the range and one of the most spectacular you’ll ever have the pleasure to visit.
Once you’re ready to leave Loch Scavaig behind, sail north-west around the coast to Loch Harport for the chance to sample a dram (or three) on a tour of Talisker Distillery – home of the only single malt whisky produced on Skye. For those looking for solid rather than liquid sustenance, the Three Chimneys is worth the extra effort to find. The restaurant has spent the past 30 years establishing a reputation for offering up fantastic food that reflects the amazing variety of Skye’s authentic, natural larder from sky, land and sea. Book early, ready your tastebuds, and prepare yourself for a meal that’ll dance on your palette like the moonlight on the Fairy Pools.
Berthing: Loch Harport - anchorage with visitor moorings, toilets, showers, fuel, and a distillery within walking distance.
Loch Scavaig, Skye © Moonshadow Yacht Charter Ltd
South & North Uist
With some of the Skye's many sights ticked off your list, it’s time to set sail and cruise around 33 nautical miles west towards the hauntingly beautiful shores of South Uist, where towering mountains give way to some of the most beautiful beaches to be found anywhere in Scotland. Drop anchor in the secluded, magical – and aptly-named – Wizard Pool in Loch Skiport and explore the island’s many beautiful bays, lochans, and – particularly on its western coast – unspoiled white sand beaches. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll never forget a night spent beneath the stars in Wizard Pool, Hecla’s serrated peaks silhouetted against the bright sky.
Heading north from South Uist brings you to - no surprises here - North Uist. Tie up at Lochmaddy – the island’s ferry port – and explore its unique ‘drowned landscape’ of stark peat bogs, glistening lochans, and flowery machair peppered with prehistoric sites such as the colossal, eerie burial cairn of Barpa Langais and the ancient standing stones known as The False Men. North Uist also offers the all-too-rare chance to hear the rasping call of the corncrake – a beautiful bird whose dwindling numbers mean it could soon join the ranks of North Uist’s other myths. Catch its call while you can.
Berthing: Wizard Pool - wilderness anchroage - spectacular views; no amenities; no roads!
Berthing: Lochmaddy - pontoons & anchorage, toilets, showers, laundry, water, electricity, store and hotel/pub.
Harris and Lewis
Sailing around 10 nautical miles north, you’ll come to Harris and Lewis – the largest of the Hebridean islands and home of heart-achingly beautiful scenery, myths dating back millennia, and Gaelic arts, literature and music. The pretty, tranquil harbour of Rodel allows you to step inside the echoing stone walls of the 16th century church of St Clement’s to see possibly the finest example of a medieval tomb in all of Scotland. The Isle of Scalpay – joined to Harris by a single-track bridge – offers the chance to glimpse the Eilean Glas Lighthouse’s iconic red and white striped façade.
As well as incredible landscapes, centuries of Gaelic culture, and unforgettable architecture, Harris is also home to another key ingredient of any Hebridean adventure – whisky! Cruise around 17 nautical miles north-east around the coast for the port of Tarbert, which sits between North and South Harris in the shadow of dramatic mountains that dominate area’s skyline, and make a beeline to the Isle of Harris Distillery – the first to be built on the island, one of only two in the Outer Hebrides, and the home of a delightfully complex dram.
The final stop of your wild Western Isles adventure, around 30 nautical miles around the coast to the north-east, is the largest town in the Outer Hebrides – beautiful, incomparable Stornoway. Rightly famous for its delicious black pudding, there’s much more to this Hebridean hub than you might expect. From the all-embracing arts and cultural centre of An Lanntair to an array of excellent eateries – including what might be the most remote Thai restaurant in the west – and atmospheric pubs, it’s the perfect place to relax and sample some Hebridean hospitality. Sláinte!
Berthing: Rodel - visitor moorings, toilets, showers, hotel.
Berthing: Scalpay - anchroages, store.
Berthing: East Loch Tarbert - toilets, showers, laundry, fuel, water.
Berthing: Stornoway Marina - toilets, showers, laundry, fuel, water, bars, stores, internet access.
Wizard Pool , Loch Skipport © Eda Frandsen Sailing
Boasting an imaginative, daring and delicious menu that makes the very best of every ingredient in the Ardnamurchan larder, from the hedgerow, the woods, the bay and beyond, The Whitehouse Restaurant at Lochaline is often fully booked months in advance. There’s a reason. Book early and see for yourself why this back-of-beyond bistro was named the Good Food Guide's Scottish Local Restaurant of the Year.
See & Do
Although unreachable by boat, don’t miss the world famous Fairy Pools - a series of flowing pools on Skye’s River Brittle filled with crystal-clear azure waters. If you’re feeling brave, take your bathing suit and try some wild swimming – but be warned, it can be chilly!
Eat & Drink
Set in the heart of Stornoway, the Digby Chick has cultivated a deserved reputation for offering up fantastic, locally-sourced food that’s drawn visitors and locals alike to its bright blue frontage for the past 30 years. Settle in for some of the freshest seafood – and, it goes without saying, the best black pudding – you’ll ever taste.
Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye
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