ESCAPE TO PARADISE
WELCOME TO THE AWARD-WINNING NORTHERN LIGHT CRUISING CO LTD
Quality wildlife cruises on the Scottish West Coast since 1995
Working from Oban on the beautiful west coast of Scotland, we offer a wide variety of wildlife and Hebridean island cruises with something for everyone. Our trips combine birdwatching, whale and dolphin spotting, island hopping, wild swimming and walking. The natural history and landscapes you will encounter are also a photographer ’s paradise, whilst life on board offers wholesome food and relaxation. For an even more memorable holiday, you can book the whole boat for friends and family as a private charter.
Aboard the Hjalmar Bjørge individuals and groups have the rare opportunity to travel the unpolluted waters of North West Scotland.
Our trips share one common aim – to show you the region’s natural environment and a sample of all that it has to offer. By ‘natural environment,’ we mean landscapes from hills to beaches, plants, trees, flowers, and grasses; birds ranging from puffins to gannets to eagles and petrels; cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoise); other marine mammals such as basking sharks and seals and other mammals including otter and deer.
SOME OTHER ISLANDS WE VISIT:
Harris, Lewis, Taransay & Scarp
North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist & Barra The Shiant Islands Mull & Iona Rum, Canna, Eigg & Muck Coll, Tiree & The Treshnish Isles including Staffa Garvellachs, Corryvreckan, Islay, Jura & Colonsay North Rona, Sula Sgeir, Handa Island & The Summer Isles
Some of our regular trips are described on pages 10/11 but for a full list of current cruises and their availability please visit our website.
Some cruises have destination-specific itineraries, some do not, remaining ‘flexible’ to encompass the vagaries of the weather and the interests of those onboard. We like to ask guests where they might like to go and what they hope to see and if possible, we will weave these requests into the cruise.
Daily shore visits are an important part of every cruise, be it a short stroll or a longer all-day walk with packed lunch provided. There are picture-perfect beaches, small local villages and harbours, bustling towns, glorious gardens, historic castles, and hills both large and small, for you to explore.
Evenings might find the vessel in a tranquil sea loch where dinner could be accompanied by a warm sunset or a glowing moon. On other evenings, the boat might visit local towns and villages enabling guests to visit pubs and inns for a wee dram or a walk after dinner. We never plan to cruise at night and will do so only if weather dictates passage to a safer haven.
Food is always a special occasion onboard and our talented and generous chefs frequently surprise our delighted guests with the quality of their offerings.
Stocks are replenished for each cruise, using as much local produce as we can. You can help yourself to refreshments from the servery plus we have an on -board bar selling wine, beer, lager, cider, and soft drinks.
A typical day’s menu includes breakfast followed by morning tea, coffee & biscuits. Then we normally serve a 2-course lunch including soup and freshly baked bread. On afternoons spent on board, we offer tea, coffee & homemade cakes. In the evening, a candlelit 3-course dinner is followed by coffee & chocolates and occasionally a cheese course too.
We love to help our guests celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions so do be sure to tell us on the booking form.
Accommodation for max 10 guests, 4 twin and two single cabins, heated, sinks and porthole views outside. There are 3 toilets, 2 showers, a galley & spacious dining/salon area. Quiet generators, central heating and powerful new engines makes for comfortable on-board living.
There is a wide variety of wildlife to see on your trip. We hope to have encounters with marine life, cetaceans, birds, and mammals, undisturbed in their natural habitats.
You do not need an expert to enjoy these encounters. Our crew’s knowledge is abundant and ever increasing but we do sometimes have a wildlife guide or photographer on board, and of course many of our guests are a wonderful source of information too.
Other than cetaceans (see overleaf), the marine animals we see most often are basking sharks, seals, otters and even ocean sunfish on occasion.
You may spot puffins, golden and white-tailed sea eagles, corncrakes, terns, razorbills, guillemots, great northern divers, red divers, black throated divers, Arctic and great skuas, peregrine falcons, hen harriers, osprey, merlin, great crested-grebes, Manx shearwaters, fulmars, tawny owls, oystercatchers, swans, geese, choughs and ravens to name a few.
Our aim is to offer rewarding experiences with a low-impact on the environment. We strive to balance the needs and wants of our customers with the realities of the places we visit, some of which are fragile and wild locations.
No less than 76 species of bird were spotted by some eagle-eyed guests over one 5-day cruise.
FLORA & FAUNA
Many guests join us, especially in spring, to see the wonderful profusion of flowers in woods, fields and on the machair. There are over 1000 identified wild flowers alone in the Hebrides. At the other end of the season, you can forage for fungi.
Hawk moths, peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies are amongst the many insects you might see or there is the exotic sounding “slender Scotch burnet moth ” thought to only survive on the islands of Mull and Ulva.
Cetaceans’ is the collective name for whales, dolphins and porpoise. Minke whale are the most frequently seen whale throughout the Hebrides. Although usually seen in the distance, they will sometimes swim remarkably close beside the boat, rolling on their side to take in a better view.
Common dolphin are often seen in large groups (up to 1000 animals) and frequently bow ride vessels.
Orca (killer whale) are seen infrequently but on a regular basis. One encounter saw three orca bow riding the boat for 4 hours. An unforgettable experience!
The shy Risso’s Dolphins around the Western Isles. Striped White-beaked Dolphin and Dolphin are more commonly offshore on our longer trips and St Kilda.
Dolphins are sometimes seen Striped Dolphin, and White-sided commonly seen further trips to the Outer Hebrides
We have had some positive sightings of a Sei Whale and great encounters with Humpback Whales off Iceland. The Blue Whale, Fin Whale and Sei Whale have been reasonably frequent visitors to the waters around St Kilda.
This is a brief overview of some of our cruises. For a complete list including full itineraries and availability, please visit: www.northernlightuk.com
Jura, Corryvreckan and Colonsay—6 nights
A gentle late season cruise where we will take advantage of the natural shelter afforded by the islands (Mull, Colonsay, Jura and Islay). In recent years, we have had abundant sightings in the area of cetaceans and basking sharks. Our extensive local knowledge will also allow visits to sites in the vicinity of Golden and White -Tailed Eagles.
St Kilda and Outer Isles —9 nights
A cruise designed to discover some of the more remote Hebridean islands including (weather permitting) St Kilda. This cruise will include the fabulous Monach Islands and the small remote islands off the south of the Western Isles, plus the added bonus of visiting St Kilda. Daily walks, seabirds, eagles, and a wonderful time of year for cetaceans.
Northern Isles to Inverness— 9 nights
Experience the best of land and sea with our tour of the seabirds, islands and history of the Northern Isles. This cruise combines a mid -summer exploration on the boat starting in Lerwick and ending in Inverness with our sister company SKYEFARI to provide wildlife land tours in our 4x4 minibus.
Outer Isles Explorer—9 nights
An adventure cruise to some of the more remote Hebridean islands without the sometimes arduous trek out to St Kilda. The itinerary is dependent on weather – balancing shelter with reaching our preferred destinations –but may include, for example, some of the following destinations: Mull, the Small Isles (Rum, Canna, Eigg and Muck), Skye, Coll and Tiree in the Inner Hebrides. In the Outer Hebrides possibilities include Eriskay, Barra Head, Mingulay, Vatersay, North and South Uists and Benbecula etc.
Atlantic West Coast Voyager —11 nights
An adventurous itinerary of Hebridean offshore islands with a passage down the entire Atlantic west coast of the Hebrides. This cruise is subject to weather and sea conditions but wildlife should be rewarding plus there are many sites of interest on remote islands.
We also offer guided cruises and charters
Visit our website to see which specialists we have on board this year!
Focus On ST KILDA
Approximately 45 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda was once home to Britain’s most isolated community.
The history of St Kilda, its remoteness and amazing wildlife make the islands an exceptionally desirable destination for anyone interested in natural history and Scottish culture. Please note however, St Kilda is never a guaranteed destination due to the vagaries of the prevailing weather and sea conditions at the time of sailing.
Saying that, we have been running charters out to St Kilda for 20 years, taking hundreds of passengers to the archipelago. We have an extremely high success rate in reaching and landing guests on the island.
A live-aboard cruise to St Kilda allows the skipper to plan the optimum weather window to visit, not only to get you there but to make the best of the weather during your stay. Overnight, on anchor at St Kilda can be a magical experience and of course you have the opportunity for a few shore excursions. Incidentally, your (overnight) stay on anchor gives you eligibility to join as a full member of the St Kilda Club.
A particular highlight of our cruises is our tours round the archipelago to see the stacs. We don’t make a quick dash out of Village Bay to Boreray! Our preferred route is to cruise down to the end of Dun then to turn west and go clockwise around Dun and Hirta.
Geology: The sharp, jagged skylines exist because the Ice Age bypassed St Kilda’s islands leaving the rocks unworn. Scientists believe that many years ago, St Kida was just one large volcano. The volcano exploded causing the formation of many smaller islands and sea stacks.
Cleit and house in Hirta’s Village Bay
Boreray is one of the islands in the St Kilda group well, it is more of a rock really! It is home to one of the largest gannet colonies in Europe, about 50,000 pairs.
St Kilda is a haven for wildlife with 210 different species of bird some one million seabirds. Here you will find an estimated 300,000 pairs of puffins (that is 50% of the entire UK population), 60,000 pairs of gannets, 40,000 pairs of fulmars, 20,000 pairs of guillemots, 10,000 pairs of kittiwakes, plus Manx shearwaters, storm petrels, Leach’s petrels and great skuas.
St Kilda has its own species of four-horned Soay Sheep, St Kilda wren and St Kilda mouse (descended from the wood mouse because the house mouse became extinct after the houses were abandoned).
Dolphins, minke whales and sometimes orca accompany vessels as they make their way out to these remote islands.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR CRUISE
We pick up guests in Oban which is well served by trains and buses and arrive back from our trip early morning so you can enjoy a full breakfast on the boat before you depart.
Full board and accommodation are included in the price of your holiday (excluding bar drinks) . Bedlinen and towels are supplied, you just need to bring personal toiletries and clothing.
We do not have an upper age limit but it is essential that all guests are in good health and are reasonably mobile.
That said, don’t think all our guests are athletes; ages have ranged from 12 to over 80 and while confidence around water is recommended, it is not essential that you are able to swim.
The Northern Light Cruising Co Ltd was founded and successfully operated for over 20 years until the end of 2021 by Mark Henrys who has been involved with boats for over 40 years.
In January of 2022, the business was bought by David Lambie of Hebridean Adventures who already have a converted fishing boat, the Monadhliath, based in Stornoway, that also operates as a small wildlife cruise boat.
Of course, The Northern Light Cruising Co would not be the business it is without our brilliant crews, most of who stayed on with us, who work so hard to provide our guests with an exceptional holiday experience. Read more about them on our website.
GET IN TOUCH OR BOOK YOUR PLACE
To register your interest, discuss a booking, join our mailing list, enquire about whole boat charter or to just ask a question: please use the contact details on the back page. Your calls will be answered by Michelle Baron, our bookings and office manager and an old friend of the company.
To secure your place on one of our trips, just fill in the booking form that came with this brochure or download a copy via our website. Then return it to us with your 25% deposit or you may now Book Online with a credit/debit card.