2020 Guided Cruise

Since 2016 it has been my privilege to create a yearly itinerary for 10-day cruise on the ship Hjalmar Bjorge, operated by Northern Light Cruising Company. It has been a rewarding experience, having the opportunity every year to share some of my favorite islands with guests eager to set foot on some of the more remote isles of the Hebrides. As always, weather, and sea-state, will determine exactly where we can go, but our goals for 2020 are as follows:

Departing on April 25, we’ll head west to Tobermory or Loch Sunart for the first night. Then it’s off to the Barra Isles to pay a visit to the islands south of Barra, with Mingulay as a priority – the puffins should be out in force on Mingulay. Then we’ll head north to the Monach Isles. If conditions look promising, we’ll continue on north to the Flannans. Landing on the Flannans is contingent on the sea-state.

We’ll then head east through the Sound of Harris, with time ashore on some of its islands, with Shillay and Ensay as priorities. Then we’ll set a course to the Shiants, which should be awash with puffins at this time of year. After the Shiants, it’s south through the Minch, with possible stops at Fladda Chuain or Isay. We’ll then return to Oban on May 4, via a stop at one of the Small Isles.

The following describes the highlights of some of the islands we hope to visit. Guests can come along on a guided walk, or explore on their own. For more information, and to book, refer to the Northern Lights website.

Mingulay: Sometimes called ‘The Nearer St Kilda’, with its puffins and historic ruins. Occupied as early as 3000 BC, the island was abandoned in 1912. The remains of its village are an evocative sight, as they are gradually being swallowed by the blowing sands.




The Monachs (the Monk’s Isles): Three low-lying islands connected by sandbars at low tide. There is a large seal population here, and it was the site of a monastery in the middle ages.



Flannans: The mystery of the missing lightkeepers remains unsolved to this day. Landing here can be difficult, and requires use of a rope, so conditions need to be just right. In addition to the famous lighthouse, the island is home to three historic beehive cell dwellings, and several thousand puffins.



Shiants: More puffins await us on the Shaints. A night at anchor here is something to remember forever: the sky filled with a hundred thousand of them flying between the sea and their island burrows.



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