26th June - Pearls of the Irish Sea
Venturing out of Scottish waters for the first time this season, we head south from Oban to capture the maigical and mysterious spirit of three different cultures bound by their Celtic roots.
Tuesday, 26th June.
As the sun shone down in Oban, guests boarded Hebridean Princess ahead of a delightful evening sail to our overnight anchorage at Loch na Mile off the Isle of Jura.
Wednesday, 27th June.
Steaming to the whisky isle of Islay our foray ashore this morning was to Ardbeg Distillery. Ardbeg has been called “as close to perfection as makes no difference,” by whisky connoisseurs. Proof then, that Ardbeg truly deserves its incredible reputation. It’s a whisky that’s worshipped around the world. In the past ten years, six different Ardbeg expressions have won prestigious titles including World Whisky of the Year, Scotch Whisky of the Year and World’s Best Single Malt.
Departing from Islay for Ballycastle, Captain Kirkwood ensured a steady crossing to Northern Ireland and as temperatures were the highest in Scotland for 20 years, what better way to soak up the sun than with Pina Coladas on the Skye Deck.
And then we disembarked at the maginifcent Giant's Causeway. The Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's most famous landmark and has been an official Unesco World Heritage Site since 1986. Formed between 50 and 60 million years ago, the 'causeway' takes its name from the legends of Finn MacCool and draws people from far and wide to this corner of north Antrim.
Thursday, 28th June.
From Bangor marina, the Neo-Classical Mount Stewart House played host to this morning's visit and our lunch time venue.
Meanwhile, Hebridean Princess sailed for Strangford Lough where guests later took the local ferry from Portaferry to Strangford to visit Castle Ward, a unique 18th century mansion, famed for its mixture of architectural styles. All guests re-joined the ship by local boat in Strangford Lough.
Friday, 29th June.
From Northern Ireland 'HP' headed to the Isle of Man where we arrived in Peel yesterday evening. This morning we uncovered the layers of Manx history at the majestic fortress of Peel Castle.
At the House of Manannan Museum, the legendary sea god Manannan guided us through the island’s rich Celtic, Viking and maritime past from its origins as the centre of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, through to the busy fishing ports of the 19th century and the beginnings of the Island's Steam Packet Company.
Our exploration of the Isle of Man continued during the afternoon with a panoramic tour to Cregneash and Port Erin to board the steam train to Douglas from Peel, whilst Hebridean Princess sailed for Douglas and where all guests re-joined the ship.
Saturday, 30th June.
Bidding the Isle of Man a fond farewell our overnight anchorage yesterday evening was off Whitehaven, England. This morning, Muncaster Castle and Garden beckoned. The historic haunted castle, still a lived-in family home after nine centuries, commands lower Eskdale from its vantage point above the Ravenglass estuary. Set in 77 acres of woodland and gardens, against the backdrop of the Western Lake District fells, these idyllic surroundings provided a memorable visit.
The afternoon was spent cruising on passage towards Larne, Northern Ireland.
Sunday, 1st July.
From our berth in Larne we headed to Glenarm Castle this morning. The castle is the home of Viscount and Viscountess Dunluce and their family and the present castle has been in the McDonnell family since it was first built in 1636. The McDonnells have been in Glenarm for nearly 600 years and the estate has been in the family for 400 years. In the house guests saw superb examples of Irish furniture as well as portraits of family members from the early 17th century through to the present day.
The walled garden is one of Ireland’s oldest and was originally created to supply the Glenarm Castle with its fruit and vegetables, but now filled with exciting flowers and specimen plants.
The weather and sea conditions continued to remain perfect, allowing for a wonderful beach landing at the conservation village of Cushendun which has been protected by the National Trust since 1954.
Monday, 2nd July.
Returning to Scottish waters, Hebridean Princess anchored in Loch na Mile, Jura last night. From here we visited the Isle of Jura this morning for walks along the bank of the Loch.
More walks were enjoyed during the afternoon at Crinan and along the towpath of the Crinan Canal.
And what better way to end such a delightful cruise, than with a champagne reception on the Skye Deck of Hebridean Princess with the sun still shining!
Tuesday, 3rd July.
As the UK has been bathed in warm sunshine all week, our delightful cruise of three Celtic nations came to a close this morning. Wishing all of our disembarking guests a safe and pleasant journey home.