The constantly changing light, myriad islands and magical wildlife of the Scottish West Coast, all contribute to its reputation as one of the best cruising areas in the world.
For years now, we have relished the excitement of tidal gates, the peace of secret anchorages, the thrill of plummeting gannets and dancing dolphins, the magic of sunset flooded skies. We want you to enjoy similar experiences on Cloud Nine.
Whatever the weather you experience – and it might be four seasons in a day - the best cruises are likely to be the ones that mix exhilarating sailing with some exploration of the many anchorages and moorings and all that they have to offer in the way of walks, beach combing, local catering and good music.
As you will see from the charts and official cruise guides, there are so many passages and anchorages to choose from; what we outline below is just a taster of the wonders of West Coast cruising.
Heading West and North
Cloud Nine is based in Oban. A week’s cruise from here would allow you to circumnavigate the beautiful Isle of Mull. You could start by heading west to the Ross of Mull and exploring the turquoise anchorages of Ardalanish, Balfour’s Bay or Tinker’s Hole. After sailing through the Torran Rocks you could visit the vibrant island of Iona, the ancient ‘Cradle of Christianity’; then, maybe into Bull Hole or Bunessan on Mull for the night. Your trip could also take in the dramatic island of Staffa, famous for Fingal’s Cave and its unique formation of basalt rocks. The sands of Coll could be your next destination but not without a stop at Lunga in the Treshnish Isles; go ashore here to see the puffin burrows and the sea stack.
You might choose instead to head further north via the Sound of Mull, and explore the small isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna, each island distinct in landscape, ownership and community. You could even head onwards to awe inspiring Loch Scavaig in the south west corner of Skye, with its bristling backdrop of Cuillin Mountains, or perhaps into moody Loch Nevis for a visit to the remote village of Inverie and the famous Old Forge pub.
Then head south to Mallaig passing the Morar Sands on the way to Arisaig or Loch Moidart before rounding Ardnamurchan point, the most westerly mainland point in the United Kingdom. Make a visit to the pontoons of colourful Tobermory or the sheltered anchorage of Loch Drambuie before heading back down the Sound of Mull to Oban.
If you have a night in hand, pop into Lochaline, famous for mining pure white sand, take advantage of the hospitality offered on the Morvern Community Pontoons and enjoy a walk along the loch shore to the imposing Ardtornish House and Gardens.
Alternatively, you could head directly North from Oban for the waters of Loch Linnhe possibly spending a night at Port Ramsay at the north west corner of the pretty island of Lismore or at the popular anchorage of Port Appin. Loch Linnhe offers stunning views of the Ballachulish and Glencoe mountains before you head on up through the Corran Narrows to Fort William, ‘The Outdoor Capital of Scotland’, sitting under the imposing bulk of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
If you are lucky enough to be cruising for two weeks, you might wish to circumnavigate the Isle of Skye. Head up the Sound of Sleat with a possible night stop on the pontoons at Kyleakin or onto the picturesque mainland village of Plockton. Then back to Skye and visit the moorings in Portree before heading round the dramatic north coast and on down into Dunvegan or to visit the Talisker Distillery. You could then take in the drama of Loch Scavaig before heading for the very sheltered anchorage of Canna. A day’s walk ashore here is well worthwhile before heading back south again.
If you would prefer to sail south, you could head via the magical Garvellach Islands at the entrance to the Firth of Lorne, on to visit Colonsay, its empty sandy beaches and rich birdlife. From here you can head across to the whisky isles of Islay and Jura, both famous for their distilleries but each with something different to offer.
The ‘pointy’ Paps of Jura are seldom seen without their characteristic capping of whispy cloud and for the walkers amongst you, an ascent of at least one of these three dramatic hills is highly recommended. You are bound to encounter red deer during your walk as it’s well known that red deer way outnumber Jura’s human population! The bigger island of Islay was once the main seat of power in the West of Scotland and known as the home of the Lords of the Isles. At the last count, Islay had eight distilleries and hosts almost as many festivals of one kind or another!
There are many anchorages and pontoons across these two islands. On Islay, these include the community run pontoons at Port Ellen plus the temptation of the island’s many distillery anchorages, Caol Ila and Lagavulin for example. On Jura there are new moorings at Craighouse or you may opt for the remote beauty of an anchorage in West Loch Tarbert or perhaps Pig Bay, from where you might hear the roar of the Corryvreckan Whirlpool as you watch the wild goats graze along on the beach.
From Jura you could visit the community-run island of Gigha with its three ‘dancing ladies’! This small island offers a big welcome and a sheltered anchorage in Ardminish Bay; if you have time, Achamore Gardens are also well worth a visit. Returning north, you could call in at the MacCormaig Islands in the entrance to Loch Sween. These now uninhabited islands are part of a designated Site of Scientific Interest.
Tayvallich offers a stunning natural anchorage, but if you have time constraints you might instead, consider a night stop at Carsaig Bay on the east shore of the Sound of Jura. The bay is some 15 nautical miles from Tayvallich by sea, but only one mile from the Tayvallich Inn by road! Return to Oban via the exciting Cuan Sound or the Sound of Luing. Ardfern Marina, Craobh Haven Marina and Arduaine Hotel all offer facilities.
Alternatively, visit the Slate Islands, ‘the islands that roofed the world’; the heritage of these islands is fascinating. Seil, Easdale (now host to the world stone skimming championships!) and Cullipool on Luing, all offer moorings but a lunch time stop anchored off Belnahua is highly recommended, as is an overnight anchorage in the pretty bay of Ardinamir on Luing.
Many would say that no cruise of this area is complete without calling in at Puilladobhrain (Pool of the Otters) , a short sail South of Oban. This pretty anchorage can be crowded in the high season but it is a beautiful spot and the well-trodden walk across the hill to the famous Tigh an Truish (House of the Trousers) pub and the Bridge Over the Atlantic, is well worth the effort.