Review: Glen Massan
Cruise - River Cruise
West of Scotland Cruise
51 people found this review helpful
We were fortunate in the extreme in managing to take this cruise setting out from Oban and travelling through the southern Hebrides. Very few berths are available for the exceptional cruises offered by The Majestic Line but we managed to find an available berth at very short notice. However, there was a complication. I had a long standing photography commission on the day of departure and it looked very likely that I would be unable to go. However, because of the flexibility of Majestic they agreed to pick me up on the morning of the second day, allowing my wife to enjoy the full cruise.
Their adaptability eventually stretched even further. Two other guests had been stranded on the island of Coll as a result of a disrupted ferry service. This proved beneficial to me as it meant that the cruise returned to Oban to collect them and I joined their ship, The Glen Massan, on the same morning.
So many of the huge cruise ship carry a thousand or more passengers. Majestic cruise are not like that. They offer completely individual attention to their guests – all eleven of them. Yes, eleven is the full capacity of the Glen Massan, and thus you are assured of personal service throughout the cruise. The ships, The Glen Massan and The Glen Tarsan, are converted fishing vessels which offer the unique opportunity to cruise around the islands of The Clyde and the west coast of Scotland visiting the more remote and beautiful areas often not possible for much larger vessels.
Our cruise left Oban and ventured through the Sound of Kerrera with tea, coffee and home baking on the way, and on to our first visit ashore – to Easdale Island. Easdale was once the heart of a thriving slate industry in the 19th Century, having seven working quarries reaching 300 feet below sea level, but suffered after severe flooding in the 1880’s which initiated a steady decline of the industry. Today, the island relies mainly on tourism and a walk around the island enabled us to see the once deep quarries now filled with deep blue-green water and surrounded by a profusion of wildflowers. Well maintained houses and a visitor centre/museum added to the attractions of this quaint wee island. The engineer from the Glen Massan took the opportunity to wander across the island gathering wild thyme to add real local flavour to our evening meal. We enjoyed a stop for an excellent lunch between Luing, another of the slate islands, and the entrance to Loch Melfort On then to Loch Sween, following in the footsteps, or rather the oars, of the Vikings who used the this area to build the now ruined Castle Sween, still impressive despite being surrounded by a somewhat incongruous caravan site.
The skipper steered the Massan to the head of the loch pointing out a tall dead tree where an osprey was sitting on its nest at the very top. A short while later we reached our anchorage off the village of Tayvallich. After relaxing in the glorious sunshine we sat around the table for yet another superb meal preceded by canapés The catering on board is outstanding, not least considering the tiny galley in which the chef prepared such a wide range of exceptional food and further enhanced by the friendly and very efficient crew. After dinner we were treated to a selection of four cheeses, this being repeated after every evening meal with a different selection.
Each day followed a similar pattern, breakfast with a choice of fresh fruits, yoghurt, cereals, toast and cooked breakfast – different every day, then mid-morning tea/coffee with delicious home baking, a very substantial lunch, afternoon tea/coffee and an evening meal worthy of the best restaurants. During the dinner wine was served and the bar was open for a stronger drinks at any time.
From Tayvallich we returned along Loch Sween and cruised on to the beautiful island of Gigha, where we were ferried ashore for the opportunity to walk around the glorious Achamore gardens. The gardens offer walks through 50 acres of natural woodland with a profusion of rhododendrons, azaleas and a rich variety of wonderfully coloured plants. Passing through an old walled garden to a high viewpoint looking over the gardens and to the west of the island opening up a vista of the rocky coast bathed in blue-green water….
South again to our next anchorage, Port Ellen on Islay, cruising through calm waters with blue skies with just a little haze on the islands. On approaching Port Ellen the three masts of a magnificent Dutch tall ship, the Thalassa dominated the rocky shoreline off Islay. It would have been perfect had we witnessed her in full sail, but lack of wind denied us this spectacle.
The following day we cruised up the east coast of Islay and on to Jura, where another trip ashore gave us the opportunity to visit the Jura Distillery or, in my case as a photographer, to take advantage of the glorious views across the bay in near perfect light. My thought was that an hour was hardly enough to capture such wonderful views. But the best was yet to come. From here we cruised south again, through the sound between Jura and Islay, and followed the west coast of Jura to the wild and remote Loch Tarbert. This area is inaccessible by road and has retained its unspoiled beauty with wild and rugged mountains sweeping down to the shore. The engineer and a couple of the guests took the opportunity to lay a lobster pot and waited eagerly until the following morning to see the results. We were rewarded with the first ever lobster caught by the Glen Massan, and being hardly big enough to make a tiny sandwich it was released, hopefully to grow considerably bigger.
The next part of the cruise was new to The Majestic Line taking us to the island of Colonsay. The captain phoned ashore and, at short notice, and arranged a tour of the island by minibus. This was conducted by a very well informed local guide. Again this was all too short, but, as with many of the islands, one person has several roles and in this case our driver who also ran the excellent book shop on the island, had to collect the school children from the local primary school. Nevertheless his description of the island was both informative and entertaining, and included a brief visit to the islands stunning gardens at Colonsay House.
Leaving Colonsay the following morning we cruised by the Garvellach Islands and on to Loch Spelve on the Isle of Mull. Several members of the party were ferried ashore to enjoy a five mile walk along the edge of the loch to be picked up again in a small bay, where the chef had visited a local mussel farm to buy fresh mussels which were consumed with great appreciation by the guests later in the day.
The final day took us back to Oban via the Sound of Kerrera with spectacular views of the island with views south to the Garvellachs and other islands we had visited along with memories of seeing gannets, porpoise, guillemots and a wide range of seabirds. Sadly, no whales this time – but as any wildlife enthusiast will know, sometimes you’re lucky other times you’re not.
To describe the Majestic Line cruises in a few words is simple – highly organised, flexible, exceptional service, efficient, wonderful food, warm and friendly crew, the greatest of consideration for the guests, and making each individual feel very special.
51 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.