Argyll and Bute
Explore South West Coast of Scotland under Sail
South of Oban towards the Firth of Clyde, there are stunning islands, beautiful beaches and rugged dramatic coastlines. this sailing area of Argyll and Bute includes the southern Isles of the Inner Hebrides. From the ports of Oban or Bute, there are endless opportunities to visit these dramatic islands - unspoilt and remote.
Step ashore on the shores of Colonsay or visit the Whisky distilleries of Jura or Islay. Great anchorages and beautiful sailing grounds through the Sound of Mull and Jura.
For Voyages starting in Oban you only need to walk away from the station a few metres and you are amongst the fisherman’s stalls selling fresh prawns, langostines and scallops. Western Scotland is a rich marine ecosystem which offers fantastic seafood and wildlife watching from the sea eagles of Mull to the dolphins and whales that cruise the deep waters between the Inner & Outer Hebrides.
After safety briefings and training you have plenty of open water in the Firth of Lorne to get your sea legs and dramatic scenery to admire. With many great anchorages to choose in all wind directions, no voyage is the same.
Our Sailing Vessels exploring from Oban
You can get to Oban by train and the station in Oban is five minutes walk to the North Pier where our vessels will either be alongside or close by at anchor.
Pilot Cutter Lizzie May cruises Argyll and Bute each year and offers voyages from the Clyde either through the Crinan Canal or around the Mull of Kintyre and up the coast past Jura and Islay to Oban. She likes to head North of Oban, but the waters around Southern Mull, Islay and Jura are well known to her skippers. Two masted sailing ship Bessie Ellen is offering 3 and 6 day voyages from Oban in summer. Brixham Trawler Leader is also making a regular 'pilgrimage' North from Devon to sail amongst the Western Isles.
Western Mull & Iona
There any many interesting anchorages in the South or west of Mull if the weather is settled. Close to Iona is a famous anchorage called Tinkers Hole. It has a small tight entrance and more than one boat would make it crowded but if you get lucky you many enjoy it all to yourselves.
Iona is a pilgrimage for many and famous for its Monastery and some fast tides over shallow sand banks which both make for an interesting voyage.
Once beyond Iona you can either head out towards Tiree and Coll or explore the Atlantic facing side of Mull with its long headlands and the little islands inbetween like Inch Kenneth, Little Colonsay, Lunga and Ulva where there are many magical bays and anchorages.
Islay, Jura & Colonsay
Depending on the wind direction and strength your voyage might make the best of the sailing grounds around Mull, Iona, Colonsay, Islay and Jura, sailing through the Sound of Islay and down around the Mull of Kintyre Peninsula. This is the long way around. Back in home waters you could enjoy a last anchorage off Arran or perhaps Ailsa Craig before heading for Largs.
Alternatively you might seek a more sheltered route via Cuan Sound or Sound of Luing where there are a couple of narrow channels to negotiate, tides to get right, and the famous whirlpools of Corryvrecken to avoid, and then Lizzie May reaches The Sound of Jura. Well protected from the swell of the Atlantic Ocean by the large island of Jura this has been a major routeway to and from the Western Isles for Centuries.
The Crinan Canal – ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut’
Chosing this route you can take advantage of the Crinan Canal – ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut’ – an option not available in Viking times ! You would be hard pressed to find a more attractive stretch in inland water between two spectacularly different coastal sailing grounds. At just 9 miles long the Crinan Canal links The Sound of Jura with Loch Fyne at Ardrishaig. For Clyde based boats or those travelling northwards the Crinan Canal offers a shorter ‘Gateway to the Western Isles’ and Hebrides than sailing the long miles south and around the Mull of Kintyre. It still requires some effort with 15 locks to negotiate.
It is quite strange to be crew on a good looking gaff cutter and have towpath cyclists chatting to you as you navigate the canal, and there is plenty of classic Scottish scenery to enjoy from a slightly more pastoral setting than the first part of the voyage.
See Lizzie May Schedule for Voyages through the Caledonian Canal
Photo: Historic sailing ship Bessie Ellen once carried cargoes all around Europe
Pick your Sailing Holiday
Grayhound: Fantastic, exhillarating, and an honour to be on such a ship. Aspects I enjoyed most ? -...
"Thank you so much to Bessie Ellen and her owner, captain and crew. It was a long held dream of mine and my dream ca...
" We enjoyed everything about those two days and particularly appreciated your patience and your quiet words when w...