Caribbean cruising with a Celtic touch; that might be how best to describe small ship cruising around Scotland's west coast and islands. The ships of The Majestic Line have been sailing the waters of Scotland's western Argyll coastline since 2005 after Ken Grant and Andy Thoms acquired two wooden hulled Irish fishing boats and converted them into "mini" cruise ships, the Glen Massan and the Glen Tarsan. In 2015 a 3rd purpose built steel hulled ship, the Glen Etive, was added to the line and recently plans for her sister ship, the Glen Shiel have been announced.
Maritime tourism is rapidly becoming an important pillar to Scotland's tourism industry alongside Golf, History, Culture, Genealogy, and of course, Scenery. It's said that maritime tourism contributes almost £4-billion annually to the Scottish national economy. In 2015 Scotland was named a world class sailing destination.
On board with the Majestic Line, passengers enjoy all the creature comforts of larger cruise ships but on a smaller, more intimate scale. Each of the three ships can accommodate 11 or 12 passengers. Staterooms are en suite, there are three outdoor decks for "chilling" and watching Scotland's enchanting scenery as it slowly passes by. A lounge and well stocked bar provides a relaxed setting for getting to know your shipmates. Three meals a day at the communal dining table offer up gourmet treats featuring local produce and seafood so fresh it sometimes comes direct off nearby fishing vessels, a real "today's catch!" Though seldom required, the lounge also offers television, assorted games, and a library.
The beauty of such intimate cruising on small ships is that you can access many areas, including secluded inlets, coves, beaches and even uninhabited islands not readily available on a traditional land-based tour. Wildlife is a real attraction whether on board where dolphin spotting is common, or on land where the colorful Puffins are always a highlight. Shore excursions might be to historic sites, a local distillery, quaint seaside villages or even self-guided coastal walks along a bit of deserted shoreline.
The Majestic Line offers a variety of 3, 6, or 10-night cruises and are available for private charter where your party can reserve the entire boat and set your own itinerary. For solo travelers The Majestic Line sets aside two cabins on each of its ships and there is never a single-supplement charged.
With the addition of the Glen Etive's sister ship, the Glen Shiel in 2019, the line will begin offering new tours to St. Kilda and Skye while also expanding its operating capacity. This move comes just in time too as for the first time in its years of operation, the Majestic Line is completely booked in advance for its 2018 season and has booked more private charters than any previous year of sailing.
Small ship cruising is a unique way to experience Scotland in an air of informality and relaxation with access to idyllic anchorages often not available to larger vessels or land-based travel. For more on maritime tourism opportunities around Scotland you might also wish to explore Sail Scotland the country's official agency for all waterborne tourism including lochs, rivers, and canals.
• The Majestic Line
• The Glen Etive Joins the Majestic Line (video)