The Minch has always been a haven for sea life…but there is a growing demand from people to actually go out to see close-up the whales, dolphins, seals, otters and other marine life – and possibly encounter golden eagles, sea eagles or puffins.
Now Stornoway Harbour is the base for regular trips out into the Minch with Hebridean Adventures which offers trips and cruises for all, from keen wildlife enthusiasts to family groups.
Their vessel, the Monadhliath, is a veteran of Scottish waters and can take up to 12 people on half or full-day trips – and is even equipped to take up to eight passengers on overnight trips.
As a traditional vessel rather than a RIB, the Monadhliath has a raised viewing deck which gives spectacular views. She has an external exhaust which makes the vessel quieter underwater and less likely to disturb the cetaceans meaning that often dolphins can be seen bow-riding. Her maximum speed is eight knots.
By Eilidh Whiteford
Getting out and about, exploring Harris and experiencing a huge range of activities are all guaranteed with a visit to the Scaladale Centre in Ardvourlie, Harris.
Built and run by the Lewis and Harris Youth Club Association (LHYCA), the Centre has been getting young people, and those a little older, outside in the Hebrides for almost two decades – with plenty of exciting opportunities on offer.
“A lot of people who come are surprised by the range and quality of the activities, especially adult groups who comment that they just didn’t know such things were available on the islands,” said Scaladale Chief Instructor Sean Zeihm-Stephen.
“As Scaladale is a social enterprise run on a not-for-profit basis, a booking with us for activities and accommodation help us to keep our prices low and get the young people of Lewis and Harris, and further afield, active and engaged in their environment.
Sea trips from Tarbert and Leverburgh are spreading maritime cheer for growing numbers of visitors who enjoy the chances offered by Sea Harris to visit not only St Kilda but also a range of other nearby Islands and sea lochs.
Sea Harris say they provide the fastest, greenest and most comfortable day trip to St Kilda from the Hebrides on their best-in-class vessel: Enchanted Isle - a 16.5 metre Stormforce 1650, custom-built for the day trip by Redbay Boats in Northern Ireland.
Since the middle of last summer, they have also offered shorter sea trips in an 11m fully-enclosed Stormforce RIB, called Pabbay, also built by Redbay.
Company owner Seumas Morrison comes from Harris and set up Sea Harris ten years ago. He has worked the seas around his native island for more than 30 years. He holds a masters certificate to the level of RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore.
By Eilidh Whiteford
This summer open water swimmer Colin S Macleod aims to swim solo both the Little Minch (between Harris and Skye), and the Big Minch.
A keen swimmer from his childhood, Colin only switched from pool swimming the open seas in 2011, as he prepared to tackle the Little Minch for the first time as part of a team of local fundraisers.
The 15-mile open water swim challenge had to be called off before the team reached the finish shore on Skye; but Colin had been bitten by the open water bug – and is now ‘itching’ to complete the job this year.
By Eilidh Whiteford
In winter they are an interesting place, but when the seabirds arrive, the Shiants come to life,” says Joe Engebretsen who, along with his father Charles, has been taking visitors by boat to explore the small island site through long-standing family business Sea Lewis.
Trained as a commercial diver in the early 1990s, Joe spent nine years in the Royal Marines, working primarily on fast boats and landing craft, before returning home with his family in 2001 to work as a diver, boat operator and fire-fighter, as well as running Engebret Ltd filling station in Stornoway.
He joined his father Charles, a commercial diver in the 1970s who has taken visitors diving and on boat-trips around Lewis since 1990, and between Joe and Charles, visitors can be sure they are in safe hands and will have an enjoyable experience.
Offering short fishing trips – perfect for families with young children who may not wish to go far from shore – as well as a two-hour sightseeing journey down the east coast of Lewis to Marvig and the Witches Pool, the speciality of Sea Lewis is the spectacular Shiant Islands trip.