Thursday, 29 August 2019

Flavours of the Low Countries

Join Guest Speaker John Ducker and taste the best of Dutch and Belgian food and drink as you cruise through a vast network of canals and rivers, stopping in key cities to soak up local culture and sample the produce for which this area is renowned.

Savour local beer in Europe’s diamond capital of Antwerp, enjoy the world-famous Belgian chocolate in historic Brussels, sip award-winning Dutch wines in Limburg and taste one of
Holland’s biggest exports, as we explore the picturesque city of Gouda.

Often quoted as having the best cuisine in Europe, Belgium’s food specialities extend far beyond just waffles, beer and chocolate. For such a small country, it has rich local resources such as fish and mussels, meat and game with butter, cheese, cream, beer and wine being used liberally in
local cuisine.

Dutch cuisine is unique and distinctive, embracing traditional culinary customs and ingredients. It is safe to say that the Dutch are big fans of cheese – they produce nearly 674,000 tons each year and export it to 130 countries across the globe. every region in the Netherlands produces its own distinctive cheese. Cheeses such as Gouda, Edam, and Alkmaar are named after the areas from
which they originate.

A freelancer wearing two quite distinct ‘hats’, John is a member both of the Association of Wine educators and the élite Circle of Wine Writers, with many sea and river miles behind him as a lecturer. happily, and never quite having recovered from the surprise of winning the BBC’s
Zanussi-sponsored competition ‘The Taste of Italy’ many years ago, judged by Antonio Carluccio, his interest in wine is completely interlocked with that of food and of creating exciting balanced wine/food matches.

Not a food professional himself, John’s main focus has centered principally around the sheer diversity of European cuisine, not simply theoretically but practically too, as an accomplished home cook.
John has published a collection of his favourite recipes entitled ‘Dog’s Dinners’, a celebration of good food which reveals his love of cooking. Many will know John as an actor for his role as the voice and soul of the robot dog K9 in Doctor Who, hence the punning title!

Flavours of the Low Countries on board Royal Crown.
8th to 15th April 2020 - 7 nights - Antwerp to Amsterdam.

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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Hebridean Island Cruises Nominated for 2019 Food and Travel Magazine Awards

The eight annual Food and Travel Reader Awards short list has been revealed and Hebridean Island Cruises is delighted to be included once again!

Food and Travel magazine says:
“Eight years ago we set out to create a series of awards that were unique. We wanted to impartially identify the very best in the game, judged by experts who could draw on real-life experiences to inform their vote. They had to be people with unrivalled knowledge and passion for travel and food. They had to be people like you. Unlike other industry awards, ours are entirely nominated and voted on by Food and Travel readers.”
Those with the greatest number of votes on the closing date of 6th September 2019 will be crowned the winners at the prestigious Food & Travel presentation ceremony to be held later that month. 
We hope we can count on your vote to help us with this prestigious award for the 3rd year in succession - please visit  to vote - thank you.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Cruising the Clyde

You don’t have to travel far north to the Highlands to explore grand historical castles, baronial mansions and escape to Hebridean-style islands of peace and tranquillity. Around south west Scotland, experience a wealth of architectural and aristocratic treasures and exhilarating outdoor adventures in the Firth of Clyde.

This region abounds with great castles and country houses, many in spectacular settings and surrounded by landscaped gardens and parkland, and some of Scotland’s most famous ancestral homes are here.

As we sail the estuary of the Clyde and around its lochs and isles, we are reminded of how rich this part of Scotland grew as a result of shipping and ship-building. The Clyde reached out to the continent and across the Atlantic, and France and America in turn reached out to Scotland via the Clyde. Already by the 18th century, the inhabitants of the castles and grand houses of the Clyde
were wearing French fashions and drinking French wines; the shipping and sea lochs gave access to a much wider horizon than enjoyed in most of England.

From the earliest times the sea provided the most convenient routes around the area, carrying people and trade to the islands and mainland settlements. Materials to construct the castles, churches, country houses and towns had to be transported by sea. 

This region of Scotland is a complex system of long sea lochs which, far from inhibiting travel, are frequently the alternative to long, arduous overland routes. In late October and November our series of three cruises will take us up Loch Fyne on one side of the Cowal peninsula.

Loch Fyne is renowned for its seafood, particularly oysters, and was once famed for its herrings. The fish appears in the coat of arms of the Royal Burgh of Inveraray whose motto is ‘May there always be herring in your net.’

At Inveraray, we will find one of Scotland’s first planned towns with distinct white buildings, built at the same time as the castle and gardens. The original Inveraray Castle was demolished to provide a site for the new town, allowing the Duke of Argyll to build his new home where the old town stood. A remarkable and unique piece of architecture in the Gothic style, the unmistakable Inveraray Castle was the first of its size and type to be built in Scotland.

In the heyday, from late 19th century to 1960s, families from Glasgow and Clydeside enjoyed day trips and summer holidays on the Isle of Bute, travelling by paddle steamer, ‘doon the watter’ to Rothesay. Today the cultural spirit of the old resort still lingers and, on the curving promenade lined with palm trees, the decorative Victorian Public Convenience is elegantly restored.

Bute’s great attraction is Mount Stuart house, an opulent Gothic Victorian stately home within 300 acres of parkland. Its extravagant design features stained glass, an ornate heraldic ceiling, horoscope room and the aesthetically-crafted white marble chapel, reflecting the 3rd Marquess of Bute’s passion for art, astrology, mysticism and religion. 

Now owned by the 7th Marquess, Johnny Dumfries, (former racing driver), the house has an exquisite collection of portraits, paintings and antiques. Stroll around the “Pleasure Grounds” with Pinetum, bluebell woods, wildflower meadows, exotic plants from Latin America, cascading pools and ponds.

Known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’, the island of Arran has a diverse geography, fascinating geology, Neolithic Standing Stones, fertile valleys, snow-dusted mountains peaks, glacial glens, golf courses and white sand beaches. Influenced by the North Atlantic Drift, the climate is mild and temperate year round.

Overlooking Brodick Bay, in the foothills of Goatfell, is Brodick Castle, initially a 15th century stronghold for James II, inherited by the Earls of Arran, later named the Dukes of Hamilton. The original towerhouse was gradually expanded into a Victorian baronial mansion and shooting estate. Since 1957 the castle and landscaped gardens have been beautifully maintained by the National Trust for Scotland.

The island is renowned for farmhouse cheese, Arran Aromatics soaps, and whisky. The Arran Distillery at Lochranza benefits from the climate and pure water to create a smooth, sweet, spicy single Malt, with a nose of vanilla, cinnamon and dried apples. Informative, entertaining distillery tours end with a wee dram.

The neighbouring holiday island of Great Cumbrae is tiny – about three miles by two – with the charming seaside town of Millport. here, the Cathedral of the Isles is the smallest in Britain, designed by the English architect William Butterfield in 1851. With its 1867 organ, harpsichord and Bosendorfer grand piano, music is a vital part of church life during worship, concerts and festivals. Tour the island by bicycle, leisurely and safely on quiet roads.

A cruise of the lower Clyde unites natural beauty and human history, giving the area some of the richest heritage in Scotland today.

5th to 12th November 2019
Prices from £3,030 per person based on 2 people sharing an outside double/twin cabin.

12th to 16th November 2019
Prices from £1,625 per person based on 2 people sharing an outside double/twin cabin.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Cruise Spotlight - Inlets and Islands of Argyll

Our Inlets and Islands of Argyll cruise which departs from Greenock on Tuesday 17th April 2020, offers a wonderful opportunity to experience the beauty of the Clyde islands and lochs of Argyll, combined with our first foray north of the season and arrival in our home port of Oban after a long winter’s absence.

It is a wonderful feeling sailing into Oban for the first time each year and you can feel the excitement and joy as Hebridean Princess arrives home for the start of the season.

Just as Hebridean Princess begins a journey that will take her out of her winter quarters and on to her summer base, at around the same time the huge turnover in bird populations known as migration will be getting under way too.  It likewise involves changes of scene and routines.

It is possible that we may encounter one or two front-runners from the hundreds of thousands of small birds that will already  be moving out of Africa into Scotland, but where migrants are concerned we will mainly be looking at birds preparing to go the other way – from winter in Argyll back to breeding grounds far to the north.

As we depart from Greenock on the south bank of the Clyde and sail west into Holy Loch, we leave the once industrial part of the river behind.  Holy Loch gives you the opportunity to enjoy some of the best scenery in Scotland and is one of the Clyde's finest natural harbours. Its deep anchorage is the ideal starting point for a visit to Benmore Botanic Garden in its magnificent mountainside setting. Its 120 acres boast a world-famous collection of flowering trees and shrubs including over 300 species of rhododendron and an impressive avenue of Giant Redwoods, arguably one of the finest entrances to any botanic garden in the world. Established in 1863, these majestic giants now stand over 50 metres high.  The garden is particularly glorious in early spring with the vibrant blooms of rhododendrons and azaleas.

Bute is an island of distinctly contrasting landscapes from the bare, rounded and craggy uplands of the north to the lower, undulating fertile south.  We visit the enchanting Mount Stuart House; home to the Marquis of Bute, this is a must-see Gothic mansion.

Loch Fyne stretches 40 miles from the Argyll mountains to the sea north of Arran, making it the longest sea loch in the country.  At the tip of the loch, set in 25 acres of woodland, is a superb garden surrounding Ardkinglas manor house. The garden is known for its collection of Champion conifers, including a Grand Fir that reaches 203 feet in height. Another highlight is the Ardkinglas Silver Fir, named as one of Britain's top 50 trees. Trails lead through lush woodland, following the Kinglas river, winding through a pinetum, and past small lochs.

On the Cowal Peninsula, Portavadie sits at the mouth of Loch Fyne and is at the heart of Argyll’s Secret Coast.  Wild, remote and beautiful this undiscovered area is waiting to be explored.

The peaceful little town of Campbeltown, situated on the beautiful peninsula of Kintyre, is one of the largest towns in Argyll.  From here we head to An Ceardach, a 5 acre sloping garden where paths wander through a vast collection of rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas and many unusual trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials. There are ponds, streams, rock and a vegetable garden. Wild flower meadows have thousands of daffodils, fritillaries, bluebells and orchids in season. 

Sanda is a small privately-owned island and an important bird migration and breeding point.  Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it is home to the first bird observatory on the west coast of Scotland.

The Mull of Kintyre is the ancient cradle of Scotland, for it is here in the fifth century AD that Fergus Mór Mac Eirc and the Scoti from Ireland came to establish the kingdom of Dál Riata (Dalriada) which gave Scotland its name.  After rounding the mull we head for Loch Sween, a fjordic sea loch near Lochgilphead, where we discover the picturesque fishing village of Tayvallich.

As we return to familiar waters we land on our first Hebridean island of the year, Jura.  Crowned by the landmark Paps, Jura is a place of wild beauty, offering a haven to a wide range of wildlife, including some 6,500 red deer.  Craighouse is the only village on the island which has a population of a mere 200 residents.

As we anchor in Loch Crinan, in the distance we can see the hill fort of Dunadd, home of the ancient Celtic Kings of Dalriada.  We have the opportunity to walk along the towpath of the Crinan Canal which, when it opened, was an important supply route to the Western Isles but is now a favourite short cut for yachts on their way out to the west.

Our final port of call is the tiny isle of Kerrera which guards Oban bay.  Historically a stepping stone for cattle drovers between Mull and the mainland, this fertile and hilly isle is crowned by the Renaissance MacDougall stronghold of Gylen Castle.
Spring is a magical time to experience the seasonal changes and signs of new life on the west coast of Scotland.  We hope you can join us.

Prices from £2,340 per person based on 2 people sharing an inside twin/double cabin.
>>CLICK HERE for more details.