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8th July, 2012


Fingal's Cave

Despite the rather gloomy British weather we have been getting at times, I’m sure we must have had the best of what was on offer as we cruised through the Scottish islands. The Sound of Mull was calm and pleasant and then we took the relatively short detour to make a circumnavigation of Staffa, the small island where Mendelssohn is reputed to have gained his inspiration for the Hebridean overture. A local tourist boat was tied up alongside the small jetty and a number of folk were scrambling over the basalt rocks in order to peer into Fingal’s Cave, their small figures giving some perspective to this well-known cathedral like phenomenon. It is much bigger than it seemed from our vantage point a quarter of a mile away.

We continued around the coast, leaving Skye to starboard and passing Cape Wrath during the night. Kirkwall was grey, cold and windy, but all the passengers I met said their tours were fascinating. I have a sneaking suspicion though, that they were very pleased to get back to a hot cup of coffee in the Drawing Room. Leaving the berth with the strong on shore wind was a challenge for the pilot, but by re-arranging the tug positions we finally achieved ‘take off’ without scratching the paint. No paperwork, therefore a hundred percent success.

By the time we reached the Cromarty Firth the sky had barely changed from its sombre grey, but at least the wind had eased. This large stretch of sheltered deep water has been a home for the oil industry over many years, these days however it seems to be more for the refit and lay up of large rigs rather than the building. There must have been at least half a dozen of these giants sitting around, one with no ‘top’ on, apparently waiting for disposal. As we passed, its six giant weathered legs, taller than our bridge wing, appeared to be supported by nothing more than a thin layer buoyancy.

The berth was an old Admiralty Pier, built prior to the Second World War and with the ‘period’ Control Tower used apparently for when it was also a Flying Boat base, the scene looked somewhat at odds to the rig being repaired at the pier just ahead. Very ‘Agatha Christie’. Our harbour pilot, a veteran of sixty nine years, was a no nonsense retiree with a wry smile, and told me he was just ‘helping out’ while one of the regular chaps was on vacation. The country side all around was beautiful and this was remarked upon by our returning passengers.

As we left, in the early afternoon, I suggested they may wish to keep an eye open for the pod of dolphins that had leaped before our bows on the approach to the Firth before breakfast. One or two braved the cold and stood there for an hour or more, all to no avail as it happens. That’s life I guess, the early bird might grab the moment, for the rest, they will never know when it will come their way again.

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.