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Isle of Skye and The Small Isles - Scotland

Tour Highlights

  • Explore the breathtaking scenery of Scotland's Isle of Skye and Small Isles on this incredible liveaboard swimming holiday

  • Complete an average daily swim distance of 3.5 km on a combination of crossings and coastal swims

  • Enjoy a week of living on board the majestic Lady of Avenel tall ship as we swim and sail our way around the world-renowned Scottish Inner Hebrides

  • Enjoy plenty of time off the ship to take in the natural beauty and unique culture of this corner of the world

Take part in a truly breathtaking expedition through some of the most stunning scenery in the British Isles in Scotland’s world-renowned Inner Hebrides. Basing ourselves around the Isles of Skye, Rum, Eigg and Muck and staying on board the 102-foot tall ship, the ‘Lady of Avenel’, this swimming adventure offers a unique opportunity to explore the dramatic landscapes of this picturesque corner of the world.

From craggy mountain tops to spectacular volcanic features, this tour takes in the most beautiful parts of this remarkable collection of islands, including the spectacular Cuillin Hills. Our expedition explores the lochs, sounds, islands, coves and skerries of the Inner Hebrides, while also providing an opportunity to experience an abundance of local wildlife throughout the week.

Our home for the week, the ‘Lady of Avenel’, includes our very own on-board chef, while the chance to take in the sunset from the ship’s deck offers the perfect end to each day’s swimming adventure.


Who is this trip for?

This trip is made up largely of coastal, freshwater loch swimming, along with some crossings, including the crossing from Canna to Rum. Conditions will be challenging, yet extremely rewarding. Swimmers should have a strong understanding and experience of swimming in challenging sea conditions and be capable of completing the average daily swim distance of around 4 km (split over a minimum of two swims) prior to the start of the trip. No sailing experience is required, however, the ship’s crew are happy for you to assist with on-board duties as much or as little as you like.


What's included?

  • Fully guided swimming holiday in The Isle of Skye and The Small Isles, Scotland
  • Swim guides and full safety escort on all swims
  • Six nights accommodation on board the Lady of Avenel tall ship
  • Our very own on board chef
  • All breakfasts
  • All lunches
  • All evening meals

What's not included?

  • Travel to and from the start of the tour

Daily Itineraries

Please note that the below daily itineraries are an example of the swims that may take place during the course of your trip, however, actual swim locations and distances will vary according to local weather and sea conditions. Your SwimTrek guides and local boat pilot will determine the most suitable swim locations each day and will communicate the plan with all guests as soon as possible.

Day 1

The ‘Lady of Avenel’, our ship and accommodation for the week, awaits you at Mallaig Fishing Harbour in Mallaig. We enjoy on board welcome drinks and are given a tour of our classic rigger, followed by a safety briefing and a discussion of the plans for the week. We then set sail to Loch Nevis and the small hamlet of Knoydart, one of the remotest communities in the British Isles as it’s only accessible by boat. For the acclimatisation swim, we swim to “The Old Forge” pub which overlooks the loch. This sheltered loch offers ideal conditions for our first swim. Back on board the ship, we enjoy a welcome dinner prepared by our very own on-board chef.

Day 2

Take in the sights of the Scottish coast this morning as we sail on to Tarbert on Loch Nevis. We first travel down the Loch to Kylesknoydart which is at the narrow strait that divides Nevis in two. The swim here in Swordland Bay is exciting as there can be current which helps our progress. Following this, we carry out a short hike across the isthmus separating Nevis and Morar Lochs. The view along the inland Morar Loch is stunning. We then hike back to Loch Nevis and return to the Lady of Avenel for lunch.

After lunch, the ship crosses Loch Hourn and arrives off the southeastern coast of Skye at Ardvasar. For our afternoon swim, we head down the coast towards Aird of Sleat. The coastline is a mix of sandy white beaches and craggy shorelines featuring underwater kelp forest gardens.

Day 3

Today we head up Skye’s West coast. Our first stop is at Spar Cave which is an astonishing, cathedral-like structure, some 50m long, with a marble-like flowstone staircase and huge columns formed from the centuries of water dripping through the limestone base layers. We will wait for high tide so we can swim over the staircases. From here, we swim to the Prince Charles’s Cave and the island which lies just off it. The swim is dotted with islets, skerries, rocks and beaches.

After lunch, the boat travels onto Loch na Cuilce which is at the gateway to Loch Coruisk, situated at the heart of the Cuillin Hills. It is surely one of the wildest places in Britain. The notorious hanging slab “Bad Step” hangs over the sea and is a spectacular view. The islets in Loch na Cuilce are inhabited by a large population of seals which makes our swim here engaging and fun.

Following the last swim, there may be an opportunity to walk around Loch Coruisk (time permitting) before we spend the night in the bay, where we have spectacular views of the Cuillins.

Day 4

This morning we swim across from Skye to the small Isle of Soay. On arrival, we walk up to the highest point, which offers striking views of the morning and afternoon swims. In the past this island has been well known for its Basking Shark populations, so there may be opportunities to witness them while we’re here.

After a sumptuous lunch on board our square rigger, we raise the sails and make our way to Loch Briddle for a restful afternoon out of the water in preparation for tomorrow’s big crossing. The loch is where the world-renowned trials cyclist Danny Mackasill filmed his spectacular film “The Ridge”, which is well worth watching prior to the trip. The sweeping slopes of the surrounding mountains plunge into the Loch offering startling views as we stretch our legs off the ship for the afternoon.

Once back on board “The Lady of Avenel”, we head across to the Small Isles and its first stop, the Isle of Canna where we stay offshore for the evening.

Day 5

Our morning swim today takes us on our longest crossing of the trip as we swim from the Isle of Canna to the Isle of Rum. Orval Peak, situated on Rum, guides our way and kelp forests are visible well before we reach the Rum shore. Once we are dry and have had some lunch, we have a chance to walk on Rum and discover some of the world-famous wildlife.

After the exertions of the morning’s crossing, in the afternoon there is an opportunity to explore the islands of Rum and Eigg by foot. In the evening, we will aim to moor at Eigg Pier where we will have an opportunity to explore this unique island. Eigg also has its own brewery, so the evening may be spent at the Galmisdale Bay Bar.

Day 6

Today is our last full day of swimming and we aim to swim sections of the of the coastlines of both Eigg and Muck. On Muck, we attempt a circumnavigation of Horse Island which lies off Muck’s Northern coast. The landscape here is especially stark, while under the water is a collection of kelp forests with the odd inquisitive seal. On Eigg, we have the opportunity to walk to Massacre Cave, the scene of a clan massacre of nearly the entire island’s population in the 16th Century.

Sitting on deck for our sail back to Mallaig is an excellent finale to our tour of the Scottish Inner Hebrides. Mallaig is where we spend our last evening onboard the Lady of Avenel before our departure tomorrow.

Day 7

Before breakfast, there is an opportunity for a final swim of the week. Perhaps a local basking shark will join you on this last swim as this is a busy time for basking shark encounters in the Hebrides. There is time for packing and farewells before we the disembark the Lady and depart.

Trip Schedule

Start Point: The Lady of Avenel, Mallaig Fishing Harbour, Mallaig

Start Time: 17:00 on Day 1

Finish Point: The Lady of Avenel, Mallaig Fishing Harbour, Mallaig

Finish Time: 10:00 on Day 7

Trip Information

Equipment Checklist

In addition to your daily non-swimming clothes, we also recommend that you bring the following items:

Item Item
Swimming Costume (x 3) Sweater / Fleece / Thick Socks
Wetsuit Wooly Hat and Gloves
Swimming Goggles (x 2)* Thermal Layers
Sun Hat and Sunglasses Long Trousers**
Waterproof Sun Cream Waterproof Jacket
Small Daypack Walking Shoes
Towel (x 2) Aqua Shoes / Sandals

*Try to bring one clear lens and one tinted lens for different light conditions.

**We also recommend gaiters/rubber bands for protection from ticks when trekking.

There are no safes in the cabins on the Lady of Avenel, so valuables and other belonging are brought on board at your own risk.

Please note that SwimTrek will supply swim hats and provide water and electrolyte drinks in shared water bottles on your safety boat. If you prefer to use your own drink bottle, please feel free to bring one along. If you would like to use a wetsuit, rash vest or fins during your swims, please ensure that you bring these with you.

Important: It can be very cold both during and between swims, so we advise all guests to bring appropriate swimwear and clothing in order to be as comfortable in these conditions. We recommend that all guests bring plenty of layers which can be added and removed as required.

Swimming Distances

During the tour we plan to undertake the following swims:

Swim Distances
Swordland Bay (Loch Morar) 1½km
Ardvasar-Aird of Sleat 2km
Spar Cave - Prince Charles’s Cave 2½km
Loch na Cuilce Island Hop 2km
Isle of Skye - Isle of Soay 2km
Isle of Canna - Isle of Rum 2½km
Eigg Coastal 2km
Muck - Horse Island 2½km

Please note that these swims are an example of the what may take place during the course of your trip and should be used as a guide only. Actual swim locations and distances will vary according to local weather and sea conditions.

Swimming Conditions

Swimming in the sea is a fantastic experience, however you should be aware that certain marine life such as jellyfish may be present during the swims. In all cases we will work on reducing your contact with these creatures, however if you suffer from anaphylaxis, please consult the office prior to booking.

Walking Conditions And Distances

Most walks take place on recognised paths and tracks, however there may be cases where we walk along trails or other unsealed surfaces and care should be taken in these areas. If you do not wish to walk any of the trails, you are welcome to remain on board the ship.

Walk Distances
Loch Nevis - Loch Morar return 3km
Isle of Soay 2km
Massacre Cave (Eigg) 2km
Loch Coruisk 5km
Rum/Eigg Traverse 5km

Temperatures

Month Water Temperature* Air Temperature*
August 13 - 15°C / 55 - 61°F 15 - 17°C / 59 - 62°F

*Please note that these temperatures are indicative and should be used as a guide only.

Weather Caveat

For safety reasons, we rely on decent weather conditions when carrying out our swims. As a consequence, open water swimming holidays require a certain degree of on-trip flexibility which can result in changes to the planned itinerary. These changes often add a touch of uniqueness to your trip and will be communicated to you by your SwimTrek guides as quickly as possible.

Given the location of this trip, the weather will play a key factor in all our swims and crossings. It should be assumed that changes will be made to the planned itinerary based on local conditions.

Group Size and Boat Support

This trip has a maximum group size of 12. The group will be split into two groups, based on speed, with each group being accompanied by their own safety vessel/escort. 

Boat support on this trip includes one main ship and two inflatable boats to be piloted by your SwimTrek guides and a local boat pilot. Please note that this boat support is subject to change without notice and cannot be guaranteed.

Getting There

The easiest way to get to Mallaig at the start of your trip is to fly into Glasgow International Airport and then catch a train directly to Mallaig.

While we have outlined various travel options below, they are subject to change and should be used as a guide only. We suggest that you use the following websites to search for alternative flights and public transport options for this trip:

Flights: Skyskanner

Trains: The Train Line or ScotRail

Buses: CityLink

Whichever route you choose to take, we recommend confirming your flights and other travel arrangements as early as possible in order to avoid price rises and availability issues.

Flights To Glasgow

To search for available flights into Glasgow International Airport, please visit SkyScanner.

Public Transport From Glasgow To Mallaig

From Glasgow, you can either catch a train or a bus directly from the airport to Mallaig.

Catching the train is a convenient and scenic way to get to Mallaig and journey times from Glasgow are approximately 5-6 hours. For timetables, tickets and further information about trains to Mallaig, please visit: The Train Line or ScotRail.

If you prefer to travel by bus, there are services which run to Mallaig from Glasgow and various other UK cities, however, journey times can be very long. For timetables, tickets and further information about bus services to Mallaig, please visit: CityLink.

When you reach Mallaig, The Lady of Avenel will be moored in Mallaig Fishing Harbour, just 400m along the beach from the train station at the beginning of your trip.

Driving to Mallaig

If you choose to drive to Mallaig, the postcode for the fishing harbour is PH41 4QD. For further information about getting to the harbour, including free car parking options nearby, please visit: CalMac Mallaig Port

Practical Information

Accommodation

The Lady of Avenel is a 102-foot Brigantine square rigger ship with 12 guest berths and staff quarters. Originally built in Poland in 1969 as a tug vessel, she was refitted in 1992. The ship made her film debut in 2016 in ‘Through the Glass’, the sequel to Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

All cabins on the Lady of Avenel are offered on a twin share basis and include bunk beds. There are six guest cabins in total, with four slightly larger cabins which include a sink and two slightly smaller cabins without a sink. All guests and crew use shared bathroom facilities with two bathrooms located close to to the cabins on the lower deck and a toilet located on the upper deck.

Please note that due to the limited number of cabins on board, there are no single supplements or non-swimmer places available on this trip.

Luggage

Due to the limited space in the cabins on board the Lady of Avenel, we strongly recommend that guests bring soft, duffle-style luggage and that it is restricted to a maximum size of 40 x 70 x 40cm

WiFi and Mobile Reception

There is extremely limited wifi and mobile phone reception on board the Lady of Avenel and it is entirely dependent on our exact location and signal strength. To be safe, it should be assumed that you will have no access to 3G, 4G or WiFi for the duration of your trip.

Meals

All meals are included on this trip and are prepared by our very own on board chef. With years of experience working on various vessels, our chef offers a high standard of food which will keep you well fuelled for your swims during the trip.

Extra Expenses

You should bring extra money with you to cover such items as trips to the occasional island pub and shopping on the few islands that have towns. The local currency is British pound (£).

Passports And Visas

The Inner Hebrides is part of the United Kingdom. Non-residents of the U.K. require a full passport to enter the country, which should be valid for six months beyond the expected length of stay. Citizens of most countries, including all E.U. member states, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand are given ‘leave to enter’ the U.K. and do not need to apply for a visa. Please note that visa regulations are subject to change and we advise that you check your own visa requirements prior to travel.

Health Information and Recommended Vaccinations

For comprehensive health information for people travelling to the UK, including all recommended and required vaccinations, please visit Travel Health Pro. Please note that this information is subject to change and you should re-check this site regularly prior to your trip.

Travel Plugs & Electricity

The Lady of Avenel features UK-style power points in some cabins and in communal areas.

For a useful source of information on the different electrical outlets, electrical plugs, and electric sockets, please visit ElectricalOutlet.org.

  • The 'Isle of Skye and The Small Isels - Scotland' trip is new for 2018. As soon as we have run our first trip, we will share some customer reviews here.