If you’re in Skye and looking for a great seafood lunch, some island walking and an amazing boat trip, then you must do this!
We have visited many Scottish islands on our travels but we have never been to the wild and rugged Isle of Rona. Situated just off the north of Rassay to the east of Skye, the island has no roads or shops and just two permanent residents – Bill the caretaker and his wife! There are three holiday cottages on the island offering the ultimate escape from the stresses of city living. I had always wanted to visit Rona as my cousin Rona used to work on Rona (confused?) and it sounded like a beautiful place to experience.
We had heard that Seaflower Skye offer luxury trips to the island from Portree harbour and we were thrilled when we were invited along for an experience of a lifetime.
After a very wet and windy Monday, Tuesday dawned bright, calm and dry – a perfect day for our tour. As instructed, we gathered at the Seaflower Skye sign opposite the Pier Hotel at the harbour in Portree and met Ewan our skipper along with our fellow passengers. The previous week, Seaflower Skye guests had spotted basking sharks, dolphins and minke whales so we were buzzing with excitement.
Arriving on the boat we met Janice, Ewan’s partner and you really couldn’t meet a nicer couple. They are absolutely first class hosts who want to make sure you have the most amazing five hours on your sea tour. After explaining our itinerary and going through the safety instructions (the vessel is fully equipped to a high standard with life jackets and life rafts) we set off on our adventure. You are free to explore the boat and find the best spot to relax and enjoy the journey. Ewan’s dad and brother are both fishermen in the area so they are the boat’s eyes on the water, updating Ewan and Janice with any wildlife sightings.
Morning coffee was served on deck as we left the harbour – how civilised.
Exploring the boat, there’s a sheltered section at the back with padded seats and an open deck with wooden tables and chairs. Up the ladder on the top deck, there are two captain seats with a protective windshield where you can find some of the best views on board. I loved sitting up there watching the scenery go by and keeping my eye out for sea eagles and dolphins. The wheel had a note saying “do not touch!” Oh, the temptation!! We might have ended up in Applecross rather than Rona.
A highlight of the luxury tour is a seafood lunch in Rona Harbour and Ewan pointed out his brother’s boat fishing up ahead. They provide some of the seafood to be served up later – you can’t really get fresher than that. Arriving alongside the vessel we were able to watch them hauling in the creels as gannets dived around their boat. This really is low food miles at it’s finest.
A seafood feast in Rona
A brief shower of rain welcomed us to Rona harbour so Ewan positioned the boat away from the prevailing light wind for our comfort and dropped anchor. The furniture was then rearranged to create a sheltered dining area with a beautiful view over the island. Janice set the tables and started to bring out our seafood lunch just as the rain stopped and the sun came out. We were expecting a few langoustines with some bread and butter but the food just kept on coming!
We enjoyed the freshest most delicious seafood feast of langoustines, crab, squat lobsters, hot smoked salmon, smoked salmon served with crusty bread, butter, oatcakes and a big bowl of mixed salad sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. If I could pick my last meal ever, this would be it! The perfectly chilled wine was opened, carafes of water poured and we sat down to eat in the absolute peace that is Rona.
If you want to experience the finest Scottish seafood on a visit to Skye or Raasay, I can’t think of a better or more fitting place to do so. We sat for around an hour cracking shells, sipping wine and enjoying the view – what a feast in such a tranquil setting. The lunch alone is worth the ticket price.
A walk to Church Cave
You can take as long as you like over lunch and afterwards, you have plenty of time to go ashore and enjoy the island. There are a couple of longer walk options to enjoy or you can simply potter around the harbour – it’s up to you. We decided to head across the island to the historic Church Cave, used by the former island inhabitants for regular worship until the Island Church was built in 1878.
The route takes around two hours and sturdy walking boots are recommended as some of the paths are a bit boggy in places. We followed the sign for the cave and were soon enjoying breathtaking views from the other side of the island across the Inner Sound to the Applecross Penninsula.
As you get closer to Church Cave, the path descends quite steeply and a rope fence has been added to help you on your way down. Soon you spot the entrance to the cave rising like a huge Gothic arch. As you enter there’s a circle of stones kept filled with water from a constant drip from the roof – the font. Holy water at it’s finest!
Next, you are met with rows of low stones which were used as pews while up ahead a low stone pillar served as a pulpit. There might not have been any island worshipers the day we visited but you could certainly hear their Gaelic psalms of the past rise and fall out and across the waves.
If you visit, be sure to seek out the metal tin inside the cave. It contains a bible, the visitor’s book and some candles. We left a message and enjoyed reading the other notes from fellow travellers who had taken the time to visit this remote outpost.
Back to Seaflower Skye for a cuppa
We retraced our steps back to the boat where Ewan and Janice had the kettle boiling for a well-earned coffee and Tunnocks teacake before we set sail for our return journey.
Ewan and Janice had heard that a colony of seals with their pups were in residence on small islands around 20 minutes north of Rona. Local knowledge is everything and we found dozens of seals sunbathing on the rocks. As we looked on from a comfortable distance they seemed very chilled out and relaxed in the sunshine. A couple even popped their heads out of the water to say hello.
Seaflower Skye has great facilities inside as well as out. If the weather does turn, there’s a comfortable seating area where lunch can be served and you can enjoy equally impressive views.
The loo is also worth a mention – always a thought if you are on a five or six-hour day trip. Will there be one? What will it be like? Happy to report that the onboard toilet was excellent and all of our fellow guests were impressed by the facilities!
Seaflower Skye is a powerful boat and you are guaranteed a safe but exhilarating journey. On our return to Portree, we were joined by some dolphins who swam alongside the wake of the boat. As you see their fin break the surface your heart skips a beat! An amazing experience.
We really can’t recommend a trip with Ewan and Janice highly enough. We had a fantastic day out and their idea to combine a boat trip with fabulous fresh Scottish seafood, wine and some island walking and exploration is such a good one. The ticket price is excellent value for money for the quality of the experience, food and service you receive.
Sailings are weather dependent so try to plan ahead and let Ewan and Janice know that you are keen to go on a tour with them. They will be able to advise the best days to sail. As well as Rona, they also do regular trips to Raasay which is well worth a visit too. Similarly, if you are in Skye and want to arrange a last minute adventure then give Ewan a call to see if he can assist. The boat usually leaves Portree harbour at 11 am and returns after 4 pm depending on which trip they are running.
Isle of Skye,