Mallaig to the Shiants - Freya Taylor

The Sessions and Sail crew have just left the Shiant Islands headed back towards the West Highland coast. Here, crew member/bursary winner Freya Taylor writes about her experience of the trip so far.


Day 1

On arrival at the marina in Mallaig I was greeted by warm smiles. On board a room filled with friendly faces, and instruments and mugs already dispersed across the tables. After a round of introductions, the sound of sessions and sail began. 

After dropping the anchor and some great tunes, food and chat the first day drew to a close. 




Day 2 

The day started with a cooked breakfast and plenty tea and coffee. A slow start to the sailing, well we waited on the tides, allowed for plenty time to learn a tune and a song from the crew. We then set off. We hoisted some sails, and something which Harry and Barry were very happy to explain to us how to do.  We then sailed through Kyle Rhea, where the currents are very fast, passing the ferry and an old fort as we went. We continued up the inner coast of Skye, some of us learning some old Gaelic tunes from Charlie, before we arrived in Portree where we anchored for the night. After some more fantastic food, we went ashore in the dinghy and played tunes and songs in An Tanna Mor pub, there was even folk up ceilidh dancing. We left the pub, to some confused faces and questions, as the musicians pulled on life jackets. On the return voyage Barry and Nessie pulled out their fiddles and an extra lap of the boat was required in order to allow Nessie and Barry time to finish their tune. The evening finished with more music, a few drams and an incredible sun set (or maybe sunrise by this point). 


Day 3 

As I learned by this point days on the Lady of Avenel always start with tea, coffee, porridge and a cooked breakfast- a fantastic start. We then had a beautiful sail over to Loch Torridon, where I even had the chance to steer the boat, something which took a while to get my head round but was very cool to do. The sun was out as we sailed past Shieldaig, spotting some nesting sea eagles, and having the chance to go sit out on the bow spit, and watch the senary pass from there. This was kind of terrifying but also quite exciting. Unfortunately, this is when the wind decided to not play ball, and great gusts rocked the boat and made it impossible for the anchor to hold, although this had no effect on the tunes and craic, and another brilliant dinner and pudding was had. As the gusts were not stopping it was decided that we would have to go again and find another spot to stop for the night. The tunes continued in the saloon, but I went outside again and watched for any buoys that might be in our path; it’s incredible to see how much the sea can change in just a few hours and how different it looks in the dark. I found it quite special. About 2am we arrived in a calm anchorage just off Gairloch, and again the evening finished with more tea, tunes and the addition of cheese. 


Day 4 

Crossing the Minch. A gorgeous day spent motoring over to the Shiant islands, surrounded by dolphins and an array of birds. On arrival in the Shiants I was speechless. The views are incredible, and the birds spectacular. After lunch we headed onto the islands to explore. There was a lovely bothy and views all the way out to Harris. Climbing up the hill, stopping to admire the flowers, birds and everything about the place. At the top I could see the Lady of Avenel in all her beauty as well. Back on board the boat for a short second before a freezing dip in the sea with the warm sun on our faces. After dinner and fantastic sticky toffee pudding, we were joined onboard by sailors from neighbouring boats, for some tunes on the deck. Once it got too cold, tunes moved inside. I came out on deck just after midnight to see the most incredible sky; whispy cloud lines, a bright orange horizon, stars in the sky and the sun set reflecting though an archway in the island. A mesmerising end to another great day. 

As dark as it got on Tuesday night at the Shiants… 

Day 5 

I woke up to beauty of the Shiants and the sound of the puffins. Some of us went back to the island to go up to the puffin colony and watch all the birds. Once back on the boat and another quick dip, we were sailing again back to the mainland. 


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