Sessions and Sail 2024 - Solstice B, Mallaig - Ullapool
June 22nd - June 28th
Price: £1295 per person, including all food, accommodation, sessions and workshops.
Join us aboard the Lady of Avenel for this unique trip sailing up the North Minch during the time of the longest days in Scotland - the time known to Shetlanders as the 'Simmer Dim', when the sky never gets fully dark.
This two-masted, Brigantine-rigged tall ship will be your home for six days as we step aboard in Mallaig, headed North up the Minch to some of the most special and least-visited parts of Scotland's coast.
This will be one of our more sailing-oriented trips, with day passages of up to 40 miles meaning we can get stuck into some great sailing. But don't worry - we still plan to allow plenty time for tunes and sessions, with an anchorage or berth every night and plenty opportunities for tunes en-route as well!
If the weather is kind, this passage will include some stops in the Outer Hebrides - sailing from Mallaig to Ullapool pulls in the opportunity to call at such places as Uist, the Shiants, the Sound of Harris and the Isle of Lewis.
If conditions are more unsettled, we will follow the equally magical route up the inner sound east of Skye - again, Kyle Rhea, Plockton, Portree, Shieldaig and the Summer Isles are iconic destinations.
The ship will be your base for a voyage of exploration and music with sessions, workshops, sailing and more; throughout the trip we will enjoy locally sourced food, beautifully prepared by our on-board chef.
In addition to the crew, we will carry two sail-with tutors, dedicated musicians who will be able to run workshops, help keep the sessions going, and give dedicated assistance with any new techniques, tunes, songs or more that you might like to learn.
Some of our likely destinations are outlined below.
We look forward to having you join us on this voyage!
This fishing town is where you will join the ship; a harbour that gives access to some of the most beautiful islands and coasts of Scotland.
These uninhabited islands are a true gem in the Minch.
If weather conditions allow, we will visit them and may achor in the lagoon where the sheer number of puffins will dazzle you; here we may see golden and sea eagles, seals, skuas and a vast range of razorbills, guillemots and more.
Sound of Harris
Who is this trip aimed at?
If you are a keen musician playing at any level - whether beginner, intermediate or expert - with an interest in the traditional and folk music of Scotland, this trip is for you. No sailing experience is necessary, but those keen to participate will be encouraged to join in the sailing of the ship should they wish to, whether steering, helping set and trim the sails, or even climbing the mast for the finest view of all.
Accommodation on board
You will be allocated a berth in one of our six double cabins. For solo travellers, cabins will be allocated on a same-sex basis; if two people travelling together wish to share a cabin, we recommend booking early to ensure availability.
There are two showers and three toilets in the accommodation; these are shared.
Meals are prepared in the modern upper deck galley; these are of a high standard and prepared by our own chef. Meals, tea and coffee are included in the price of the trip.
The upper deck saloon provides an ideal place to socialise and, with the tables cleared away, will be the perfect session space for the evenings we spend aboard. Should the weather be fair enough, we may be able to play sessions on deck.
The following itinerary is a suggestion of how the trip may take form; all destinations are subject to change, are weather dependant, and are at the discretion of the Captain. We will only take the route outside Skye, visiting the Outer Hebrides, if conditions are safe and comfortable for passage-making; likewise, the Stornoway visit will be strictly weather-dependant.
You meet the ‘Lady of Avenel’ alongside the pier in Mallaig. As we're passing from Solstice trip A to Solstice trip B, there are stores to load and the ship to prepare for the next part of this voyage. You may have been with us since Oban, in which case you may choose to lend the crew a hand; or you may prefer to take a stroll around Mallaig.
By 6pm, we're ready to go once more. We have the Captain's safety briefing then get underway, leaving Mallaig behind.
A short steam or sail out the loch in the long Solstice evening, and we'll find a good anchorage - in stunning Loch Nevis, or the south parts of Skye.
Once anchored, we have dinner together in the Lady of Avenel's saloon, then clear away and get to know each other over a few tunes round the table.
After breakfast, there's the chance for a short morning walk - either in the Loch Nevis area, or we may sail across to Coruisk Bay, at the ‘back o the Cuillins’ - a spectacular anchorage at the base of these epic mountains, where what may be Britain's shortest river pours out from the loch into the sea 365 days a year from this rainiest of islands!
We pick up anchor and sail on before lunch. During the afternoon, we admire the scenery as Skye slips past, with Rum and Canna across the water.
If the forecast is unsettled, and we've opted for the inshore route, it's Kyle Rhea today - one of the fastest flowing tides in Scotland. Let's see how fast we can get the Lady moving as the stream takes us through the gap between Skye and the Mainland; then under the Skye bridge.
We reach Carbost (outside route) or Plockton or Portree (inshore route) in time for dinner then head for a tune session in a pub ashore.
Today is a big day - if we've made it to Carbost, we will cross the Minch. 40 miles, hopefully under sail, as we head for Loch Maddy on North Uist - or perhaps we're off to an anchorage in the Sound of Harris.
A full day of sailing gives us the chance to learn more about how the Lady of Avenel, and square-rig sailing vessels in general, operate. Help set the sails, take a turn at the wheel, help man the braces as we trim the ship for best performance depending on the wind direction.
If weather is fine we can play tunes on deck as we sail along; or perhaps in the deckhouse. Today may also be a good chance to work out a new set or a song that could be played at the last-night party on Thursday evening; or to get some small-group or one-to-one time with one of our sail-aboard tutors.
If weather has kept us on the inshore route, we have several good options. Shieldaig is a gorgeous bay with a very welcoming, music-loving community; Loch Ewe is an option; or, if weather has improved, we may even strike out for the Shiant Islands from Portree.
By evening we're anchored again, watching the midsummer light dim in the north and playing tunes in the saloon or on deck, tired but happy and celebrating a fine day's sailing.
In the morning we have breakfast, then raise anchor and sail on. Today our destination is the Shiant Islands, 26 miles to the north-east.
We get some tunes going as we navigate the Minch, playing on deck if it is dry. After lunch, our onboard tutors run a workshop and session in the saloon as we sail along.
We arrive at the Shiants late afternoon; there is time for a walk and a climb ashore before dinner. In the evening we get some tunes going round the table and have the chance to play over some of the tunes or songs we learned this afternoon.
This morning we sail - north, for Stornoway, if the weather forecast looks kind; or east for somewhere a little closer to Ullapool if not.
The Captain will be watching the weather forecast carefully; if we plan to cross the Minch tomorrow we will need a fair wind. We will only visit Stornoway if this fair wind is forecast.
If Stornoway is achievable, we tie up in the harbour by mid afternoon, and spend the afternoon exploring the town; in the evening we play a session in one of Stornoway's lively pubs.
If the Captain has elected to sail east instead, we make for Poolewe, and explore this stunning village - with a tune or two in the hotel or the village hall to follow.
If we're in Stornoway, we have another good sail ahead of us - 32 miles across the Minch. We depart in the morning; hopefully we have a sailing breeze and we set as many sails as the Lady will bear, pointing the bows for Loch Broom. We could be underway for up to 8 hours.
From Poolewe it's a slightly easier 20 miles north - again we try to do this under sail!
By evening we're nestled among the Summer Isles, having dinner at anchor, enjoing a last evening together onboard, playing tunes and trying to remember songs from 'The Wicker Man'!
The Captain and Mate are awake early, getting the anchor up at 6am; we head up Loch Broom towards Ullapool. There's time for breakfast and maybe a morning tune or six on deck whilst underway.
By 1000 we're tied up alongside the pier in Ullapool.
We say our goodbyes, bid the Lady of Avenel farewell, and head off to the next adventure.