Absolute perfection. A way to see one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland – of the world, in fact – that is unique, and unforgettable.

Soft late-autumn air flavoured with subtle waves of salt, the rush of the Hebridean breeze – chilly enough to make me smile and pull up the zip of my jacket just a little further, but not so cold as to make it uncomfortable – jaw-dropping views of those famous Skye mountains, the peaks dusted like icing sugar with the first snowfall of the changing season.

That’s what it was meant to be like. That was what I’d imagined from the moment I’d signed up for this trip.

But as we read the message on the big sign at Kyle of Lochalsh that informed drivers of the state of the ferry service from Uig, reality hit us as viciously as the sheets of rain that were thrashing our windscreen.


I muttered something unprintable as we drove over the bridge and into the worsening gloom.

When the opportunity for the trip came up, my wife and I both thought it sounded fantastic. Two nights in a luxury hotel and a Seafood Lunch Cruise from Portree to the nearby little islands of Rona and Raasay.

It’s one of the perks of working on a newspaper – occasionally you get the opportunity to do memorable things, and then write about them. And I’d thought this trip was going to be really memorable.

Until, a couple of days before we left, the email arrived. “The forecast for Monday is looking poor and I doubt we will be able to run a trip. You mentioned that you had some flexibility, so would Tuesday be an option? The forecast has been changing a lot recently so fingers crossed.”

It was from Ewen, the host of our cruise, and it began our first experience of the Isle of Skye.

Ewen and his wife Janice own Seaflower Skye, a company that runs day cruises from Portree to Rona and Raasay, offering the chance to see some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery from an unusual viewpoint, enjoy an amazing seafood lunch and the odd glass of wine, while hopefully spotting some wildlife.

Ewen’s a native of the town and he met Janice – who’s from Ireland – while backpacking in the Far East. They settled in Portree and opened for business last year.

As well as their seafood cruises, on summer evenings they also offer shorter cruises complete with canapes and fizz – and judging by the success of their first season, it seems they have it on a winning formula.

The Seafood Lunch Cruise – the one we’d signed up for – is a full-day job, setting off at nine and heading first for Rona.

This is a truly wild island – there are only two permanent residents, a couple of holiday cottages, some sheep, lots of deer and a resident seal colony. If they wish, cruise guests can go ashore for a couple of hours and explore the natural beauty of this place. The views back toward Skye are said to be astounding, and there is plenty to see for the keen (or not-so-keen) walker.

Next stop is Raasay, where we would be stopping for that fabled seafood lunch. Being a bit of a whisky fan, I was planning to use the time to pay a visit to the newly built distillery, but there’s a ton of other stuff to do here, from basic sightseeing and walking, to hiring a bike or even archery.

Alternatively, if you’d rather just put your feet up and take in the sights from the boat, Ewen and Janice would be delighted to keep you company (and your glass of wine topped up!).

That all sounded fantastic, but the thing that had got me really excited were the stories I’d heard about watching sea eagles hunting magnificently, or even seeing schools of dolphins leaping and playing at the bow of the boat.

This was going to be special – a trip never to be forgotten.

We’d planned a leisurely drive up, taking in the famous views on the way – Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Eilean Donan Castle – and a quick detour to Plockton. We’d hoped for a gentle stroll before dinner when we arrived at the hotel (the famous Skeabost House, no less!), and a good night’s sleep before the main event the following day.

But that email from Ewen heralded something very different.

Instead of a leisurely drive, our journey to Skeabost was an ordeal, our hopes of a merry jaunt on the Seaflower across the Sound of Raasay a fading fantasy.

When we arrived – late – at the hotel the rain had, if anything, got heavier and the wind stronger, and we might as well have stepped out of the car and straight into a shower.

I’d called Ewen for an update on the way and the forecast had got worse. I was to phone back the following morning, but there was a real chance that this entire trip would be a washout. So, soaked, stressed and sapped of any last trace of energy, we struggled across the gravel and into the hotel, our excitement replaced by a feeling of depressed resignation.

And, in that moment, everything changed once more.

As we closed the big door behind us, the angry roar of the wind as it drove the rain and ripped through the trees vanished, replaced by the atmospheric peace that only thick, old stone walls can provide. I can’t remember if there was a great grandfather clock, but it wouldn’t have been out of place, ticking its slow tock and making the world take its foot off the gas.

In the lounge to our right, we could hear the quiet, comfortable laughter of guests chatting before dinner as they basked in the warmth of the real fire. To our left, just past reception, an American couple sat in the cocktail bar sipping a glass of fizz – Champagne, I imagined, and surely to toast some very special occasion.

It was good to be out of the weather – and even better to be in a place where we instantly felt at ease. The Skeabost isn’t a hotel. It’s a grand house, a friend’s family home where everyone’s welcome, and we’ve just dropped in to stay for a couple of days.

This hotel is famous of the quality of its food and, after we’d settled in to our room, got warmed up (best shower I’ve ever had) and dressed up, we weren’t disappointed.

Salmon, venison, guinea fowl, steak – the menu was as luxurious as the surroundings. So what could we do? The full three courses, a bottle of the house white, a coffee and a dram in the lounge afterwards as we chatted to fellow guests in front of that great fire – that evening really was as amazing as I’d imagined, and set us up for the kind of night’s sleep you can only get in a big, soft sumptuous hotel bed after a long day’s travelling.

The next morning, after a breakfast of smoked haddock and poached eggs – yes, even the breakfast menu was something to behold – I called Ewen back. No change, and no chance of getting out on the water if we valued the contents of our stomachs.

So the big day out was cancelled and instead we went for a tour of the north of the island – the countryside, people say, is spectacular, but we didn’t see anything because the wind and rain had now been joined by cloud so low it masked every hint of a view.

However, we did have one thing to look forward to that morning.

Since all the food had been prepared, we were invited round to join Ewen and Janice for lunch, and I really am struggling for superlatives to describe it. The best Cullen Skink I’ve ever tasted, the freshest langoustines, wonderful hot and cold-smoked salmon, salad, cheese, oatcakes – and, the real highlight for me, squat lobster. Tiny little seafood morsels that are apparently a by-product often fed to the cat which were so sweet and tasty I could have eaten them all afternoon. It was made even better by a glass (or two) of wine and the wonderful hospitality of two truly lovely people.

In fact, on our way home – as the weather cleared and the sun came out – my wife and I decided we were glad our trip to Skye was such a washout. It gives us an excuse to go back, and join Ewen and Janice once more … hopefully on the water this time.

Andy Clark was a guest at the Skeabost House Hotel. Stays are £99 per room per night B&B (excludes February 10-17).

Offer ends March 31.


Seaflower: Fizz and canapes – £50pp;

Rona with seafood lunch – £90pp;

Raasay with seafood lunch – £90pp;

Rona and Raasay full day with lunch – £140pp.