So the Firth of Clyde is all about rusting shipyards, the ghosts of tourism past and the acquired taste humour of Billy Connolly? Wrong. How about seal colonies, red deer feet in front of you and a basking shark within touching distance? These were all experiences we enjoyed when we headed back doon the watter for a spectacular cruise with The Majestic Line.
Cruising Doon the Watter
As recently as the 1950s the Firth of Clyde was the getaway of choice for Glaswegians of all creeds and bank balances, with resorts like Dunoon and Rothesay booming as the paddle steamers brought the hordes ‘doon the watter’ for their holidays. The advent of jet travel changed all that and the masses now descend instead on the Spanish Costas, leaving the Firth of Clyde to discerning holidaymakers looking to choose a trip closer to home and to all that glorious wildlife.
Our cruise kicked off from Holy Loch. On boarding the MV Glen Tarsan (one of The Majestic Line twin vessels – the other is the MV Glen Massan) we immediately realised that this was not cruising as we knew it. Within minutes we were on first name terms with all four of the crew and the passengers for that matter as they only allow a cosy maximum of 11 guests. Personal service is the key here, not being a faceless body amongst a cruise ship crowd.
The Cosy Majestic Line
Everything is small scale and relaxed aboard The Majestic Line. Our cabin was bigger than we’d expected in what is after all a converted fishing boat. Our porthole hugged the water line giving us great views as we went. The bed was a proper double and the cabin was en suite too with a toilet and shower. Most of our days were spent, though, in the lounge, where coffee, comfy seats and a small library were on hand during the day and then a bar at night. Meals were served here and they came laced with the likes of local Argyll lamb and Loch Fyne kippers.
While the food was enough to keep us onboard there were generally two excursions a day. First up was the Isle of Bute and the glorious old Victorian resort of Rothesay. The term ‘faded grandeur’ could have been conjured up with this charming historic dame in mind. It has seen better days, but you can stroll back through the centuries in its still immaculate waterfront gardens and also eke back even further at the rugged Rothesay Castle.
Kyles of Bute and Arran aboard The Majestic Line
Pushing on north we rounded the Kyles of Bute, the scenic highlight of the cruise. Highland hills crowded nearer and nearer as we squeezed between the treacherous rocks of these famous narrows, before emerging amidst some of Scotland’s most remarkable scenery. All that and we still had the run down to Lochranza, with the isles of Arran, Inchmarnock and Holy Isle to savour, which we did from the bridge. Bridge visits are actively encouraged.
Arran was the highlight of our trip. We chanced upon a basking shark just off Lochranza. We tracked him in the tender getting within feet of this impressive leviathan. That wasn’t the end of our wildlife encounters, though, as then we checked out a seal colony and en route to the local pub we had to practically climb over a family of red deer! For the entirety of the cruise we were surrounded by birdlife and enjoyed scanning the waters for sightings of marine mammal cousins.
Mystical Isles of Argyll
Names mean a lot and for some people the idea of cruising the Firth of Clyde is not a tempting one. We reckon any naysayers will be converted after about five seconds onboard The Majestic Line! Maybe they should change the name to something more romantic like ‘Cruising the Mystical Isles of Argyll’. Whatever you choose to call it this is a seriously thrilling cruise, packed with wildlife, steeped in history and cloaked in comfy style in one of the most dramatic corners of Scotland.