You shall have a fishyTraditional folk song
On a little dishy
You shall have a fishy
When the boat comes in.
Woke up at 7.30am after a comfortable night’s sleep in the Lancaster Hotel in Oban, and were pleased to see sunshine and wispy white clouds drifting lazily across a blue sky. As the weather forecast for the next week didn’t look particularly promising (!), we determined to make the most of every minute of sunshine, and this afternoon we were excited at the prospect of embarking on the Majestic Line‘s smallest vessel and newest addition to the fleet, the Glen Rosa.
Carrying a maximum of six passengers and having only two crew members (skipper and chef), she must surely be the tiniest cruise vessel ever! But in the photos on The Majestic Line’s web site she looked cosy and comfortable and cheerful, and we couldn’t wait to join her. 🙂
After breakfast at the Lancaster we therefore packed up all our stuff and took our two suitcases and two rucksacks downstairs to the reception, where we checked out of the hotel and arranged with them to leave our car parked there for the next six nights at a not-unreasonable cost of five pounds per day. Boarding time this afternoon was not until 3.00pm, so we locked our stuff securely in the car and set off to enjoy ourselves in the meantime in the pretty little town that is Oban.
The weather was perfect and the September sunshine was warm on our backs as we strolled along, watching the pleasure boats coming and going and the distinctive Caledonia MacBrayne ferry rolling into port, disgorging its stream of passengers into the bustling seaside resort. Seagulls screeched and wheeled on the updraughts and we could smell the evocative scent of fish and seaweed.
As we walked along, idly looking in the shop windows, we came across the Oban Times museum, which featured a history of Oban during war and peace. It looked very interesting and admission was free (donations appreciated) so we went inside for a browse around.
After spending an hour or so in the museum, we had a couple of hours before we had to return to the hotel for our luggage, so we decided to go into the Corryvreckan pub again and enjoy a couple of drinks; beer in Trevor’s case and a freezing cold Aperol Spritz for me. The pub was doing a lively lunchtime trade but we were lucky enough to procure a couple of seats at a window table, where we could people-watch and sit and relax in that happy “we’re-going-on-another-cruise” feeling. 🙂
At 2.30pm we finished our drinks and set off back to the car to collect our cases and walk to the top of the pier, where we would meet the crew of the Glen Rosa as well as the other four passengers.
As we happily trundled our cases along, our rucksacks on our back, we spotted some of the other Majestic Line vessels tied up at the pier awaiting their lucky passengers. We were pleased to see the amazing Glen Tarsan there, on which we’d had such a wonderful and memorable cruise in May 2021, as well as the Glen Etive and the Glen Shiel. It was hard to spot the Glen Rosa at first, because she was hardly any bigger than the pleasure boats and yachts she shared her berth with! 🙂
As we arrived at the meeting point, we looked around in anticipation and interest at the other people waiting nearby, wondering if any of them would be our companions for the next six nights. Soon we spotted a couple of people wearing Majestic Line shirts coming up the ramp, and they asked who was here for the Glen Rosa. When we put up our hands, one of them introduced herself as Jemma – she would be our skipper/engineer on board. The other guy was Charlie, our chef/steward/deckhand. Shortly afterwards a taxi pulled up and two couples got out; these were our “shipmates” and they introduced themselves as Greg and Lisa, John and Isabel. Hearing a transatlantic accent, they told us they were from Denver, Colorado. Everyone was smiley and friendly and we were all excited to be starting our latest seafaring adventure. 🙂
The great thing about the boats of the Majestic Line is that they really allow you to get close to the sea and participate in a real nautical experience. You don’t get a big flash balcony cabin and all the bars, restaurants, cabaret lounges of the typical modern cruise ships, but instead you get lots of little quirks.
For example, on the three-deck Glen Rosa, it was with amusement that we found our cabin was right next to the engine room and the crew’s quarters (definitely a first!) but we needn’t worry about noise, because the engines and generators are switched off overnight (lights run off a battery), and aren’t started up again until 6.30 – 7.00am, so there was no need to set an alarm to wake us up!
The cabin itself was extremely compact. 🙂 For two people, two suitcases and two rucksacks it was quite a tight squeeze moving around. There was space underneath the large double bunk to stash our stuff, a miniscule wardrobe and a titchy ensuite bathroom. But the bed itself looked cosy with its crisp white sheets and duvet and a couple of Harris Tweed pillows and matching small blanket. An oval shaped porthole was high up above the bed, and other porthole allowed some light into the bathroom, which contained a WC (called the “heads” on a boat), a sink and a shower stall.
Basically, the cabin was designed for getting washed, changed and sleeping in, and not much else. But when you realise that the Glen Rosa (previously called the Fleur de Lys) was originally built in 1972 as a Royal Naval training and survey vessel, you’d understand that her role was meant to be functional rather than luxurious. However, having previously cruised with the Majestic Line, we knew that the main stars of the show would be the wonderful, wild and rugged destinations we’d visit, as well as the gourmet food we’d eat and the good company of our fellow passengers and crew. 🙂
After dumping our bags in our cabin and trying our best not to get in each other’s way (!), we went along to the saloon where the other four passengers were enjoying gin and tonic. Trevor opted for the same, and I asked for a white wine. Isabel had celebrated her birthday the previous day so a lovely cake with candles was waiting for her, along with a couple of banners proclaiming “Happy Birthday”. We’d enjoy a piece of cake later on. 🙂
Shortly afterwards, Jemma weighed anchor and manoevred the Glen Rosa out of her berth and into the open sea loch; our anchorage tonight would be in Loch Aline. As we glided along in the calm sea, looking at the mountains and the tiny villages, passing other vessels (we overtook sister ship Glen Shiel on the way) we lifted our faces up to the sun as the brisk sea breeze ruffled our hair. The fact that the vessel was going along at a good rate of knots made the breeze seem colder than it was, so Trevor and I went inside into the wheelhouse and watched Skipper Jemma going about her skilful navigation work as we enjoyed another gin and tonic and continued to revel in the wonderful scenery passing by outside.
Once we’d finished our drinks, we returned to our cabin for a half-hour power nap, lulled by the slight motion of the Glen Rosa and the rumbling of her engines.
Then we unpacked and hung up our clothes as best we could; while there wasn’t much room in the wardrobe there were plenty of hooks on the walls on which to hang stuff. We could feel that the Glen Rosa had stopped by now; this was obviously our anchorage for the night.
We found ourselves in a stunning bay, under a pale blue sky on a beautifully calm loch, which perfectly reflected the nearby mountains and trees, touched with the mellow colours of autumn. We stood there for ages, just staring. It was idyllic, but we’d miss the sunset tonight because of the proximity of the mountains.
Enjoying pre-dinner drinks with Greg, Lisa, John and Isabel, Charlie the chef brought out some exquisite canapés for us; tiny crabmeat tartlets topped with caviar, and falafel balls in a spicy sauce.
Dinner tonight was a foodie’s absolute idea of heaven. We started with hand-made salmon fishcakes, and our main meal consisted of roasted Scottish turbot in a wild mushroom sauce, served on a bed of spinach and accompanied by gnocchi and wild foraged mushrooms. It was absolutely scrumptious and our table fell silent as we all tucked in and paid homage to Charlie’s culinary artistry. 🙂
We finished the meal of with an exquisite cheeseboard which contained Scottish cheeses with a difference; mature cheddar with truffles, another cheese with claret, and an absolutely amazing cheddar cheese with madras curry! The last one was so tasty I made a note of the web site address (www.scotcheese.com) so I could order some when I got back home! 🙂
Darkness slowly descended outside as we settled back in our chairs and ended our wonderful meal with a “wee dram” each. Trevor had a Laphroaig (from Islay) while I partook of a Tobermory 12 year old. We savoured the rich flavour, rolling the amber liquid around our tongues before slowly swallowing A tiny splash of water allowed some of the ‘nose’ to be released; it was a pleasant and apt way to end the meal..
Afterwards, we all sat around in postprandial contentment, exchanging anecdotes and talking about our families (as you do). Then, one by one, the saloon emptied out as everyone went below decks to turn in. It was after 11.00pm now, and the engines of the Glen Rosa had stopped, as well as the generator. A gorgeous peace prevailed and down in our miniscule cabin, all we could hear was the sea gently washing against the side of the vessel as we settled down in our cosy bed and slept very well.