I was lucky enough to be invited along on a ‘Harris Distillery and Shiants Puffin’ tour a few weeks back, in the hope that I can give a guest’s insight into what a day aboard Go to St Kilda is really like.
A small group of us set off across the minch on a bright Tuesday morning. Bouncing over the waves we looked back on Skye’s pretty village of Stein, our destination: Tarbert, Harris.
We were told by skipper Kenny to keep our eyes peeled for porpoises and minke whale that are known to haunt the surrounding waters and often come to play alongside passing boats.
Rolling into the harbour in Tarbert we slowly passed the moonlike, rocky landscapes of Harris and arrived at the distillery at 11am. We were greeted by our charming local guide Sandy who ushered us into a cosy room and dealt us two generous drams each. She explained a little about the distillery and their ethos when it comes to making whisky that: “you can’t rush quality”. The resounding success of their Harris Gin means that the distillery can comfortably wait as long as is needed to create the perfect island dram.
You don’t have to be in to this sort of thing to enjoy a tour around the Harris Distillery. It’s very casual but interesting all the same. With just the right amount of tasty drinks, jelly beans and craic to get you by. It’ll leave you feeling like you want to invest in a cask yourself (but of course they flew off the shelves and sadly are all now sold!)
When the tour came to end Kenny encouraged us to wander around the village and visit the popular Harris Tweed gift shop. But on wandering we came across a bar and treated ourselves to a much deserved (ahem) beer and poke of chips whilst sitting in the sunshine overlooking the harbour.
The Shiant Isles
We made it back to the boat and hightailed it Eastward for a forty-minute journey. With no shortage of mesmerising views we arrived at the remote Shiant Isles, a privately owned group of islands located around 12 miles from the Northern tip of Skye.
These islands are home to 10% of the world’s puffin population. Although we were guaranteed a sighting of them, it doesn’t take away from how special it is seeing hundreds of the colourful birds in their home territory.
We reached the furthest away of the Shiant Isles: Eilean an Taighe, a quiet, enchanting place. Took a dingy on land and scrambled across the shore to find the perfect pew for some coffee and cake à la Kenny. We were given just over an hour to explore the island, and so we wound our way up a nearby hill to panoramic sea and island views. It’s quite a surreal experience when you’re somewhere this remote. Looking around at the vast expanse of sea in pin drop silence is nothing short of magical.
Making our way back to Stein on Skye, feeling all windswept and smug, and surrounded by even more captivating views, I couldn’t help but think this is how you do life right.
It can seem tempting to tick off all the major sites of Skye in one gruelling car journey on the tourist trail, but spending an entire day at sea exploring these untouched areas is a much more rewarding experience to take home.
Get in touch with Go to St Kilda here if you’d like to book your own memorable experience.