Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Seal boat trip at Dunvegan Castle, Scotland

Dear wildlife watching friends, as you well know, holidays can afford new sightings and opportunities. Dunvegan Castle, on the Isle of Skye, wasn’t a completely new holiday visit for us having been there many years ago (bc). However, on our visit in September 2013, the opportunity to get close-up views of a colony of common seals on the small islands of Dunvegan Loch definitely was!

The reasonably priced seal boat tickets (£6 with a valid castle or garden entry ticket in 2013) seemed too good an opportunity miss out on. We were all very keen. There was one big problem though – me! How big was the boat?

We would assess our seal boat trip after out visit inside the castle where the MacLeod Chiefs have been living for nearly 800 years. At present Dunvegan Castle is the family home of the 30th Chief, Hugh MacLeod of Macleod (link to images). Dunvegan is in fact the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. I do love visiting castles that are occupied by a family - don't you?





The front view of Dunvegan Castle, on a dull wet day, is perhaps not its prettiest but as you walk over the bridge and through its entrance you absolutely feel its ancient roots. It most definitely has a historical romance about it.

Walking from room to room (no photography allowed) I have to admit to being drawn to the windows overlooking the loch to see if I could spot the size of the seal boat. Anticipation was building.

The Castle guide in the room with the 'Fairy Flag’ did well in distracting us with the legends (great independent blog post) behind this very old and delicate piece of fabric. This flag is the most treasured possession of the MacLeod Clan.





Meanwhile, outside, the square walled garden (which is typical of Scottish Castles) was looking pretty colourful on our late September visit. I liked the informal planting around the formal pool in the centre.





Walking down to the jetty for the seal boat trip brought a pretty special view of Dunvegan Castle with the Loch below it. This is where a dull wet day, with mist skirting the water, creates the romance and hardship of an ancient Castle perfectly. You can see the small islands in the distance. This was my favourite view.





Disappointingly, after seeing the size of the boat (seating just seven people – one at the very front, and two rows of three people behind with the skipper guide standing at the back) I missed out on seeing wonderful close-up views of the very relaxed seals.

I don’t have sea legs (my legs and arms physically shake) since being on a ferry crossing whilst pregnant with my second daughter. Fortunately for her, that wasn’t passed on and she boarded the small boat with her Dad. I was both delighted and worried for them as the boat sailed off gently across the loch.





Walking up to the picnic table view above the jetty, where other visitors were, I could follow the progress of the small boat across the water. Ha-ha the mist in the distance helped my shaking zoomed in photo ;-)

Meanwhile, back on land, I was getting entertained with brilliant close-up views of a new bird (for me) that we were seeing regularly around the landscape of Skye. The Hooded crows at Dunvegan knew exactly what could be found at picnic tables! Images of them next time :-)





Thanks to the technology of mobile phones, my husband sent me an image from the boat. I enjoyed a live view of the seals just like everyone on board. That was a nice surprise to be part of their trip. What great views they got.

The iPhone 4s video capture below also helped me feel part of the trip - although I did give a sigh that I wasn’t brave enough to go myself. I'm delighted to be able to share this video footage of the seals as seen from a boat trip on Dunvegan Loch (thanks OH xx).



Common Seals at Dunvegan, Scotland. 1:01 with background music, try HD quality.






A couple of days later we found ourselves on a road that overlooked Loch Dunvegan on our right. Spotting a parking space on this single track road I took the opportunity to stop and walk across to the edge where I was delighted to get my own views of the common seals at Dunvegan – albeit in the distance and with binoculars.

Zooming out to a longer view you can get a better feel for this rugged landscape with the pretty little white painted houses that could be seen in clusters on hillsides and shores throughout the landscapes of Skye.





We were very lucky with the weather on the rest of our holiday where we found breathtakingly beautiful landscapes as we travelled around the island by car - especially along the west coast towards the Inner Hebridean Island of Raasay and across the Sound of Raasay (link to images). What a stunning island this can be with both mist and sunshine.

So, dear wildlife watchers perhaps the small intimate seal boat trip at Dunvegan is for you (note sailings April-Sept check website for dates). Then again, perhaps an Exhilarating Whale, wildlife-watching and sightseeing boat trip (from Elgol, on the south tip of the Isle of Skye) is more for you. Or another option (middle ground perhaps) would be the Semi-Submersible Glass Bottom Boat on the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh? Of course, I can’t comment/recommend either ;-)

Finally, dear wildlife watchers, have you any favourite holiday moments on boats or on land? Oh… we do believe we spotted Golden Eagles on one road trip but alas no photos to be sure.


This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in October 2013.

9 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

We don't have any Castles around here. Nothing so old. I would love to see this castle, or any especially if they were inhabited by family. Here the closest thing is the Biltmore. It is a castle of sorts and family still uses parts of it.Of course it isn't nearly as old. So glad you saw all except the seals. What fun.

I have done several pelagic trips to see birds. My favorite encounter that wasn't entirely expected was when we were on a ferry crossing over to Canada and there were Orca whales along side. We would run from one end of the ferry to the other to keep watching them.

Shirley said...

Hello again, Lisa :-) I thought of you when I mentioned the Fairy Flag and guessed you would love to see such an ancient Castle. Wow… I’ve just looked at images of Biltmore… it is on an entirely different scale to Dunvegan… very impressive.

Oh Lisa, I so envy your Orca whales sightings. I would have dearly loved to have seen that but I’ll have to overcome the shakes I get on a boat first - maybe one day. I can picture the passengers on the ferry running back and forth to see the whales – sounds a magical experience :-D

Sue Garrett said...

I think I'd have been the same as you. Small boat + open sea = no thank you!

That MacLeod got himself into deep water too didn't he?

Angie said...

That's an awfae wee boat for Scottish waters! I'd be more afraid of falling in the cold water than anything else.
Glad you all had a great time - beautiful castle and scenery.

Anna said...

Dunvegan Castle looks most atmospheric Shirl. Castles by the sea usually seem more impressive than inland ones. What a shame that you did not get to the seals close up. I'm too petrified to get on a plane but oddly enough boats even little ones do not bother me. Had a memorable day on a trip many moons ago to the Farne Islands to see the seals.

SeagullSuzie said...

I love Scotland so it's been great to see your photos and hear about your trip to Skye. We have been on a few boat trips in Scotland, one in particular was a trip to Iona, and then Staffa and Fingals Cave, on quite a small boat. The sea was frisky and we all had to wear bright yellow sou'westers and matching capes. The boat was packed and I did wonder what would happen if it capsized, especially since I cant swim!

Pauline said...

What beautiful scenery,its too long since I have been to the West of Scotland, must return soon.
This April, returning from the Scillies, we overtook 4 pods of Dolphins, that was amazing and the boat was a bit bigger than yours!
In Sierra Leone in W.Africa we had a canoe trip to see Hippos, that was very memorable!

Barbara said...

Great photos and an interesting post.

Shirley said...

Hello everyone, thanks for all your comments. The end is almost in sight (she says nervously) for a garden project I’ve been working on and I’ll be back to chatting about my garden and its visitors soon. Gardenwatch 2014 is going to be interesting :-)

Sue, ha-ha… very true ;-)

Angie, ha-ha… awfae wee. Thanks, out of all the scenery in Scotland, Skye has just rocketed straight in to number 1 :-)

Anna, so glad my images captured the atmosphere at this castle. Although disappointed about the seals, I knew I couldn’t go on such a small boat. However, I fully appreciate that trips like this have to be less intrusive to the seals too. Delighted to hear you made it to the Farne Islands (another trip I’ve wondered if I could make). I bet that was a great experience for you. Mm…. flying that’s another matter again. I have down that, not comfortable with it but petrified daughter on a couple of trips (extreme teeth pain) and turbulence on another trip has put me off a little there too.

Suzie, wow, you are a seasoned small boat traveller! I’m very impressed (tad jealous too) especially when you can’t swim (not very good there either). Oh…. Getting shivers at frisky water!

Pauline, delighted to hear you’ve enjoyed this area too. We will go back that’s for sure. Although disappointed with not going on the seal trip, it was a bigger boat to see Wales and Dolphins that had been my target! Great to hear, you caught the doplhins. Even better to hear of your memorable trip to see Hippos – that must have been magical to see :-)

Barbara, thanks for popping by my blog. I’ll be over to visit you soon :-)