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).
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.