WHAT could be more idyllic than sailing away into the sunset with your family?
That is exactly what Red Moon Cruises offers, as we found out when we puttered out of Dunstaffnage Marina into the scenic wonderland of the Hebrides.
As we were cruising in the time of Covid-19, Scott and Mary — our welcoming husband-and-wife crew — were exactly what we needed. They met us with beaming smiles and assured us the kettle was on.
Skipper Scott soothed with his safety briefing, which included their efficient but not intrusive Covid precautions.
We felt reassured and ready for adventure.
Meanwhile, capable mate and chef Mary worked up wonders in the galley. A heaving platter of local langoustines set the scene.
I washed it down with a local Arran ale, while my wife Jenny opted for coffee roasted on the Isle of Skye.
The superb food kept coming. Over three nights we tucked into delicious Hebridean smoked salmon, scallops and venison.
During the daytime our girls Tara, 12, and nine-year-old Emma were kept happy with cakes and irresistible homemade shortbread.
On Red Moon Cruises you get to choose where you go. It really is like having your own ship.
The girls loved planning our route in the charming old-school wheelhouse, where you are always welcome.
Some of the more remote Scottish isles are not keen on visitors at present, so we agreed with Scott to keep to the isles close to shore. The girls loved the porpoises and the dolphins we spotted on the first night as we sailed to the island of Lismore.
Wildlife is a real highlight on a trip with Red Moon. Since we cruised with them in mid-July, I have been watching their social media and the crew regularly spot dolphins and even whales.
We were lucky enough to spy a sea eagle soaring high in the Hebridean sky.
This is the perfect time of year for spotting basking sharks off Scotland’s west coast as they ease over from Ireland.
There was never a dull moment, as we were constantly peering out to watch gannets, puffins and all manner of gulls.
On all good cruises, time ashore is a highlight.
We dropped anchor on Bernera island for a ramble up to the highest point.
After lockdown’s claustrophobia it was great to be out in the clean, fresh air with only seabirds for company. The views were epic, gazing out over a sprinkling of islands.
Another highlight was Scott rowing us ashore to Balnagowan. He cut the engine so we didn’t disturb the seal colony as we approached the island.
We took his advice not to walk over to the colony. Instead we sat quietly.
The seals soon sent scouts to check us out, delighting the girls.
We popped on to the mainland too. At Port Appin we donned our masks and visited the Lighthouse, a gift shop and gallery.
They were very welcoming, as lockdown has been hard in these remote parts.
We did our bit by picking up a painting by a local artist. On the Morvern peninsula we hit rush hour. Social distancing wasn’t an issue though, as it was “just” mighty red deer and graceful golden eagles.
The sign of a great trip for us is not wanting to come home. None of us wanted to leave our cosy cabins — Red Moon sports a lovely double cabin and two cosy singles.
It is traditional to say goodbye in the Hebrides by waving “haste ye back”.
And back we will come. We are all very keen to sail again.
GO: Red Moon Cruises
GETTING THERE: Closest train station to the marina is Connel Ferry (ten mins by taxi) or Oban (couple of mins more by taxi). Regular scotrail.co.uk trains go to both places from Glasgow. Fly to Glasgow with easyJet from £44 return in September.
SAILING THERE: The Foreign Office advises against cruise travel but as Red Moon Cruises takes a maximum of four passengers from a single family, it can still sail.
A four-night all-inclusive cruise for four costs from £4,800. Call 07768 101667 or visit redmooncruises.co.uk.
MORE INFO: See visitscotland.com. For Scottish Covid-19 advice see gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/.
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