Scenery plays a key part in Scotland’s allure, in particular the west coast of Scotland. “Everyone thinks that cruising on the south coast of England is as far as cruising goes,” says native Scotsman Captain Malcolm Banks, fresh from racing on board S/Y State of Grace at the St Barths Bucket. “Of course it really isn’t.”
The epic Scottish coastline is shaped by the North Atlantic waves and glaciation, making it what it is; weathered and diverse, spilling into mountains, braes and glens once you get ashore. “With such a rugged coastline there are lots of sea lochs,” Banks says. ”You can always find somewhere if the weather turns, to tuck up into a sea lock.”
Having come from a sailing background, Banks is well versed in the area, explaining that it’s a great location for sailing: “You tend to have good waves and flat water, which for sailing, is fantastic.” While the wind may be raging round the corner, you can always find flat water in good anchorage.
On the lower Clyde, there are all sorts of picturesque lochs that you can anchor up in, with flat water and breezes ideal for sailing. Banks names the Isle of Skye as being a key yachting destination on the west coast, along with Islay, Barra and Rum.
While the east coast is also beautiful, Banks explains the lack of shelter on this side of the country as well as in the islands means that the best cruising is on the west coast and up north. Wildlife-wise, superyachts can expect to see killer whales, dolphins and seals, as well as a plethora of birdlife.
“While the water is cold, it’s got some of the most beautiful beaches in the world,” says Banks. Scotland also boasts some of the United Kingdoms most impressive and historic estates. “Some of the easiest ways to get to the remote estates is by boat,” notes Banks, adding that most of these places on Skye are happy to give private tours around their estates.
A key point to consider for any charter is the accessibility to facilities, airports and other essentials. Banks stresses that logistics are not a problem so long as journeys are planned appropriately. “I’ve just done an itinerary for one boat where I recommended them starting off in the Clyde, which is often an overlooked area,” he says. “But you’ve got great transport links so you can easily pick up guests, either from Glasgow airport or Prestwick, and either of them are able to deal with private planes.”
Cruising Scotland doesn’t have to be all sheltered lochs and remote islands. It is possible for superyachts to reach Glasgow, host city of the 2014 Commonwealth Games and one of the UKs most vibrant cities. “Larger yachts can go all the way up into the centre of Glasgow,” says Banks. “It takes a little bit of planning, but you can move up more or less in the centre of Glasgow, by Pacific Quay amongst others.”
Historically, back in the Edwardian era, the west coast was always a preferred destination, particularly in July and August, however over time larger boats stopped coming in favour of warmer destinations. “It became cheaper to fly abroad,” says Banks. “But now with the Med beginning to get so full, it’s easy to stop for do maintenance before or during a charter in Scotland. I have seen a lot more big luxury boats, superyachts stopping in here just because it’s convenient.” He adds that prices in Scotland are extremely competitive, with repairs and marina costs cheaper than a lot of places in the Med.
As the usual yachting hotspots become overcrowded and increasingly overpriced, the lure of destinations off the beaten track will grow. ”There’s nowhere you can go in the Med anymore where there is a quiet little anchorage that you’ll be sat on your own in,” says Banks, who says that the charm of Scotland lies in the ability to still find isolated spots, small locks and quiet areas to be alone. “It’s spectacular and it’s just you.”
There is room for improvement in order for Scotland to progress as a cruising and charter destination. Banks suggests that if the marinas were more coordinated in working together it would improve the services and experiences in the area. “In comparison, if you were to cruise the Pacific, there are people who will tell you information and pass you from one to the other and its all made fairly easy,,” says Banks. A bit more collaborative thinking and marketing would help Scotland immeasurably.
Despite the need for some growth in order to compete with the traditional superyacht hubs, for owners and guests who have visited Scotland, its draw ultimately lies in its idyllic setting, its untamed beauty and its seclusion from the milk-run.
Images supplied by Sail Scotland