Here’s our pick of the best small boat sailing trips to get you inspired – with no sailing experience required! Words Caroline Wheater
For… Dreamy Devon views
The trip: ‘One-Day South Devon Sailing on Escape’ with Venturesail Holidays
Relax as you suck in the sea air on a day’s sail with the classic yacht Escape, embarking from her home harbour of Dartmouth. No sailing experience is needed on the 43ft wooden gaff yawl because owner-skipper Andy and his partner Tash take the strain. After sailing along the River Dart, Escape’s onward journey into open water is dictated by the winds, but an anchorage somewhere glorious on the Devon coast for lunch is guaranteed. Children under four go free and infants are also provided for.
Price: £120 per adult, £60 per child, including lunch, and tea and coffee.
How to book: Go to venturesailholidays.com.
For… Ocean exhilaration
The trip: ‘Tall Ship Taster Around Mull’ with Bessie Ellen
Be at one with the high seas on the west coast of Scotland when you step aboard former West Country trading ketch, Bessie Ellen. Embarking from Oban, the wooden vessel (only one of two trading ketches left from an original fleet of 600) tacks through the Sound of Mull to visit Fingal’s Cave and Iona to the south, or the Small Isles, Rhum and Eigg, to the north – depending on the weather and wind direction. The tall ship can accommodate 12 guests who are invited to get hands-on with sailing, from pulling up the sails to helping navigate. During the four-day experience, delicious meals are cooked by the skipper Nikki and served in the cosy galley that’s situated in the large converted cargo hold. As the lights dim, sailors curl up in a comfy curtained bunk for sleep and sweet dreams.
Price: £550 per person, including all meals.
How to book: Call 01872 487288, or go to bessie-ellen.com.
For… A world-class treat
The trip: ‘On The Trail of Bonnie Prince Charlie’ with Hebridean Island Cruises
Embarking from Oban aboard the luxurious Hebridean Princess you’ll explore the Inner and Outer Hebrides and remote west coast of Scotland on a seven-night trip, visiting Skye, Lewis and South Uist where Bonnie Prince Charlie once raised his standard. One of the smallest cruise ships afloat, the Hebridean Princess has a country house party vibe and welcomes a maximum of 50 guests. Delicious food is served in the Columba Restaurant, while the Tiree Lounge has a cosy inglenook fireplace to snooze beside. Once on board, budget worries are over – this cruise is all-inclusive, including shore excursions and Taittinger Champagne.
Price: From £3,995 per person, all-inclusive.
How to book: Call 01756 704704, or go to hebridean.co.uk.
Looking for the perfect holiday right at the water’s edge? Try out our selection of exclusive cruise trips around the British Isles here.
For… Stunning sailing
The trip: ‘Cape Clear Island Cruise on Inishbeg’ with Baltimore Yacht Charters
The buzzy harbour town of Baltimore in West Cork is renowned for the quality of its sailing, filling up with visiting yachts in the summer. Resident sailors Con and Mary Minihane know the coast and its archipelago of islands inside-out and they skipper half-day outings on Inishbeg, their 50ft yacht. If you are novices, they will show you the ropes, if you are experienced then they will let you take the helm. The trip to Cape Clear (next stop America), sails past the islands of Sherkin, Sandy, Heir and the three Calf isles. After exploring
the pubs and shops of North Harbour on Cape Clear, Inishbeg returns to Baltimore and the Minihanes ply guests with warming tea and coffee.
Price: €50 per person, for a four-hour cruise.
How to book: Call Mary on +353 86 273 8368 or go to baltimoreyachtcharters.com.
For… Spotting dolphins
The trip: ‘All-day Marine Megafauna Survey in Cardigan Bay’ with Dolphin Survey Boat Trips
Cardigan Bay on the west coast of Wales is home to the UK’s largest pod of bottlenose dolphins. Numbering 250, the pod often splits up to forage for food into small groups of 10 to 15 or even as individuals. One of the hotspots is New Quay Bay, also the base of the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre. From here, join experienced researchers on a Marine Megafauna Survey through Dolphin Survey Boat Trips to record the activities of dolphins, porpoises and Atlantic grey seals. Both Anna Lloyd and Sulaire take just nine passengers, so you’ll be at the heart of the action.
Price: £65 per person.
For… Ozone and thrills
The trip: ‘Volvo 70 – One-Day Experience’ with Kraken Travel
Built for speed, not comfort, the Volvo 70 yacht was raced as team Telefonica Black in the 2008/9 Volvo Ocean race. Famously, the team won the final stage of the gruelling round-the-world race. Now, the 70ft vessel offers adrenaline-lovers the chance to blast around the Solent and the Isle of Wight. Crewed by a skipper and four pros, sit back and enjoy the thrill of the ride or get some world-class coaching on how to handle an elite yacht. The Volvo 70 embarks from Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth and the day includes a typical freeze-dried sailor’s lunch and lots of snacks.
Price: £195 per person.
How to book: Call 0208 0128209, or go to kraken.travel.
For… Immersion into nature
THE TRIP: ‘Around Mull Wildlife Explorer’ with the Majestic Line
The cold, plankton-rich waters surrounding the Isle of Mull create the perfect environment for cetaceans, and Majestic Line’s fleet of four small cruise ships, which take up to 12 guests each, allow you to get close to resident harbour porpoises, bottlenose dolphins and visiting basking sharks, orcas and minke whales. The six-night trip begins with a half-day tour of Mull’s wild side to discover the haunts of sea eagles, golden eagles, otters, red deer and seals. Gourmet food and good wines are included in the price, plus afternoon tea, all served in idyllic anchoring locations. On-boat fishing is a popular pastime, and guests help lay down creels for lobster, crab and crayfish.
Price: From £2,260 per person, including all meals.
How to book: Call 01369 707951, or go to themajesticline.co.uk.