On a rather chilly and fresh Tuesday morning rising well before the sun was up, I set out towards Heathrow Airport for a crack of dawn flight to Glasgow. Luckily, the M25 gods were smiling down on me and after a rather uneventful drive, I was well on my way to sipping my coffee in the departure lounge of Terminal 5 and after a somewhat bumpy flight of just over an hour, I was shuffling out of arrivals at Glasgow International along with my hidden travelling companions.
Bustling my way through, I was met by the 3 very welcoming team members from Aurora Expeditions and proceeded through the niceties of meeting my fellow ‘expeditioners’ for the day. We set off on the lengthy journey from Glasgow heading north-westwards through the stunning landscape of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs national park. Feeling as though I was reliving my youth (having spent many a holiday along the coast of the Mull of Kintyre) we were greeted by the perpetual dreariness and grey hues I distinctly associate with this area of the world! Nevertheless, there is something bewitchingly beautiful and uniquely peaceful about the rolling Munros and endless calm loch waters of this corner of Scotland.
Winding our way along the coastal road for some 2 hours, we found ourselves in the quaint village of Ellenabeich, Easdale. The region was once famed for being the centre of the Scottish slate industry and said slate can be seen adorning buildings around the world from Melbourne to Nova Scotia.
Time to Start Expeditioning!
It was time to start ‘expeditioning’! I had no clue on waking that morning I would be impersonating 2 varieties of children’s characters throughout the day. First up – Teletubbies! In the first of our 2 planned activities I donned a bright red drysuit, which was somewhat too large and I struggled to remove the excess air through the tight cuffs giving me a slightly inflated look (did someone let Po loose?) never the less, we began our briefing for the sea kayaking we were about to embark on.
Listening to our very experienced guide Emma, talk us through the finer points of ‘sea safety’ and ‘canoe steering’. Feeling somewhat apprehensive, as I am not a particularly coordinated individual my ‘canoe buddy’ and I carried our deceptively heavy canoe to the shore and embarked on our little adventure along the west Scottish coast.
There is a magical peacefulness in canoeing which I have never taken much time to think about and in all the travelling I have done, to various places around the world. I was pleasantly surprised to find the waters in the area so blissfully clear. After a shore foray into sea kayaking and successfully navigating the finer points of ‘coordinated paddling’ we returned to the shoreline and began the tough process of removing the drysuits (a challenge, I kid you not).
Having worked up an appetite we were escorted to the local ‘pub / café’ (there is only 1 in the village) for a hearty lunch. As with the tradition on Aurora Expeditions, the experience is all about the social aspect and having a chance to converse with your fellow companions, which over a steaming cup of tea I did (at this stage I was a little on the frozen side!)
After warming up slightly and fuelling up it was time for our afternoon ‘expedition’, next up – Minions! (just call me bob!) Yes, that’s right we again suited up in wetsuits which were bright yellow and blue this time. Somewhat easier to put on than the drysuits but just as unflattering.
Not giving a care in the world what we looked like (we all looked terrible) we boarded our vessel of choice for the afternoon a 38ft rig ship with our trusty captain at the helm and James our local eco-guide. Bracing the pelting rain and by now a rather choppy swell we headed out once again along the coast.
We spent just over an hour on the water in quite tricky conditions in the search of some local wildlife, unfortunately we were not lucky enough to see the resident dolphin pod or eagles but we did spot some rather lethargic grey seals, a stealthy deer and plenty of local bird species. Hanging on for dear life as we were tossed about over the high waves, we skirted along and in-between the coastline in the slate island where James told us in depth (whilst stopped at points of interest) about the unique ecology, geography and history of the area. Clearly very passionate about where he lives and eager to share his knowledge – the information given was engaging and interesting.
As our time on the sea ended, we bounced our way back to the dock to disembark as our rather brief time in this enchanting area was ending. On our return, and after disrobing we boarded our minibus embarking on the journey back to Glasgow.
The Journey Home
We were joined by one of Aurora Expeditions local historians, Carol Knott who has been working with Aurora and their cruise guests for a number of years. During our drive she willingly shared her knowledge and patiently answered any questions we had regarding our experience and the west coast of Scotland in general.
After a long day and feeling somewhat weary we arrived at the airport for our return flight to London. A hot cup of tea was definitely on the cards (some may have participated in a beverage of the alcoholic variety). Arriving in London after a very comfortable and timely flight (thank you national carrier!) we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways for our various onward journeys by car and rail.
What was the point of the day you may ask? Well, to answer this it was to gain an insight into a typical day experienced by the guests of Aurora Expeditions. Yes, the activities will vary depending on the cruise location as they offer such a huge variety of exciting itineraries in far flung destinations such as Greenland, Antarctica, Iceland, the Arctic and Svalbard as well as gracing our very own coastline. We as travel professionals are always seeking to experience new things and different destinations but as with all of us time and financial constraints do play a part in this. The general public are eager to have first-hand knowledge and experience from their chosen travel expert when booking their holiday and are reassured when we are able to pass this on, allowing them to make informed decisions, especially when parting with their hard-earned pennies. I am now confident that the team at Cruise Direction (through me) would be able to assist clients in answering any questions to help making these choices when choosing an Aurora Expeditions cruise.
So, I would like to say a huge Thank you to Aurora Expeditions for a wonderfully organised, exciting and informative day.