In August 2019, the Crofters crew decided to do something unique
In August 2019, the Crofters crew decided to do something unique. Inspired by owner Dónal Boyle’s love for sailing, music and good food and drink, we brought the full Crofters experience on board the tall ship Lady of Avenel. Guests and crew enjoyed five days of cruising, eating, drinking and entertainment on a once-in-a-lifetime sailing trip from Oban in Scotland to Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.
Here’s how we got this amazing adventure afloat…
Dónal’s love of sailing
Dónal Boyle moved from the North of England to the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde in 1986 at the age of 14. His father’s family being Irish, he quickly adapted to life on a Scottish Island and became immersed in the culture, which included smallholding, sailing and music. Dónal developed a passion for all of these, and loves to live, work and sail on the Firth of Clyde.
Crofters’ Cruises on Lady of Avenel are the fulfillment of Dónal’s ambition to combine his passions into an extraordinary project. This has been made possible by Stefan Fritz, the owner of Lady of Avenel, with whom Dónal has sailed extensively.
Having learned to sail in the Clyde some 30 years ago, Dónal works regularly as a mate on Lady of Avenel. He has spent many hours with skipper Stefan discussing the ideal format to offer the best possible combination of a sailing adventure, hospitality and music. The result is Crofters’ Cruises, which takes the bistro concept afloat to explore a truly magical part of the world, on an amazing boat, in great company!
Sailing in the Firth of Clyde
As Dónal says:
“A sailing holiday in the Firth of Clyde really does have a little bit of everything; stunning islands and lochs, with plenty of deep water anchorages and harbours, fishing villages and Victorian holiday towns.
There are breweries, famous distilleries and plenty of live music in pubs and festivals throughout the year. On my home island of Arran, the Lochranza Distillery situated in Lochranza Bay is famous for its Scottish whisky and is well worth a visit.
Along with sailing this beautiful part of Scotland, I love the music life here. Celtic music is in our roots and I really try to capture this in Crofters, my music bar and bistro on the Isle of Arran. I am really looking forward to bringing the hospitality and music of Crofters on board the Lady of Avenel with Crofters’ Cruises.
We are really lucky with the wildlife in the Firth of Clyde. It’s a nature lovers’ dream with massive diversity, from dolphins swimming in the wake of Lady of Avenel’s bow to common seals basking in the sun. We have even spotted humpback and killer whales!
From a practical sailing point of view, there are very few tidal constraints in the Clyde and most importantly for novices, it is well sheltered from the Atlantic. There is always somewhere to explore and enjoy, among the islands and lochs, even in bad weather. Pilotage is straightforward and there’s relatively little commercial traffic, so it makes for a really relaxing, enjoyable cruising holiday.”
Life on board the Lady of Avenel
On our trips in the Firth of Clyde, the crew will plan an itinerary to make the most of the stunning coastline, passing and possibly stopping at Colonsay, Crinan, Gigha, Jura and Islay. Weather permitting there may be time for a few whisky distillery stops before timing our passage round the Mull of Kintyre to Arran and the Clyde islands, on the way to James Watt dock.
Protected by the Kintyre peninsula with an archipelago of rugged islands, the Firth of Clyde is a fascinating area to sail in. With ancient castles, meandering lochs and an abundance of wildlife, this part of Scotland is definitely best explored under sail. The Kyles of Bute is said to be one of the prettiest sailing passages in Britain and with fjord-like lochs and heather-clad hills, these waters make for perfect sheltered sailing on board a tall ship.
This part of Scotland provides great sailing ground for Lady of Avenel and guests can help hoist the sails or simply sit back, relax and enjoy the views.
All food and drink is sourced locally (as much as possible) and is freshly cooked on board by Crofters’ very own gourmet chef every day. Evenings are a relaxed affair, perhaps with the wood burner lit and the multi-skilled crew even picking up their acoustic instruments for some background music as you relax with a book or board game or just exchange seafaring tales with your fellow guests.
This part of the world has a great love of Celtic music, with residents and visitors in local villages, pubs and restaurants regularly playing an array of instruments from the infamous bagpipes to fiddles, guitars and even harps and accordions. The Lady of Avenel’s crew will have a guitar and fiddle or two aboard, so if you fancy bringing yours to join in, you’ll be more than welcome!