The Majestic Line
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OnboardThere's a truly Scottish flavour to this family-and-friends-run company, which won the Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year category in the 2012 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards. A Scottish piper may well pipe you onboard Glen Massan or its sister ship Glen Tarsan, both around 85 feet long and each with a painted wooden hull and deckhouse topped by a varnished wooden wheelhouse.
These classic fishing boats are the sailing equivalent of lovingly restored steam trains, and each provides a maximum of 11 passengers with the opportunity to get to places no other cruise ship can access with itineraries around Argyle's coastline, the Inner Hebrides and the Western Isles. However, they are quite small with just six double cabins each, and the decor is more country house comfortable than sumptuous.
So, while a three- or six-night cruise onboard these ships is a truly relaxing experience, do not expect top-notch luxury or hotel-style suites. Instead, the ships have a home-away-from-home feel, with just four crewmembers who have probably sailed these waters all their lives. They will do almost anything to make your holiday enjoyable, such as buying you a replacement toothbrush or razor when they stock up each day at local shops, and fetching the morning newspapers.
Both boats have a similar layout. The cabins all have double beds, with at least one usually reserved for solo travellers, and although they are not hotel-quality, each is dressed with freshly laundered duvets, a pile of pillows and tartan rugs at the bottom of the bed for extra warmth. There's also a small electric radiator in each cabin and fan recessed in the ceiling for summer trips. The walls are varnished wood panelling, and each cabin has a very small shower room with a toilet and washbasin, Arran Aromatics toiletries and a hair dryer. The cabins have very small built-in wardrobes, and shelves on each side of the bed have to be used for clothes that can't be hung up. Space is tight, and the cabins below deck only have tiny windows with no view. However, most of the time passengers are either off the boat walking in beautiful countryside, visiting quirky villages or exploring castles and the Gulf stream-warmed gardens the area is famous for. The rest of the time they are out on deck watching for passing porpoises and birds or sitting in the main saloon, swapping stories with fellow passengers, reading or eating.
Tea and coffee are available whenever a crewmember is in the galley, but there is also a choice of either morning coffee or afternoon tea with home-baked cakes depending on the itinerary. Lunch might be venison sausages with onion gravy and mash, while dinner could be Argyle lamb or fish caught by the local Loch Fyne fleet. Wine is complimentary at evening meals, and there's a reasonably priced bar for pre-dinner drinks and nightcaps.
Outside the saloon is a small wooden deck with a sizeable table and chairs, and there are wooden sunloungers on the top deck, with a bench on the small front deck.
About The Majestic LineThe Majestic Line gets its name from the "Para Handy" stories by Neil Munro, about ships that sailed on the Firth of Clyde and the amusing exploits of their crews. One out-of-work ship's engineer claimed to have found work on the fictitious Majestic Line, which he said had a ship with a gold funnel. Both Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan have gold-painted funnels. Both boats were built by the Irish Government for the Irish fishing fleet, but Glen Massan was destined to be broken up when the present owners bought it to save it from destruction. It was then that they decided to restore the boat and transform it into a mini-cruise vessel. Glen Tarsan was launched in 2007 after a similar restoration.
The Majestic Line FleetGlen Massan and Glen Tarsan are traditional wooden fishing vessels -- ingeniously refurbished -- and each usually accommodates a maximum of 11 passengers in six double cabins, although there is room for 12.
Owners Andy Thoms and Ken Grant bought Glen Massan in 2004 and launched Glen Tarsan in 2007. Glen Massan was built in Baltimore, County Cork, in 1975, and both ships are between 80 and 85 feet long, 24 feet wide and weigh 180 tonnes. They are tiny by the standards of most cruise ships, which is why they can go where other cruiseships can't.
Fellow PassengersMost passengers are British, largely older than 40, with an interest in the countryside and wildlife, as well as an impressive wardrobe of wet-weather gear and walking boots.Australians and French are well represented, and any English-speaking traveller with an interest in Scottish heritage and the unique beauty of Scotland's west coast would enjoy a Majestic Line cruise, provided they do not expect a glitzy yachting experience.