CAN RED SQUIRRELS SWIM?
A STOWAWAY ON THE MAJESTIC LINE
Guests on the Heritage and Wildlife of South Argyll cruise with specialist Scottish cruise operators The Majestic Line got more they bargained for during their 6 night cruise – a sneaky wee stowaway in the form of a red squirrel.
The uninvited guest joined the cruise whilst their vessel, the Glen Massan was anchored for the night in a secluded bay on beautiful Loch Riddon on the Argyll Coastline. Although red squirrels are common on the Cowal Peninsula, there is a mystery as to how this one came to join the cruise. Martin McWhirr, the skipper of the Glen Massan has 2 theories. He said ‘Sunday night was relatively windy which may have resulted in the squirrel being blown from its tree overhanging the water with it then swimming to the Glen Massan and shinning up the anchor chain. The other possibility is that it had been caught by a large bird of prey, possibly even a sea eagle which then lost its prey with it landing aboard. I can’t see any other possibilities’
The sneaky stowaway was discovered very early on Monday morning by one of the vessel’s guests, Canadian Steve Boyton, who is a professional photographer. He’d risen early to capture the stunning sunrise over the Loch, only to get the fright of a lifetime. In his attempt to capture the squirrel the commotion awoke the crew and other guests. Further attempts to catch the squirrel only resulted in the Glen Massan’s bosun Jamie Duncan being bitten on the finger. Despite the exhaustive efforts of both guests and crew, the squirrel remains at large. Mr Boyton commented ‘Although the whole cruise experience has been out of this world, to see a red squirrel at such close quarters has been the highlight. It’s a very inquisitive animal and quite tame. We came on this cruise specifically to see some of the wildlife that this part of Scotland is rightly famed for and we’ve not been disappointed. We’ve been able to spot many birds of prey including sea eagles. As well as bird life, we’ve also seen seals, otters and even dolphins. As someone who loves wildlife, this has been fantastic. However, although I’m sure the squirrel has enjoyed the cruise as much as I have, I look forward to my new friend being returned to his natural habitat where he belongs’.
Further attempts will be made to humanely capture the elusive passenger on Friday morning when the wildlife cruise ends at the Holy Loch Marina. Jim Downie Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Ranger will board the Glen Massan and lay traps in strategically positioned places. He is optimistic that the squirrel will be caught unharmed and in good health. Should his attempts prove successful, it will then be returned as close to the spot where the Glen Massan was anchored. He said ‘ As I understand that the squirrel has been taking food from passengers and even running over their feet at dinner, I reckon it should be a relatively easy job to capture the stowaway. Once we’ve securely got him in a small mammal trap, I have every confidence that he can be successfully re-established into the squirrel population on the Cowal Peninsula. The area is hugely important area for reds, as this is one of the few parts of the UK that grey squirrels haven’t taken over.’
The Majestic Line runs a total of 9 different cruises on the west coast of Scotland including “Around Mull: Inlets and Islands” and the hugely popular “Heritage and Wildlife of South Argyll”. Both 3 night mini breaks and full 6 night cruises are available. The 2 boats are based at the Holy Loch and Oban and are wonderfully converted traditional wooden vessels. They can accommodate a maximum of just 11 guests at any one time in the 6 fully en suite cabins. Both boats have a large lounge area where freshly prepared meals are served in a relaxed and informal setting and a sundeck at the stern which is ideal of wildlife spotting or simply watching some of Scotland’s most stunning coastline slowly slip by. Daily shore excursions are varied and include historic castles, gardens and remote villages and hamlets. Exact itineraries depend on which route is chosen.
It has been a record year for The Majestic Line with best ever number of bookings for the 2010 sailing season. Bookings for 2011 are also buoyant, currently approaching 50% occupancy. The Majestic Line also broke another record this year – almost 25% of its business was as whole boat charters where families celebrating a special occasion, groups of friends looking for the holiday of a lifetime or the odd well known celeb looking to get away from it all have all enjoyed hiring their own cruise ship.
The Heritage and Wildlife cruises are the most popular for both the Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan routes, offering unrivalled and unique vantage points to see some of the abundance of animal and marine life that thrives along the shores of the remote cruising areas of The Majestic Line. Red squirrels are commonly seen on shore walks but to date, never actually on board!
Notes to Editors
1 The Majestic Line was awarded Best Visitor Experience in the Highlands and Islands 2009 Tourism Awards.
2 The Majestic Line was recommended by Conde Nast Johansens international travel experts in 2010. They commented ‘we loved the magical and memorable experience that only a Majestic Line cruise can offer’.
3 Cruise itineraries and on shore trips are weather dependent.
4 Prices are fully inclusive with the exception of spirits which can be purchased from the well stocked bar. Malt whisky is a specialty.
5 Stunning high resolution images are available.
6 A spokesperson is available for comment/interview.
7 Bookings and additional guest info is available via www.themajesticline.co.uk or 0131 623 5012.
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