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Calendars of the Western Isles of Scotland always show it under azure skies with sun-drenched, green-duvet-like hillsides cascading down to silver beaches abounding in bird and marine life. Well, it really is like that! When all at home were enduring gales and rain the passengers on Hebridean Princess’s recent trip to the Castles and Gardens of the North were “suffering” opalescent blue skies, limpid seas and sun-lit hours.

An exhilarating walk or a bicycle ride found us in some of Scotland’s loveliest gardens. Although the more northerly had suffered because of the winter, those on Gigha and Jura were abundant with the crimsons, whites, and purples of azalea and rhododendron, set off by towering wellingtonias and pines. “What do you suppose that is?”…gazing (unknowingly) at Embothrium Coccineum in full fire-red splendour was usually followed by gasps of delight at the size and texture of the flowers of Rhododendron falconeri.

As if the gardens were not enough the treasures in the houses were wonders in themselves; from the “Fairy Flag” at Dunvegan to the world’s largest Orchestrion at Kinloch, there was always something at which to marvel. Be it an unknown Zoffany portrait or the connection of a remote house with an American Ambassador to Paris, no-body could complain that there was a dull moment.

When we returned to the boat there was a tot of whisky waiting for us at the quayside to warm us up, before whizzing across the bay just in time for another gastronomic encounter.

All this is what the lecturer saw……..oh! and also the gentleman in the third row that had a little snooze during the afternoon lecture. But who can blame him?

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