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Swan to visit five Scottish ports on the traditional herring route

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17 May 2023

The Swan is to explore her past on a 10 night trip down the east coast of Scotland. Taking place 8th to 18th June, On the Herring Trail will visit five ports of significance to the historic and present day herring industries – Lerwick, Stronsay, Wick, Peterhead and Anstruther. In each port there will be an activity exploring this industry and showcasing its importance to the Scottish economy, heritage and culture.

Originally planned for 2020, this is a trip that has been long in the planning and one that reflects the ongoing financial support for the Swan Trust by most of the Shetland pelagic fleet and L.H.D. Limited.

The Trip will begin in Lerwick, with a talk by author and Swan Trust Trustee, John Goodlad, who has written two successful books about Shetland’s fishing industry. This will be followed by a tour of the award winning Shetland Museum and Archives and Hay’s Dock, where the Swan was built and launched in 1900, and her sail loft is today.

According to Mr Goodlad: “This is a unique opportunity to visit ports on the traditional herring route, which thousands of men and women from throughout Scotland and further afield followed during the herring booms of the early 20th century. We are delighted to be working with a number of partners to provide a range of activities for our passengers to learn more about the herring fishery specific to each port. Scotland, and its islands, were once littered with herring ports, which supported many coastal communities and welcomed boats from all over Europe. This trip will celebrate Swan’s heritage, and how fisheries are still a major part of the Shetland, and Scottish, economy.”

The Swan’s next port will be Stronsay, which was once the most important port in Orkney for the herring fishing. Activities here will include a walking tour of the island, a visit to the heritage centre and the ‘upside down house’ – the recently refurbished lifeboat of the ss Athenia.

Following this the Swan will head to Wick, where they will meet members of the Wick Heritage Society, visit the museum, Herring Mart and Lifeboat Shed, which today is the winter home of the society’s vessel, the Isabella Fortuna. It is also hoped the Isabella will sail out with the Swan when leaving the harbour.

As one of the busiest fishing ports in Europe, Peterhead will be the next stop on the tour. Activities here will focus on the industry today, with a visit to the Lunar fish freezing factory and one of their Pelagic trawlers. Andy Noble, one of the most knowledgeable experts on the Scottish herring fishery, past and present, may also drop by.

Following Peterhead, the Swan will sail for Anstruther, with possible stops in Stonehaven or Arbroath if time allows. In Anstruther the Swan will berth alongside the Scottish Fisheries Museum and its flagship vessel the Reaper, which has benefitted from major refurbishment in recent years. The Reaper is the only other surviving Fifie of Swan’s size, but carries a different rig, so it will be interesting to compare the vessels. The Friends of the Reaper have also invited the Swan crew and passengers aboard for food and drinks while in port.

On the final day of the trip the Swan will take part in the Cellardyke Sea Queen Festival, sailing out with other vessels for the laying of the Wreath, while her passengers can take part in the festival onshore or sail out with the Swan.

While there will be a number of evenings in port, the Trust is looking to offer a good mix of overnight, open passage and coastal day sails, allowing those aboard to enjoy a varied sailing experience.

There are still a few places available for this unique trip, check out the trip listing for further details and contact info@swantrust.com to book.

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