"Hebridean Princess In Pictures" by Bryan Kennedy is a wonderful large format book: a magnificent evocation of an icon. The small cruise ship "Hebridean Princess" will be known to all who live along the western seaboard of Scotland and to many who visit the area and, as this book proves, by others who have seen her during her further flung cruises. And in recent years her existence has come to the notice of a much wider audience as she has been chartered on two separate occasions, in 2006 and 2010, by HM The Queen to allow the Royal Family to relive the joys of the Scottish cruises they used to undertake aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.
It is no exaggeration to describe the Hebridean Princess as iconic. Part of this comes from the sheer exclusivity of her operations. With a maximum of 50 passengers on board and a crew to passenger ratio of nearly one to one, she is, in effect, a wandering country house hotel. What makes her truly iconic, however, is her very close association with the western seaboard of Scotland. Many of her cruises take in different parts of the highlands and islands, and the annual programme usually includes at least one opportunity to visit remote St Kilda, far out into the Atlantic beyond the Western Isles. And perhaps the third element that makes her truly unique relates to her very humble origins. The Hebridean Princess was built in 1964 in Aberdeen as the car ferry "Columba", a role she retained until 1988: though little of this past life is evident to those fortunate enough to enjoy a cruise on her today.
Bryan Kennedy's splendid book gives a taste of life on board the Hebridean Princess, but for the most part he focuses, literally, on the ship herself and the many and varied places she has visited and continues to visit. To describe it as a "labour of love" seems to do little justice to the huge amount of time the author clearly spent taking the excellent photographs on view between the covers, which are complemented by long and informative captions. Slightly more than half of the book deals with the ship in what you might call her natural habitat, Scottish waters, and the result is a beguiling travelogue. The rest of the book covers the Hebridean Princess's further flung wanderings, including England, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Wales, France and Norway.