Artists are being offered the residency opportunity of a lifetime – a week aboard a 50ft yacht exploring the remote and beautiful coasts and waters around Arran and the Firth of Clyde.

Not only will they be able to set their own itinerary for their voyage aboard Whimbrel, a beautiful Bluewater catamaran, they will receive a stipend plus travel expenses to and from Troon where it is moored.

Skipper Ben Merritt knows the waters well and says the artists will have the chance to find inspiration exploring wild and seldom-visited spots on islands and along sea lochs.

They might also get close to magnificent marine wildlife including whales and porpoises.

The two free residencies, from 11-17 April, are being offered through Visual Arts Scotland (VAS) in partnership with Whimbrel’s owners to support and nurture contemporary artists – and complements their work to promote the arts at Marchmont House in The Borders.

Sarah Calmus, VAS President, said: “This is so unusual – there are lots of places where artists can have residencies, but very few of them on water and very few of them are fully funded.” 

“It will be a fabulous experience for creatives– having a full week will give artists the chance to go to some wonderful places that they otherwise may not have had the opportunity to see at all. This experience will no doubt breathe fresh energy into their work and having the space and time to explore, to work, to focus is integral to a healthy practice.”

“As soon as you mention this to people they just light up and say ‘wow, I’d love to do that!’, so I think there will be a great deal of interest.”

Applications can be made from 21 December and the offer is open to the 700 existing VAS members and any who join before the 15 Feb deadline. VAS will be offering reduced price and free membership early in 2021 to artists whose incomes have been hard hit by the pandemic.

Mr Merritt, a professional sailor for 30 years who describes himself as “an enthusiastic cook”, will also provide some meals aboard the four-berth vessel. The artists will also have the benefit of his knowledge in deciding where to venture. 

He said: “It will give the artists a whole different experience and a chance to get to wonderful places that are very difficult to reach except by boat. 

“And as Whimbrel is a catamaran it doesn’t have a deep keel, so it can get into very shallow waters that other vessels can’t.

“We’ll decide together on the itinerary, but it could include spending time moored beneath Carrick Castle on Loch Goil, going to some of the very quiet spots along Loch Riddon, or taking a look around Holy Island and Lamlash Bay.”   

Former tech entrepreneur and Director of Marchmont Farms Limited, Hugo Burge, regularly sails on Whimbrel and felt there were superb opportunities for it as an artists’ retreat and for private charter. 

It’s an idea that parallels the work of Hugo’s team at Marchmont House, a 1750 Palladian mansion in the Borders, which they have restored and are turning into a home for artists, makers and creators that celebrates innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Hugo said: “The Hebrides and the Western Isles are an oasis of beauty – places I have fallen in love with while sailing aboard Whimbrel.

“So it gives all of us at Marchmont great pleasure to offer this unusual opportunity for an artistic voyage of discovery and we hope to support similar residencies in the future.

“And it’s also wonderful to be able to offer other people the chance to charter Whimbrel so they can discover for themselves the magical and wild locations that have long been a source of inspiration for artists.”

During 2021 VAS members will be able to apply for other supported residency opportunities at Marchmont House.

At the same time, Marchmont House corporate guests and partners will have priority for chartering Whimbrel.

– Ends –

Notes for Editors

For media information contact Matthew Shelley at Matthew@ScottishFestivalsPR.Org or 07786 704299.

About Whimbrel charters

About Visual Arts Scotland

  • Visual Arts Scotland (VAS) is a leading platform for national and international contemporary fine and applied artists. Originally an organisation for women artists, founded in 1924, the society since the 1980s has championed craft makers, designers and applied arts practitioners. Supporting multidisciplinary creatives in contemporary practice is at the heart of Visual Arts Scotland’s mission today.
  • VAS boasts a vibrant, active and participatory membership of over 700 practising artists, for whom we provide a platform – primarily for the showing and developing of new work through year round exhibitions, events and creative opportunities. Members and non-members alike are welcome to submit work for selection at our prestigious annual exhibitions, to show alongside invited artists and emerging talent, at the imposing Academy building on the Mound in Edinburgh. Our membership categories cater for artists at all stages in their careers, whether new graduates, emerging artists or established practitioners. All are welcome to contribute to the continuing development of Visual Arts Scotland.

About Marchmont

  • Marchmont House is a 1750 Palladian mansion near Greenlaw in the Scottish Borders.
  • It was awarded the 2018 Historic Houses/Sotheby’s Award following a seven-year restoration, which was described by the jury as “stunning”.
  • The house has one of the finest Georgian and Arts & Crafts interiors in Scotland.
  • It is open to the public for a limited number of days each year, for tours and special events. 
  • The Marchmont team is dedicated to bringing the house alive as a home for makers and creators, celebrating innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship
  • The Creative Spaces project is entirely privately funded by Marchmont Farms Limited and has not called on grants from the public sector or charities – which are facing immense demands for their limited resources.
  • The studios and workshops have been created by the conversion of a series of 19th-century outbuildings round a courtyard near the house and its spectacular walled garden.
  • The project’s value has already been demonstrated by the establishing of The Marchmont Workshop, which has saved the great 19th-century tradition of Arts & Crafts rush seated ladder back chairs for a new chapter in the Scottish Borders.
  • Visit for more information.
  • For information about The Marchmont Workshop see

About Hugo Burge