Cruising and Musing. An Alternative View of Fort William and Surroundings

Posted in: Cruise, Evening Cruise

They say a picture tells a thousand words, and that’s so true of this wonderful blog post from ‘An Appetite for Lochaber’.  Blogger Mo has made it her mission to rediscover her explorer roots and embrace all the wonders and activities that Lochaber has on offer.  She recently enjoyed our Evening Cruise along Loch Eil, and we’ve reblogged her entertaining and enlightening post here.

Evening Cruise on Souters Lass

After an over energetic few days, an evening cruise on Souters Lass seemed to match the need for the change of pace.  Mamma J was up for that, so we grabbed the promise of a dry evening, and phoned ahead to make sure there were spaces.  You don’t necessarily need to book ahead as you pay at the Town Pier, where the boat leaves from, and can turn up spontaneously.  The evening cruises run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, departing at 7.30pm.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise and Restaurant Fort William

I’ve spent more time on the water than ever this year, but I rarely view Fort William from any other angle than it’s High Street.  This is a lovely peaceful way to take time to really appreciate its setting, and what makes it so special.  Not something you can easily appreciate from either the High Street, or the By-pass as you pass it by.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Boat Bar

First things first – it’s important to choose your spot carefully.  There is a wonderfully cosy lounge downstairs, with plenty of windows to catch the view.

Mos blog Crannog Cruise Viewing Lounge Loch Eil

Whilst it was breezy up on deck, it was a warm enough one, though there is comfort on offer if you don’t like a draught.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Blankets on Board

Mamma J pinned her colours to the mast straight away and chose the lower deck.  Others made use of the hospitality above deck.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Blankets on Board 2

The skipper is very well informed of the history and wildlife and where you might sense or see it.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Boat Skipper

We were cruising up Loch Eil, rather than down Loch Linnhe, as they do on the day cruise.  I had explained this to Mamma J before we got on the boat.  I nipped up and down the stairs regularly to get views from all angles and eventually MJ asked me where on earth we were.  I thought she was having a wee moment.  ”On the Souters Lass.”   She gave me a sour look.  ”I know THAT. –  which LOCH are we on.  I am not recognizing Loch Linnhe.”  I re-explained that we were cruising on Loch Eil, which a-joins Loch Linnhe but departs it when you head North West.  ”But I was waiting for the boat to turn, because we were facing down Loch Linnhe before we left the pier!”

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Boat Information Folder

This turned out to be the problem.  She had immediately started reading up on the history of the boat in this folder, and hadn’t looked out of the window for the first 15 minutes.  We had turned the moment we set off.  The time had not been wasted though, as she had apparently fully absorbed the price list for the bar.   To assist her in overcoming the confusion of direction, she gave me the exact money for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a packet of crisps.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Boat Wine

We had a giggle about it.

Local wildlife and an art installation!

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Heronry Loch Eil

I loved the Heronry over at Achaphubuil.  I see a couple of Herons flying home most nights around 6pm, though the time is changing with the season.  They must fish at the canal and come home here to roost.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Evening Cruise Loch Eil Artwork

For years, I’ve driven down the Mallaig road and just caught a tantalizing glimpse of this art work.  I didn’t know that it had been a teacher from the High School who had created it as a project.  The Skipper didn’t know too much about out it but he figured he must have been a Spanish teacher from Aberdeen.  Looking through his binoculars, he could make out the words “Hola – fit like?”  Hola is Spanish for hello and “Fit like is” is Doric (spoken in the north east) for ‘how are you?’  The study of the artwork was undertaken as we awaited The Jacobite steam train on it’s return journey from Mallaig, back to Fort William.  Ever friendly in Lochaber, the Skipper tooted the train, and the train driver tooted back.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Evening Cruise Steam Train

Mos Blog Crannog Evening Cruise Loch Eil Sunset 1

Mos Blog Crannog Evening Cruise Loch Eil Sunset 2

The views west to the end of Loch Eil are nearly always worth the journey as the sun sets over this way.  The sunlight reflected from here onto Ben Nevis can be stunning.  But there was too much cloud cover this time.

Mos Blog Crannog Evening Cruise Linnhe Lochside Holidays

The best place to view the sunset is Linnhe Lochside Holidays.  They have some lovely examples on their website.

Lochaber industries

There is a mussel farm on the loch, which I hadn’t known about, taking about 2.5 years for the mussels to grow to a harvestable size.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Evening Cruise Loch Eil Mussel Farm

Always wondered what they were.  Nobody is harvesting jelly fish, as far as I know.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Evening Cruise Loch Eil Jellyfish

We made the turn for home, by which time MJ had acquainted herself with her geographical position.  We passed by some more of the industries that flourish in this environment.

Mos Blog Crannog Corpach Boatyard and Sawmill

Corpach Boatyard.  Innovative and exciting.

Corpach Sawmill (Kilmallie Mill) Very successful and well run.

They work well together, in keeping at least some of the traffic off the road.  I think this is exciting.  That may be a little over the top, but use of the waterways and railways for freight, always gladdens my heart when I see it.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Boat Alcan

The British Alcan Factory, now owned by Rio Tinto Alcan, but forever called ‘The BA’ locally – lit up here in the sun, behind the village of Caol shorefront, still uses freight train for it’s aluminium.

After the boatyard and sawmill, we passed by the entrance locks to the Caledonian Canal and Neptunes Staircase.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Caledonian Canal

The Skipper could tell us that the original intention after building this, was to create a smaller staircase and canal at the end of Loch Eil, which would link up with Loch Sheil and create a route to the West Coast.  This would have been an amazing advantage for Fort William, with the greater possibilities for flow of ‘traffic’. As it is, a lot of leisure craft, and fishing boats use the canal to travel from the west to the east, accessing the North Sea from Inverness.  But the flow would surely be even greater with the option to nip into ‘The Fort’ before continuing up the wonderful West Coast?  Unfortunately, the planned 7 years to build the canal, became 19 years and went 3 times over budget.  That put paid to any further plans for expansion.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise View of Caol

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise View of Caol 2

I have a real soft spot for the Village of Caol.  Apart from stunning views up Loch Linnhe, it has a great shore front and the best fish and chip shop in the country.

Views of the Great Glen

You really appreciate that you are in The Great Glen from this position on the loch.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise View of Great Glen 1


Mos Blog Crannog Cruise View of Great Glen 2


As we got closer to The Town Pier, I checked that MJ was coping with the lower deck.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Boat Wine 2

Everything fine there.

If your children get bored of doing this…..

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Fort William Evening Cruise Family Activity 1

There is plenty to keep them occupied down below.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Fort William Evening Cruise Family Activity 2

We came in close by to The Underwater Centre.

Mos blog Crannog Cruise View of The Underwater Centre Fort William

This is a world class subsea training and trials facility, made possible by the environment, and the top class people employed there.

Mos blog Crannog Cruise Evening Cruise Sunset 3

The clouds were gathering and looking like a change of weather was on its way.

Mos blog Crannog Cruise Evening Cruise Sunset 4

We’d both had an interesting, entertaining and comfortable journey.  We didn’t buy any merchandise, but I did like the memento of Black Rock, that we would have seen, had we gone down Loch Linnhe on the day cruise.

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Seal Island

Just as we were coming in to dock, I had an idea that we could take the other wee boat across the loch before MJ goes south again – if the rain stays off.

Mos blog Crannog Cruise Highland Ferries Crannog Restaurant

Thankyou to The Skipper and to Neil Bo Finlayson who was serving up the chilled wine downstairs.  We had a lovely evening.  Some day MJ is coming back for the £25 day cruise and 3 course lunch, seeing as how she thought she’d been going in that direction for at least half of the trip.  That sounds like a bargain.

Reblogged from An Appetite for Lochaber.

Read more about our Fort William Evening Cruise here

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