“There’s something about warm summer days that make me want to get out on the water. So, with the sun shining last Friday morning, we set off for a family trip along Loch Linnhe aboard the Souter’s Lass.
The boat sets off from beside the Crannog restaurant at Fort William Town Pier, and over the course of 90 minutes or so takes in a number of sights along the loch – including a large rock in the middle of the water which has come to be known as ‘Seal Island.’ You can probably figure out how it came by that name, but, if not, keep reading and I’ll reveal all.
We were on the ten o’clock sailing, and being the first day of the local schools’ summer holidays, we expected the boat to be much busier than it was. Not that we were complaining, as it gave us more room to roam around and everyone had an uninterrupted view out over the water.
The twelve o’clock sailing was much busier, so I think we made the right choice by going for the earlier option – although my 13-year-old son, who had been planning a lie-in for the first day of the holidays, might disagree.
Entertaining and Informative
Our skipper for the trip was incredibly knowledgeable about not just the loch, but Fort William and Lochaber in general. His narration as we cruised along Loch Linnhe was entertaining and informative, and his eagle-eyes even spotted a porpoise splashing around not far from the boat – one of the first sightings of the season. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as quick off the mark, and by the time I’d got the camera ready the only sign the porpoise had been there was an expanding ripple on the water’s surface.
We continued along the loch, passing a salmon farm, spotting lots of big silvery fish leaping around, and taking in views of the area that even we, as locals, aren’t used to seeing.
Although the sun was shining, a cold breeze was blowing. Luckily, the crew was on hand with a selection of blankets for those feeling the chill. On colder days, I’d imagine the covered seating area downstairs gets a few visitors – especially with its well-stocked bar!
In what felt like no time at all, we had reached Seal Island. Some days there can be upwards of a dozen seals flopping around on the rock and sunning themselves after a hearty scoff. Today, though, there was just one. He kept a close eye on us as we slowly circled around, snapping photos and shooting video for all we were worth.
The seals are easily startled by high-pitched noises – the voices of young children in particular can spook them – so a hush descended among all those on board as we looked at the seal and the seal looked back.
Eventually, we said goodbye to the island’s sole inhabitant and returned to the Crannog – although not before hearing about the trainee divers residing hundreds of feet below us in the Underwater Centre’s submerged Loch Linnhe training capsule. Apparently they stay down there for three weeks, breathing a mixture of Helium and Oxygen. Rather them than me!
Lunch at the Crannog Restaurant
After the cruise came the bit I was really looking forward to – lunch at the Crannog Seafood Restaurant. I’m a huge fan of fresh seafood, and there are very few places in the Highlands that do it as well as the Crannog does.
As part of the Cruise and Dine package, we were able to choose from a set three-course lunch menu, and although there were only two or three options for each course, the variety of the food on offer meant we felt spoiled for choice.
We opted for starters of Fish Pie and Smoked Haddock salad, and both dishes were vibrant and fresh, with a strong but not overpowering fishy flavour. My dad, who is as much of a seafood fan as I am, remarked that the smoked haddock was the best he’d ever had, and I have to admit I can’t think of ever eating a better fish pie.
The main course didn’t let us down, either. The Hake was flaky and melt-in-the-mouth soft, while my Breaded Haddock with Sautéed Potatoes was so good it’s probably ruined all other Fish & Chips for me for life.
My dad was too stuffed to tackle dessert, but I bravely pushed on, opting for the selection of ice creams over the dark chocolate cheesecake on offer. Rich, creamy and full of flavour, there was nothing I could find to fault about that course, either.
At just £25 per adult for the cruise and lunch, this would be a great value deal even if the food was average. The fact that for your money you’re getting a fantastic three-course meal from one of the best seafood restaurants in Europe means it’s an offer too good to pass up.”