Posts for Cruise

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

Thursday 7th Aug 2014

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

http://www.crannog.net/cruises/

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

http://www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/jacobite-steam-train-details.cfm

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.

http://www.linnhe-lochside-holidays.co.uk/

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.  http://www.scottishboatyard.co.uk/  Innovative and exciting.

Corpach Sawmill (Kilmallie Mill) Very successful and well run. http://www.bsw.co.uk/locations/site.html?s=fortwilliam

They work well together, in keeping at least some of the traffic off the road.

http://www.greatglenshipping.co.uk/  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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lochaber_hydroelectric_scheme

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

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise Caledonian Canal

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

http://www.sammysfishandchipshop.co.uk/

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

North

Mos Blog Crannog Cruise View of Great Glen 2

South

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.

http://www.theunderwatercentre.com/fort-william/

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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What questions do you have about Fort William’s Crannog Cruise?

Thursday 24th Jul 2014

Souters Lass Crannog Cruise Boat sailing on Loch LinnheBeing situated in the major tourist town of Fort William means that before our guests come from far and wide to enjoy a cruise on Loch Linnhe with us, they tend to have a few questions they’d like answered before they start their holiday or trip.  Read on to learn more about our cruises and maybe some of the questions you have will be answered too!

Souters Lass: our cruise boat and licensed bar

How many times a day does Souters Lass sail?  From March to October our boat, Souters Lass, cruises four times a day at 10am, 12noon, 2pm and 4pm. During July and August we also offer evening cruises on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays which depart at 7.30pm.  Each cruise – daytime and evening – takes up to 90 minutes.

Are there any areas undercover?  Souters LCrannog Cruise Boat Souters Less Bar Areaass has several large undercover areas including a cosy viewing lounge with seating for around 40 people.  In the lounge there is also a fully stocked bar which serves a range of hot and cold drinks, and snacks too.

What is the best weather for seeing wildlife?  Generally calm water is better for being able to see mammals and birds however wildlife are plentiful in these parts no matter what the weather.  Often low tide is better for spotting both otter and heron; though wildlife are so unpredictable you just never know when they will peak out.

Is this sea water?  Yes this is a sea water loch called Loch Linnhe. It’s tidal with a great depth range from 40m at the north end, plummeting to around 150m around the centre, thanks to the fact that it is part of the Great Glen fault line.

Souters Lass Route on Loch Linnhe and Loch EilWhat direction does the boat sail in? Our daily sailings are in a southerly direction down Loch Linnhe towards the Corran Narrows.  See the red dotted line on the map.  In the evening we sail in a westerly direction, towards the sunset, down Loch Eil.

What facilities do you have onboard?  We have several large undercover areas.  In our viewing lounge we have a fully stocked bar which serves a range of hot and cold drinks.  The toilets are adjacent to the bar area both of which are accessed by a flight of 10 stairs.

Passengers, access and payment

Detailed below is more information about passenger access and payment.  If there is anything we have missed, please don’t hesitate to ask in the box below.

Is this trip suitable for all ages?  This trip is great for all ages.  We have wildlife colouring sheets for children, along with binoculars to spot the distant wildlife and warm rugs just in case it’s a little chillier than you expected!

Can I bring my dog?  Dogs are welcome onboard.  Please just advise our staff when you purchase your ticket and they will let you know which areas of the boat are most suitable for you and your pet.

How much does a ticket cost?  £14 per adult; £7 per child.  Under 5’s are free and a family ticket is £40 (2 adults and up to three children).

Do you take credit cards?  Yes we take most major credit cards including Visa, MasterCard and debit cards, as well as cheques and cash.

I have some mobility limitations. What is access onto thCrannog Cruise Boat Fort William Souters Lass Gang Planke boat like? Access to the boat is via a gang plank which is not wide enough for a wheel chair however there is a hand rail on either side.  Please see the photograph opposite to give you an idea.

Do you have space on the next cruise?  We are licensed to carry up to 125 passengers so you can just turn up at the kiosk on the Town Pier; usually we can get everybody aboard with plenty of room!

Where can I park my car? The large West End Car Park is around 200 metres from the Souters Lass departure point on Fort William’s Town Pier.

We’re certain you will have other questions about Crannog Cruises which we’ve not answered in the above; if so, please post it below and we’ll get back to you.

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A Relaxing Way to Enjoy a Summer Evening

Thursday 3rd Jul 2014

With the long summer evenings well under way, now is the perfect time to try something a little different and enjoy the spectacular views of Lochaber aboard the historic vessel, Souters Lass, as she heads off on an evening cruise from the town pier in Fort William.

Cruise west to Loch Eil

Evening Cruise with logo 2This 90 minute evening cruise departs at 7.30pm; perfectly timed to enjoy the sun as it begins to set. Souters Lass heads westerly towards Loch Eil leaving the bustling pier and restaurant for the more tranquil waters ahead. On her journey she cruises past the islands at the head of Loch Linnhe; and Corpach Basin, the head of the Caledonian Canal that connects the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast at Corpach near Fort William. The canal was constructed in the early nineteenth century by engineer Thomas Telford, and is a sister canal of the Göta Canal in Sweden, also constructed by Telford.

Heron with logoSouters Lass reaches “The Narrows”, a small passage way between Fort William and Treslaig, a regular nesting spot for heron. Although these large birds are easy to spot our helpful skipper will always give a hand pointing out these and the many other seabirds you will see on your evening trip. Take a look at the bird count recorded in 2012 by expert bird watcher Jon Mercer of Glen Loy Wildlife.

A glimpse of the famous ‘Harry Potter’ steam train

As the boat travels a mile or so more, it passes the new BSW Sawmill, one the largest and most advanced sawmill sites operating anywhere in the UK. Next the water widens and the full size and width of Loch Eil comes into sight. Usually there is time to cruise further westward; perhaps as far as the mussel farm before turning to head towards the railway. Here the famous Jacobite Steam Train travels along the West Coast Railway;  arguably the world’s greatest rail journey by steam. Timing is important to catch a glimpse of the Harry Potter-style coaches and the pillar of steam from this special train as it heads back to Fort William.

Evening Cruise with logoThe splendour of the Ben!

Our cruise boat turns to head for home displaying the full splendor of the Ben towering above the loch. On a beautiful summer’s evening the fantastic views are enjoyed throughout the journey home; all the time until her ropes are secured at its berth alongside the town pier!

Our evening cruises aboard Souters Lass depart Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at 7.30pm from 1st July until the end of August in 2015.

Should you need to speak to our crew, call directly on 01397 700714

Have you taken an evening cruise with us?  What was the best part of the journey?  Share your experience of the cruise below:

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Fort William’s Town Pier to Stay Open

Friday 16th May 2014

“A Fort William cruise boat operator yesterday said the condition of the Lochaber town’s pier would not affect his business, which is a major tourist attraction in the area.

Waverely would not be able to visit Fort William  

Waverley at the busy pier lo-resHowever, Finlay Finlayson, who operates Crannog Cruises and owns Crannog Restaurant, said it was a shame the world-famous Waverley paddle steamer – which also attracts hundreds of tourists to the town – would not be able to visit this year.

Mr Finlayson’s comments came after Highland Council told paddle steamer operator Waverley Excursions that the ship, which has visited Fort William for around 30 years, could not use the Town Pier because its wooden fenders had “become dilapidated”.

No danger of the Town Pier closing

He said: “There is no danger of the pier closing.  We are fully abreast of the situation with the pier and are working with Highland Council.

“It is an old pier and it is only sensible to stop ships that are heavier than 100 tonnes using it until the work has been done.  Souters Lass is 65 tonnes so it is fine.”

He added that Highland Council had been quick to repair any damage to the pier caused by storms.”

Thanks to Sue Reston from the Press & Journal for this article, which featured in the paper on Thursday 15th May.    

If you have any questions about the Town Pier or our cruise boat, Souters Lass, leave a comment below, or contact us on 01397 707115 or email info@crannog.net

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4 * Visit Scotland Quality Assurance Award for Crannog Cruises

Thursday 26th Sep 2013

It is with great excitement that last week we were awarded a 4 * rating by the Visit Scotland Quality Assurance team. A mystery inspector visited the Town Pier almost a month ago. He remained anonymous as he purchased his ticket and boarded the cruise boat on a 4pm sailing, the last on that particular day. Listening to the safety briefing and following skipper David Mackie’s commentary, he noted everything from staff interaction with guests to wildlife observed and even the cleanliness of the toilets!

David and IainThe inspector was certainly impressed with all aspects of the cruise. Almost 3 weeks later he sent his report to us; he felt the cruises exceeded customer expectations, which we’re delighted to report. Pre-cruise information was described as ‘excellent with an up to date website with a blog and active social media presence’.

David said “I am delighted we have achieved this 4* grading. We all work extremely hard to try and exceed our customer expectations. The live commentary, along with our wildlife watching, provide a great accompaniment to the fantastic scenery and views of Ben Nevis whilst aboard.”

Souters Lass continues to sail up to 4 times per day until the end of October.

Leave a comment below if you think we exceeded your expectations when you cruised with us, or if you’d like to give us a pat on the back!

Pictured above are full time employees David Mackie and Iain MacDonald.

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