Posts for Outdoor Capital
Thursday 3rd Sep 2015
“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.”
Wednesday 27th May 2015
Following a recent trip to Fort William, travel writer Robin McKelvie joined a Crannog evening cruise. Read on to discover his journey aboard Crannog’s cruise boat, Souters Lass, as told by Barry Hutchison, from the Outdoor Capital of the UK.
Stepping aboard the Souter’s Lass at the Fort William town pier, the family embarked on a trip which saw them take in some of Lochaber’s spectacular scenery including Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain.
Popular for all ages
The cruises are a popular activity for visitors and locals alike, as they journey along the loch to pay a visit to the seals who like to bask in the sun on Seal Island. The 90 minute cruises offer the opportunity to spot more than seals, though, with porpoise and golden eagles both being known to put in appearances along the route.
For those rare, once-in-a-blue-moon occasions when it rains in Lochaber, the Souter’s Lass is equipped with an all-weather viewing level where guests can also enjoy some food, drink and traditional Highland hospitality.
Great in all weathers
Rain didn’t prove a problem for Robin and family, though, and a great time was spent spotting wildlife, marvelling at scenery, and standing up the front with arms held out pretending to be Kate Winslet in Titanic.
OK, that last bit was just me, but everyone else had a great time, too.
This is reblogged from the Diaries produced by the Outdoor Capital of the UK; see more on Robin’s adventures in and around Fort William and Lochaber on their website here.
Our cruises depart at 10am, 12noon, 2pm and 4pm; our Evening Cruises take place at 7.30pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during July and August. All cruises depart from the Town Pier here in Fort William. Just turn up around 15 minutes prior to departure.
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
This 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.
Souters 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.
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:
Thursday 7th Nov 2013
Having spent time ‘down under’ where he worked in both Melbourne and Sydney, he returned to his birthplace in Ireland for a time, working in various venues in and around Dublin.
We are glad to say that in 2008 Stewart returned to his beloved Fort William, where he now lives with his wife and young son.
“I love to source and forage for ingredients close to home. I have a few places I have discovered where I can guarantee to pick a feast! Chanterelle mushrooms, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries can all be found right here in Lochaber.”
Fortunately, Stewart also likes a spot of fishing! Stewart used to have a small boat which he loved fishing from, but these days he’s more likely to be seen catching a few mackerel from the basin at Corpach.
Demonstrating the Capabilities of a Professional Chef
In order to help school children discover an enjoyment for cooking and to demonstrate how easy cooking can be, Stewart was invited to take part in the “Seafood in Schools” event at Lochaber High School. Throughout his demonstration, his rapport with the children and his flair in the kitchen made a great combination; young talent from the school were definitely enticed into the world of cooking!
Stewart is passionate about minimising waste, so when asked which part of cooking he enjoys the most he was not the least bit hesitant:
“I love to use the entire fish; I don’t like anything to go to waste. One fish can be used to create so many different dishes. Take a monkfish; I can firstly use some of the innards and bones to create a stock; next I can use the flesh to make a main dish such as Pan-Fried Monkfish and Salmon; then part of the monkfish can be combined with other ingredients along with the flavoursome stock to make a bouillabaisse. The fish stock is used to flavour various sauces including accompaniments such as the creamed leeks served with the Pan-fried Monkfish and Salmon.”
Pan-Fried Monkfish & Salmon served with creamed leeks, spinach and clapshot
Crannog Bouillabaisse – poached seafood in a tomato-based broth with rouille
“My favourite desserts are always citrusy and fresh. For example, I really love the Lemon Sponge on the Autumn menu just now. It incorporates a traditional dish of Lemon Sponge and then we add a twist by serving it with lemon curd and basil ice cream.”
Lemon Sponge – steamed sponge with lemon curd and served with basil ice cream
Lemon Tart with orange mousse and candied fennel
Typical of a chef, Stewart thrives under the pressure of a busy day in the kitchen:
“During the day the most pressure is getting ready for service. Preparation between 8am and 5pm is the busiest time. Mornings start with filleting and stock making; preparing mousse and pastries. Soups are prepared next before moving on to sauces and the main dishes. This ensures all our food is as fresh as possible for both lunch and dinner service”.
Stewart’s favourite restaurant is The Kitchin in Leith, Edinburgh. This restaurant, led by the inspirational Tom Kitchin himself, saw it gaining a Michelin star within a year of opening.
If you have any questions for Stewart or would like to know more about the ingredients he chooses to use, please leave a comment below
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!
The 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.