FORT WILLIAM | People travel from all over the globe to gain a glimpse of the undeniably beautiful scenery scattered about the Scottish Highlands. You can’t help but be blown away by the enormous rolling mountains, the vast lakes and great big forests. You’ll spot many adventure travellers hiking up the cliff sides and camping in the mud for days on end but you don’t need to get so dirty and tired when exploring this part of the world.
Thanks to Caledonian Discovery, tourists can stay on board a large, fully kitted-out barge and cruise from the east coast, all the way through to the west via the Caledonian Canal. This canal system cuts Scotland in half, beginning in the North Sea and ending up at the Atlantic Ocean all the while tracing through several lakes, most notably Loch Ness.
They offer plenty of different cruising options including a Walk The Great Glen experience which takes guests for enormous hikes throughout the region. They also cater for cycling enthusiasts with trips focusing on getting on a bike and reaching further into the Highlands. But their newest endeavour, Discover the Great Glen, offers a less intense alternative. We at The City Lane were lucky enough to be invited up North to check it out.
Those choosing the Discover the Great Glen package have the opportunity to hike, cycle, canoe or simply cruise throughout the entire region over a week-long trip. Each day, guests will be given the option to follow their local guide for a short morning stroll and a longer afternoon hike, both with historical talks and wildlife searching. They won’t be too strenuous, as most guests tend to be recent retirees but you’ll get to visit waterfalls and abandoned castles, while discovering some breathtaking viewpoints overlooking The Great Glen.
And if you want something a little different, the guide can help create a new route just for you to go on alone, either by foot or by bike. Head up further into the mountains or explore a different loch off the canal system. It’s all up to you. These guys know the area back to front so can cater to your every need. You can even jump in a canoe and row alongside the boat if the whole cruising thing is too passive for you.
And all of this is optional. You can even choose to do wander off on your own and do some less strenuous sightseeing or simply stay on the barge reading, napping or simply admiring the immediate surroundings with a hot cup of tea. It’s one of the most flexible holidays you’ll find.
The two barges on offer (the Fingal of Caledonia and Ros Crana) are pretty damn huge. Their communal areas are made up of a spacious living room, an enormous communal dining area, an open galley as well as a massive deck up on the roof. The bedrooms are decently sized for a canal boat, most boasting a modern ensuite bathroom with great strong hot showers and flushing toilets. And there are a handful of single rooms for solo travellers as well. Most of the boat even has underfloor heating for that extra touch of comfort.
The chef on board will treat all the guests like kings. For every meal, you’ll be sitting with the crew and other passengers (there will never be more than 12 guests on board at a time) around one big communal table. You’ll wake up to find freshly brewed tea and coffee sitting in the main living room before the food is all ready. You’ll then dive into cereals, fruit, yoghurt and hot porridge before the ever changing second course of breakfast begins. This could consist of scrambled eggs, roast tomatoes, sausages, bacon, pancakes and greens. You’ll get all the fuel you need for a big day of exploring.
Lunch will most likely be a soup of some sort, served with homemade bread. This will be followed by either sandwiches and salads or an onslaught of antipasto offerings. You’ll also get an afternoon tea of cakes or scones and more tea and coffee.
And dinner on board the Caledonian Discovery cruises is the absolute champion of all the meals. There will always be a meat option and a vegetarian option, accompanied by all sorts of salads, roast vegetables and sauces. Expect chicken stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon, wild venison stew, grilled seabass with salsa verde, quiches, pies and stuffed peppers. You’ll then get dessert followed by a cheese platter with teas and coffees. It’s a nightly food coma in waiting.
And we mustn’t forget about the bar. There are plenty of wines, beers and spirits (most notably the whiskies) for guests to dig into each day. They aren’t included in the cost of the trip so a tab will be started for each room but it’s all very reasonably priced. You can get a bit merry each night without depleting all your funds.
To Wrap It Up
Caledonian Discovery is perfect for both the hardcore explorers and those wanting a far more relaxing alternative. You can hike, canoe, cycle or nap all day long on the deck while admiring the stunning Scottish scenery. And thanks to the intimacy of a small boat and crew, you’ll never feel neglected. You dine with the captain every night and have time for any query to be answered.
These guys will go out of their way to ensure you have the best holiday which suits your own needs and desires. So book a cabin for 2018 now or go all out and hire the entire boat for you and your family and friends. It’s the best way to see this charming corner of the world.