TRAVEL: A TRUE CALEDONIAN DISCOVERY

first_imgBY TRAVEL EDITOR, TIM HEDGLEY There are few places on earth that hold on to a story like the Loch Ness Monster, which apparently lives in one of the deepest and longest lochs in Scotland.As someone who loves boats, I thought that the month of June 2015 would be a great time to try and see if I could find this elusive creature for myself along with some other fascinating wildlife along the Great Glen. Living as I do in Ireland I had to get across the pond to Scotland. And this time I chose to use the Belfast Stena Line Belfast service. The Stena Line Belfast to Cairnryan service offers a direct link from Northern Ireland to Scotland on the Stena Superfast VII and Stena Superfast VIII from as little as £10*day return for foot passengers or for single car and driver from £79 (when you book 60 days in advance based on an economy crossing for a car and driver). The crossing time is approximately 2 hrs 15 mins with a choice of up to six sailings a day.Experience the various lounges and Taste restaurant onboard the ships as well as the Curious George kids play area and POD Lounge with iPads and Xboxes so you can stay connected throughout your journey. Customers can upgrade to the luxurious Stena Plus lounge while onboard and indulge in a wide selection of complimentary snacks and beverages or indulge in the Pure Nordic Spa where you can make the most of the only Jacuzzi and sauna on the Irish Sea from £10 per person.Those looking to book a Superfast Suite cabin for their crossing can do so from £20 per cabin.  Upgrade to Stena Plus from £12 per person single. To make a booking, click on www.stenaline.co.uk, call Stena Line on 08447 70 70 70, or visit your local travel agent.*£10 day return including coach transfers to Glasgow, available on selected dates from January to December. For the lowest fares, passengers should travel off peak, Tuesday –Thursday and book online at least 60 days before departure.Loch Ness is one of the largest Lochs, which divides the north of Scotland in a diagonal line from FortWilliam to Inverness. There is little doubt Loch Ness or “Ness” as it’s known, is indeed long, 23 miles long and it is pretty deep too, for in places it drops to some 600 feet.Dark peaty water makes visibility somewhat problematic, well except for the creatures that lurk in the deep.Rather than hire a little boat, I felt something more substantial would be far more appropriate, just in case “Nessy” decided to pay me a visit. I decided therefore to take a wildlife tour along the Loch with Caledonian Discovery. Www.caledonian-discovery.co.uk.Caledonian-discovery run a number of cruises and boats up and down the Loch, and there are a plethora of trips to choose from. There are walking cruises where you can walk the 70 odd miles of the great glen, wildlife cruises where a botanist and wildlife expert will answer your questions, and more importantly point out the Buzzards, Eagles, Ospreys and Feral mountain goats, show you some amazing flora and fauna that are native only to this part of the world and teach you about the geology of the area.If that sounds all to classroom botany classy for you don’t worry its hands on out in the great outdoors. If you feel less active then fear not there are plenty of other trips you can consider. Canoeing, wild Loch swimming, cycling, dingy sailing or simply sitting on deck in the glorious sunshine and soaking up the amazing surroundings.I joined my Caledonian-discovery cruise at Fort Augustus and for my first day I was intrigued to see the majesty of 5 locks which dropped our craft, a 45 meter Belgium built barge over 40 feet and into the mouth of Loch Ness, which was our mooring overnight before our cruise along the first part of Loch Ness.Dinner on the Ross Crana is served in the capacious dining room and is taken with the crew; this gives everybody an opportunity to discuss the day’s activities and sightings and an opportunity for Martin the Captain, to discuss the day just finished, and agree the itinerary for tomorrow. AgreementOn many cruises the captain decides the ports to visit and the passengers go along with that. This cruise is inherently passenger led and far more customer focused. The Skipper tells us what’s ahead on the route and gives the passengers the opportunity to choose their preferred activities.If it’s canoeing, sailing, walking, cycling or even swimming you will be accommodated. And that is the beauty of this well planned and thought out cruise.No matter what your activity, you will have a seamless transfer to shore, sea, Loch or boat all carried out by the very experienced crew. Silently a motor rib will be alongside the Ross Crana and canoes will appear ready to be boarded.On my second morning were treated to great Scottish porridge or delightful kedgeree delightfully cooked and prepared by “Tree” our expert chef. Who then produced what can only be described as a smorgasbord of delights. If you want to know what it contained then you have to book a cruise. See www.caledonian-discovery.co.uk After breakfast we set sail at a hearty 4 miles an hour along what is known as the rough side of Loch Ness to spot some wildlife.Nick Picozzi our resident wildlife expert pointed out common buzzard, osprey, kite, feral mountain goat and a few other creatures to boot. We then moored across the right hand side of Loch ness in a little mooring known as Foyers. Nick then led the ramble up the side of Loch Ness to a waterfall known as the “Falls of Foyers”.After a delightful lunch prepared and served by what should be the Michelin Star “Tree”, we were treated to a gentle cruise down the Loch spotting wildlife in abundance.Three hours and lots of sunshine later we moored at Doughgarragh on the upper side of the Loch.Here we were treated to another wildlife walk from Nick who pointed out unseasonably late bluebell and various plants that I could not even spell, let alone pronounce. More buzzard, osprey and cormorant and we were fast becoming potentials to replace David Attenborough.Another sumptuous dinner from “Tree” fresh Sole with a green dill salsa Verdi, roasted sweet potato cubes and a sticky toffee pudding to die for, we were just able to add some delightful red wine and a selection of cheese. Surly after all this open air and sunshine it was time for bed. Indeed it was.Cabins Accommodation on board was superb our compact cabins were expertly designed to maximise space, a full sized power shower was a real treat.A double bed and single above provided great sleeping facilities and there was even room for the suitcase too!The following morning we were off to Inverness and after a bite of lunch at the locks at Inverness we were to head for the salt water of the Moray Firth and the Beauly Firth.Now we were in the briny sea and again the weather had astounded most on board, including Gwen our antipidiean fellow traveller. She was finding it warm enough to remove her thermal layers.For the rest of us the factor 50 was out for the amazing weather we were experiencing. So much so that an excess of 22 degrees caught a lot of us by surprise.Mooring in the Beauly firth just of the coast from Moniak Castle was areal treat. The Ros Cranna sat astride the tide like a dressage horse in competition.After another fantastic dinner of Aberdeen Angus beef slow cooked in local ale and “clooty” a Scottish suet pudding, we were set up for a great nights sleep.But before we retired into our soothing water bed for the night, Martin our captain gave us a debrief on the day’s events and Nick covered the wildlife events of the day.Thursday morning saw us travel out of the Beauly Firth and under the Kessock bridge as we went in hunt of seal, dolphin, porpoise and more bird life.We were not disappointed and true to form dolphin made an appearance near to the coast of Fort George and enthralled us with their blow holes and acrobatics. After an hour or two sitting in the splendid sunshine we moored for dinner and were treated to a specular blessing of the haggis.If you want to know more I suggest you book. Just remember Caledonian Discovery holiday let you wind down into ‘Highland time’. Where you can take in the spectacular scenery of the Caledonian Canal and the beautiful inland lochs of Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy.This is a unique holiday barges experience of the finest quality. ‘Fingal of Caledonia’ and ‘Ros Crana’, will be your Scottish Highland home for the week, whilst their friendly skippers and attentive crews look after you. It’s a soft adventure for people of all ages, so come and relax into the gentle world of life afloat.TRAVEL: A TRUE CALEDONIAN DISCOVERY was last modified: July 29th, 2015 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:BelfastboatCALEDONIANCaledonian DiscoveryholidaysLoch NessScotlandstena lineTim Hedgleylast_img read more