There are few places where the scenery is quite as evocative as the landscape you’ll be passing through on a Scottish cruise in the Highlands. |
Going along the Caledonian Canal and across the mysterious Loch Ness is simply a magical experience. In fact, there are so many things to see and do that it’s hard to pick just one or two out but it’s worth mentioning the area around Urquhart Castle.
The Castle and its Famous Neighbour
Scotland is littered with romantic castles and ruined monuments but few are as haunting as Urquhart Castle.
The castle itself is now largely ruined but its location sitting on the banks of Loch Ness is simply stunning. Sweeping views out across the inky-blue depths of this famous lake can be totally absorbing.
The castle’s history is fascinating and far too ancient and detailed to cover here. Suffice it to say that you’ll be walking around ancient stones that have witnessed and played a part in many of the key events of Scottish and latterly British history.
However much that history appeals though, few will say they’re visiting purely for that reason and most will spend a fair amount of time gazing out over the loch in hope. The reason is probably obvious but just in case – scanning of the waters is a favourite pastime here because this is the area where ‘Nessie’ is most commonly seen.
The subject is bound to come up on any Scottish cruise in the area and you’ll form your own view of what you think is going on. However, you’d be a rare individual if you didn’t look into the distance at least once and spot a branch in the water and think for one moment “what if…”
Urquhart Bay Woods
One of the great advantages of a Scottish cruise in this area is that it allows you to stop and explore sites that really aren’t very easy to get to by road.
One such area is Urquhart Bay Woods. These are famous because they’re one of the last natural wet woodlands left in the UK and in fact Western Europe.
It’s hard to believe that much of Scotland would once have been like this before humans deforested most of the countryside. They’re dense woodlands with not only magnificent trees (including alders) but also a stunning variety of wild flowers and plants to enjoy – some of which you’ll find nowhere else.
Wildlife here is also abundant. Keep your eyes open and you might see the now rare red squirrel or kites soaring majestically overhead. It’s worth looking also for goosander ducks, dipper birds, herons and wagtails.
Of course, this is nature as nature intended and even in summer this area can be wet and marshy underfoot. You’ll need wellies and around 90 minutes or so to give the woods and the two rivers they contain (the Coiltie and Enrick) a decent explore.
This though is what a highland Scottish cruise is all about. Absolute calm, open air and nature – plus of course that convivial ‘wee dram’ to welcome you back aboard!
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury Scottish cruise barge holidays. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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