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Family Cruises: Scottish Highlands, Loch Ness, Scottish Castles

photo courtesy www.gobarging.com

Family cruises aboard the Scottish Highlander are a luxurious way to see the best Scotland tourist attractions in the Scottish highlands.  Scottish castles, like Inverlochy Castle, dot the horizon.  Spend a day cruising Loch Ness looking for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.  Ride the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter movies.  All while cruising along the sixty-mile Caledonian Canal.

The Scottish Highlander is 117 feet long and, several years ago, it was converted into a luxury hotel barge with a capacity of 8 passengers. It travels on the canal at a maximum speed of 7 miles per hour. You can ride, get off and walk, or bike along its towpath and be as active or relaxed as you wish.

All inclusive family packages for the 6-night-cruise include: 3 gourmet meals a day with unlimited wine and cocktails (for adults) and all the entrance tickets to all the activities. There is a crew of 4  (captain, cook, tour guide, and server) for 8 passengers.  Here are a few of our favorite highlights, (although it’s tough to narrow it down!).

Fairy Houses.  Our tour guide, Linda, took us to what she called “Fairy Glen” along a path hidden in the woods where locals have brought many items to create a sprawling village of tiny fairy houses. Its primary charm is the fact that this is a secret place that few discover. “Our little secret” if you will.  You will not see any thing about this enchanting spot in the tour books, and even if you parked 100 yards away, you still may not find it.  If they have visited the Fairy Houses of Mackworth Island, your children will love this, and may be inspired to create their own fairy house village when they get home.

Gondola ride up the Ben Nevis Mountain.  This gondola is used for the ski area in the winter but this summer it was the transportation for the World Cup Downhill Mountain Biking Championships. The views from 2000 feet up are panoramic and spectacular, even as the clouds rolled in and out taking our view from panoramic to almost white-out.

Loch Ness and Scottish castles.  We cruised up the Loch Ness, but no sightings of the Monster.  This is the deepest Loch in the Highlands at nearly 1,000 feet, so there is plenty of room for a monster to hide. This afternoon we visited the 14th century Cawdor Castle famously associated with Macbeth. However this castle was built over 200 years after Macbeth reigned, but the castle owners let the association live in our minds. Unlike the other castles, this one is still inhabited.  The dwellers move out each year during tourist season. The gardens here are ripe with bloom and cared for by eight full time gardeners. There is even a maze of holly in the garden.  Spectacular! And local residents come to the castle in their own vintage costumes to play around with all of the visitors. It’s great fun to pretend you are a fighting soldier for a Scottish clan.

Activities for Kids

For regularly scheduled trips, kids must be 14 years or older. However now almost ½ of their trips are charters and these have kids of all ages.  In this case there are numerous activities for kids.

  • Woolen Mill Tour
  • Great Glen Water Park
  • Loch Ness Monster Visitors Center
  • Gondola rides up Ben Nevis  (the highest peak in the area)
  • A ride on the steam train that was featured in the film Harry Potter
  • Fishing
  • Gem and Fossil Museum
  • Horseback riding
  • Hiking
  • Bicycling
  • Visit a working sheep farm including a sheep dog demonstration
  • Visit Ft. George, a working military fort
  • Live on board demonstrations of the old Scottish clan lifestyles

For more information:

European Waterways

Family cruise itinerary


USA toll free:  1-800-394-8630

Larry Berle is a travel writer who writes on many travel topics but specializes in golf travel.  Check out his travel blog, as well as his book, A GOLFER’S DREAM: HOW A REGULAR GUY CONQUERED THE GOLF DIGEST LIST OF AMERICA’S TOP 100 GOLF COURSES at www.GolfersDreamBook.com.

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