Cruise the beautiful Caledonian Canal spanning Scotland from the North Sea to the West Coast and the sheltered Scottish coast aboard a comfy mini cruiser.
Snapshot: Founded in 1999, the Magna Carta Steamship Company operates a single vessel, LORD OF THE GLENS, a 27-cabin mini cruiser outfitted with classic interiors, on five- and seven-night cruises, May to October. One-way trips operate between Inverness and Oban via the 60-mile Caledonian Canal or between the coastal community of Kyle of Lochalsh and Inverness. All three ports have train connections to the rest of Scotland, and south to England and Wales. Some mid-summer dates are chartered out to Lindblad Expeditions
Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: LORD OF THE GLENS was originally built in Greece in the 1980s and then rebuilt for the present owners in the year 2000, 54 passengers.
Passenger Decks: 4 and no elevator.
Passenger Profile: Americans, Canadians, British and Europeans. Crew is British and European.
Price: $$ to $$$ Expensive to very pricey.
Included features: Rates include excursions as outlined in the itinerary and transfers to/from Inverness at the start or end of the cruise. Suggested tipping is GBP 7 per person per day. Limited internet is available and WiFi generally not except in towns.
Itineraries: Two different itineraries are advertised for 2017.
5-nights: Inverness to Oban via Loch Ness and through the locks of the scenic 19th-century Caledonian Canal. The route through the heart of the Highlands aims southwest to Scotland’s west coast entering the sea via Neptune’s Staircase, a flight of descending locks. The cruise continues to colorful Tobermory, the Isle of Mull for Duart Castle and finally to the port of Oban.
7 nights: Begins similarly then heads out to the Christian site at Iona, the Isles of Eigg and Skye, Eilean Donan Castle, the pretty town of Plonkton and finally to the Kyle of Lochalsh. Bird and sea life sightings are features of this longer cruise.
Why Go? When the fickle Scottish weather cooperates, the shimmering lochs, deep glens, and high bens (mountains) are magnificent. Spring brings wild flowers and the autumn, an array of color. The landscapes change very quickly as the ship moves along the Caledonian Canal and crosses long deep lochs, including Loch Ness, perhaps the most famous of all.
When to Go? The cruises operate from April to October, and July and August are the busiest months for visits ashore to prime tourist spots. But Scotland is rarely a crowded scene, just the contrary.
Cabins: 27 cabins (average about 135 sq. ft.) are divided into four categories over three decks and accommodate 54 passengers, all with dressing table, hairdryer, satellite TV, radio, music system, air-conditioning/heating, safe deposit box, and private shower, toilet, and washbasin. Suitcases fit under the beds. Windows bring in abundant natural light in all rooms apart from four lower deck units with double portholes. Beds are mostly twin.
Public Rooms: The highest of the four decks is given over to an observation lounge with a glass domed ceiling and a mahogany-trimmed bar lounge with good views, while the dining room seating all passengers at one time is on the deck below. The forward deck has uninterrupted views ahead and to port and starboard. For ocean liner buffs, some decorative features and some furnishings are from the SS France, RMS Rhodesia Castle and RMS Windsor Castle and the original Orient Express.
Dining: Breakfast (buffet) is available from 7 to 9:30am, lunch 12:30pm and dinner 7:30pm. Scottish produce is featured with angus beef and bounty from the sea. Passengers are asked to choose their entries in advance to give the chef an idea of how much to prepare. Most men wear a jacket to dinner and may dress up a bit more for a special evening.
Activities & Entertainment: Social life predominates aboard, and ashore with coach drives to castles and beauty spots of this green country, plus walks around pretty towns. A film is screened every night.
Special Notes: With the Scottish cruises of short duration, one week or less, plan on a larger itinerary than might include Glasgow and Edinburgh or even the Outer Hebrides.
Along the Same Lines: Hebrides Cruises, Majestic Line, Hebridean Island Cruises.
Contact: Magna Carta Steamship Company Ltd, 136 Hamilton Terrace, London NW8 9UX UK; Tel: 020 7372 2077; http://www.lordoftheglens.co.uk/.