A very pleasant cruise (18km round trip) down Loch Linnhe (a tidal sea loch) aboard the Souters Lass. The cruise affords a good opportunity to enjoy some stunning scenery and spot a range of wildlife in a well equipped and comfortable boat.
The Souters Lass (22 metres long, 6 metres wide and weighing 65 tonnes) was built in 1948 and to date has served as a Royal Naval tender, a passenger ferry and pleasure cruise boat. She was refurbished recently for her 65th birthday to accommodate up to 126 passengers. The boat offers ample outdoor seating both at the front and upper rear decks of the boat. There is also additional seating in an undercover area at the rear of the vessel, and in an all weather viewing lounge below deck with a small bar and toilets. The bar serves a selection of hot, cold and alcoholic beverages and snacks. Information about the boat, the crew and wildlife sightings, as well as colouring sheets and pencils for kids, is also provided in the lounge.
The trip starts with a safety briefing by the skipper, and an introduction to the sites of interest on route as well as possible wildlife sightings.
The vessel leaves Fort William and heads off down Loch Linnhe along the western shore affording magnificent views of the Ben Nevis and the surrounding hills clad variously in Atlantic oak woodland, heath and upland grassland, and interspersed with sections of coniferous plantation.
Soon our first common seal was spotted just as we approached the salmon fish farm, an industry pioneered on the west coast of Scotland. Good views are afforded of the fish pens and breaching salmon whilst the skipper provides an interesting commentary about the workings of the fish farm.
A little further on a mussel farm comes into view with its lines, droppers and floats in which the mussels are cultivated on ropes; this is a highly productive, yet environmentally friendly, method of shellfish aquaculture in the loch. The skipper provides some interesting facts and figures about mussel farming in the loch.
The skerry island (Black Rock) affords a good place for seal watching. Common seals can often be seen hauled up on the island or amongst the wrack in the water. Views are also afforded at this point of the Corran Narrows, with its Lighthouse, ferry terminal and the village of Ardgour in the distance to the south.
Black Rock forms the turning point for the cruise and the trip continues up the eastern shore of the Loch in the shadow of The Nevis Range. The skipper has interesting stories to tell about feats, both on foot, bike and by automobile, carried out on Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles standing at 1,344 metres above sea level.
Look out for common and grey seals, guillemots, shags, cormorants, black guillemots, oystercatchers, mergansers, gulls (including herring and common), swans and eider ducks. There is also a possibility of seeing harbour porpoise, osprey, otter, golden eagle and white-tailed eagle (if you are lucky).
All in all, a lovely trip on a fine day with good mix of spectacular scenery, wildlife spotting opportunities and interesting commentary.
There are four trip offered per day in season. We took a trip on Thursday 6th June 2013 at 10.00am. The trip lasted 90 minutes.