Leading Specialists in European Barge Cruises

In The True “Spirit Of Scotland”!

We were thrilled to experience our first cruise on board “Spirit of Scotland” a few weeks ago and would like to share the highlights of this wonderful cruise with you!

Having Scottish ancestry I am always very excited to be back in Scotland, and especially in my favourite region, the Highlands. How could anyone fail to be thrilled at the sight of these stunning landscapes and ancient castles (and cute-as-a-button Highland cattle?!!)

I actually began my trip in Edinburgh, staying at my favourite hotel – The Balmoral. Greeted by charming Scots doormen in kilts (of course!), every visit leaves me feeling that I could not possibly EVER choose another hotel in Edinburgh – from the friendly staff, beautifully appointed rooms, excellent restaurants and fabulous location to the GORGEOUS framed movie posters of Sean Connery in every room – it’s MY place in Edinburgh!

If you are going to take a cruise on one of the Scottish barges I do recommend a few days in this most beautiful of cities. A few suggestions: a walk through the historic centre… visit Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh Castle & the Golden Mile. Avoid the touristy shops & if you want serious quality cashmere in beautiful designs, go to Hawick on the Grassmarket. Take a tour or a cab to Rosslyn Chapel, a short drive from the city – fascinating. Same with the Royal Yacht Britannia… I love this visit, and have been a number of times – an intimate glimpse into the ship which was the “home away from home” of the Royals for so many years. It was a sad day when The Queen finally bid farewell to a ship that had served her family for over forty years. All the clocks on Britannia are stopped at 15:01, the time The Queen was piped ashore for the last time. This was one of the few occasions The Queen publicly shed a tear.

Well, there’s just a few suggestions for your pre or post-cruise stay but I’d better get on to the barge! I took a train to Inverness, where the crew was picking us up at a local hotel – a lovely ride through pretty scenery. At the hotel pick-up I was very pleased to see Helen, who I had met on previous cruise on Scottish Highlander, and who is now Captain on the Spirit.

Cruising through Loch Ness

Loch Ness “selfie”

We drove a very short distance to Muirtown, where the barge was moored – on alternate weeks, it’s moored in Banavie, near Fort William, about 1 ½ hours away – not actually that far as the crow flies but it’s necessary take the roads around the lochs, as there is no freeways – a damn good thing! Either way, whether the longer transfer is at the beginning or the end, it’s not that bad – because the scenery is stunning!

“Spirit of Scotland” is a brand new reincarnation of a barge that operated in France for many years, and has been beautifully redecorated with brand new cabins and bathrooms. The salon area is one of the most spacious of any barge in the fleet and has huge picture windows that mean that if that notorious Scottish weather sets in, you can still totally enjoy the views! In addition, the huge full-floor upper deck is a superb area to relax and enjoy the scenery in good weather – perhaps with a glass of Scotch whiskey chosen from the wide range offered on board?!

Spectacular Urquhart Castle

Historic Fort Augustus                                                                We passed by Scottish Highlander –
                                                                                                                   having  a ball too!

“Spirit” in the locks at Fort Augustus

But the cruise on board Scottish Highlander is not just about historic sites. It’s about absorbing and enjoying Scottish Highland culture and tradition and they do it so, so well. The excellent Glen Ord whiskey distillery tour; a fabulous musical evening with two young local lads (who are renowned throughout Scotland both for their modern original compositions and beautiful renditions of traditional ballads); being piped ashore by a local piper as we arrived at Laggan Locks; the fabulous Scottish cuisine prepared by our chef Marc; a meal out at a great little local restaurant in Fort Augustus; Helen’s local stories and folklore that she imparted throughout the week – we could not help but feel we had been beautifully & totally immersed in the local culture!

The Highlands of Scotland are famous for a number of historic events – most notably the Battle of Culloden and the Massacre of the MacDonalds at Glencoe (a side note here – yes fans of “Outlander” can relive the lives of Jamie and Claire to their hearts’ content during this cruise – we even visited the Clava Cairns, the ancient stones that inspired Craigh na Dun!) As well, the castles of Urquhart and Eilean Donan are instantly recognisable and have graced many a shortbread tin in the last century… we visited them all, and were captivated, saddened and enthralled all over again by their fascinating history.

Exquisite Highland Scenery

My favourite cows that always look like they need a haircut!

And after all, isn’t that what a barge cruise is all about? To unpack and relax and feel “at home” for a week, knowing that in the hands of the always-fabulous crew, you will be introduced to the local flavours, traditions and the best highlights of each region? I’ve now been on so many barges, in numerous regions of France, as well as the UK and Italy – and my passion for this type of holiday never wanes. Every cruise is different and every region offers a unique diversity – and I never get sick of sitting on deck, a glass of wine in hand, watching the world go by and looking forward to the next highlight. Barging really is SO fabulous – and Spirit of Scotland is one of the best!

See more about “Spirit of Scotland” right here!

We are going to offer charter next year, for the exclusive use of our clients – with a beautiful add-on in Edinburgh before the cruise. If you are interested in booking a cabin on this full group charter (date to be advised), or a cabin on any other dates, please contact us at info@toujoursfrance.com.au or you can call us toll free on 1800 606 838.

Our fabulous pilot, Peter                 Piped ashore at Laggan                       Wonderful chef Marc!

Beautiful Anna pours champagne       Enjoying our champagne!                Helen, our amazing Captain
as we go through the locks
at Fort Augustus

“The Girls” – Katie, Helen &                  Beautiful table setting                       Loved the Scotch whiskey!
Anna, dressed up for the                     for the Captain’s dinner
Captain’s dinner