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Spirit of Scotland Review

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Jodi Ornstein
Cruise Critic Cruise Critic Contributor

Spirit of Scotland Overview

Only a dozen passengers can sail on this barge that offers a relaxed home-like environment onboard and immersive cultural experiences on shore. The barge features a bright and spacious saloon and dining area with picture windows, a separate bar and a forward wheelhouse. It moves at a walking pace, so you can either relax on deck or hop on and off along the countryside to stroll or bike along the adjacent towpath at select areas of the route. An attentive English-speaking crew includes a captain, chef, tour guide and hosts/hostesses. The onboard design evokes that of traditional steamers that plied the lochs of Scotland in the past.

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An onboard chef uses fresh local ingredients and specialty suppliers to create gourmet cuisine at every meal. For example, in Scotland you can expect locally sourced game and wild salmon as well as regional whiskies. Dining experiences are intimate affairs that often include in-depth conversations with the chef. In the morning, there is coffee, continental breakfast and cooked dishes. Lunch is a buffet of salads, soups, meat or fish, local cheeses and wines often served alfresco on deck overlooking the scenery. Dinner under the stars brings gourmet dishes complemented by fine wines and after-dinner drinks.

There are six 130-square-foot passenger staterooms that are air-conditioned, offer a choice of twin or double beds and include a TV/DVD player and ensuite bathrooms.

The outdoor upper sun deck features relaxing seating and a covered dining terrace; the second deck features a heated spa pool and other outdoor deck seating.

Families are catered to with customized itineraries that substitute family activities for regular excursions.

Each hotel barge cruise is six nights and visits Banavie, Laggan, Kytra, Fort Augustus, Dochgarroch and Muirtown. Various theme cruises center on family, golf and the Scottish Whisky Trail. Rooms can be booked individually, or a full-barge charter is also available. The pickup location is Inverness and departures are scheduled from April to October. Cruises cover short distances at a very slow speed and never at night. Highlights might include a tour of the Glen Ord whisky distillery, a tour of Cawdor Castle and a visit to Eilean Donan and Urquhart castles.

Passengers come from all over the world, although most are from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. Fares include accommodations, gourmet meals, wine and an open bar; daily escorted excursions; local transfers and the use of easy-to-ride, all-terrain bicycles and helmets.


European Waterways Fleet