Day 1.
scottish-barge-227We boarded our luxury barge, the Scottish Highlander, in Inverness, Scotland, we didn’t know what to expect. It was a completely new experience for us.
Our cabin was tiny, with two portholes, a bathroom with a shower, and adequate storage space if you juggled it around.
Two other cabins are the same, and the main cabin is much bigger.
In the lounge, the seats are comfortable, and there’s a well-stocked bar which we could help ourselves to any time that we fancied a drink or a coffee.
We met the other guests, two Australian ladies, a lady from California and a couple from Colorado.
It turned out that we were a well-balanced group and we all got along like old friends!
Sasha the Chef performs miracles in the small galley. More about that later!
After an excellent dinner and several drinks, we all turned in, looking forward to our morning start.

Day 2.
Breakfast was at 8 o’clock. I had a Full Scottish, with egg, bacon, mushrooms, and black pudding.
Most people tried the porage, which was a perfect texture.
We set off at 9.30 through the Tomnahurich swing bridge, holding up all the traffic. But they’re used to it!
scottish-barge-479Then we were locked in the lock, with high walls at each side and lock gates in front and behind. The water was black and smelled strongly of peat.
After a week, locks are still a mystery to me. I admit it.
Anyway, the water poured in and ‘Hurray and up she rises,’ to quote the old song.
In about five minutes we’d risen to the top of the walls and the lock gates opened.
We were travelling along the River Ness.
As the barge travels slowly, our minibus was driven along to catch up with us, and off we went to visit the site of the Battle of Culloden Moor, scene of the last battle on British soil (as it was then, in 1746.)

Day 3.
After breakfast, we drove to visit the Glen Ord Distillery and see how their whisky is made. It dates back to 1838, and most of it is exported.
Back on the boat, we cruised through Loch Dochfour, and then the part of the cruise that I’d been looking forward to; along Loch Ness.
It was a bit choppy, but as we had the wind behind us, it wasn’t rough at all, even in a flat-bottomed barge!
We moored at Fort Augustus.

Day 4.
scottish-barge-403In the morning we visited Eilean Donan Castle, one of Scotland’s most famous castles, featured in many movies, including Highlander, and James Bond’s The World is not Enough.
Afterwards, our marvellous guide, Helen, diverted and drove us across the bridge to the Isle of Skye.
I was really surprised as I’d always thought the island was much further away, only reached across usually rough sea, on a ferry. But it’s just a few yards away, across the bridge which was opened in 1995.
In the evening we drove to have dinner in a lovely hotel.
The building was interesting and the staff were professional. But we all agreed that the food wasn’t as good as Sasha’s meals!

Day 5.
Urquhart Castle stands on the shore of Loch Ness. It ruined shell is immediately recognisable, probably by anyone who hasn’t landed from Mars!
Amazingly, none of it is visible from the road as it’s very low down.
The weather was cold and the wind cut right through us as we walked from the minibus. But it just added to the atmosphere.
After lunch on the barge, we set off again, working our way up through the ‘flight’ of lochs, and then along a narrow part of the canal, through stunning Highland scenery, where everyone went ashore and walked beside the boat.
We moored at Laggan, and on the bank a piper greeted us, strolling proudly up and down, totally ignoring us while he played.

Day 6.
scottish-barge-430In the morning we awoke to bright sunshine. It completely changed the scenery.
The mountains and the luminous yellow gorse were cloned in the canal.
Everyone grabbed their cameras and went ashore.
We sailed along Loch Lochy, through Moy Bridge, the last original and hand-operated bridge on the canal.
Just a short couple of miles from the sea, we moored at Banavie beneath the snow-capped Ben Nevis, near Neptune’s Staircase, which leads down to Loch Eil.
Captain Dan joined us for dinner on our final night. It was a good evening and we were all a bit sad as well as happy.

Day 7.
Saying our goodbyes to the crew, we piled into the minibus for our journey back to Inverness.
It was a lovely drive. The scenery was an artist’s delight, changing colour all the time.
The Highlands are totally different to what I expected. It’s like being abroad, in France or somewhere.
I thought it would be more rugged, but it has a calm green beauty all of its own. And the people are friendly and proud of their heritage.
And the barge trip? One of the most memorable holidays that I’ve ever had. What a wonderful way to unwind!

Useful Information:
Prices for a 6 night cruise aboard the 12 passenger hotel barge ‘Scottish Highlander’ are from £2,450pp in a twin/double en suite cabin, including all meals, wines, an open bar, excursions and local transfers. Charters are also available. European Waterways: Tel: +44 (0) 1753 598555Website: www.gobarging.comLinks:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/European-Waterways-Ltd/78646381842?ref=tn_tnmn
https://twitter.com/#!/GoBarging
http://www.youtube.com/user/EuropeanWaterways?feature=g-all-uWe flew from Gatwick to Inverness with easyjet.
easyJet flies to Inverness from 2 UK airports, with prices starting from £9.49 per person (one-way, including taxes). All flights can be booked at www.easyjet.com For reference, we fly to Inverness from London Gatwick and London Luton.Before the flight, we went in the No 1 Lounge.
Quite honestly, paying to use the Lounge is well-worth it.
You get comfortable seats, a good view, newspapers and magazines, plus a choice of meals and drinks, all included in the price.
In fact, it can work out cheaper than paying for everything separately in Departures!

About Lyn

LYN FUNNELL CV (well, sort of!) Lyn had very successful careers as an Air Hostess, Sales Rep, (she was one of only a couple of women. She beat all the men regularly, becoming the Top Rep in the UK, and 2nd in the world.) And then Catering took over. She did everything from the washing-up, to Silver Service Waitress, and Chef. A few times, she had to cook the meal, dash round the other side and Silver Serve it! In between all this, she wrote as often as she could, building up a reputation as a published short story writer, (Horror and a twist in the tale,) and a Poet. She has appeared as a Performing Poet, and a Demo Chef. Then she discovered the world of the Food & Travel Writer. And that’s what she has continued doing to this day. Her main hobbies are Cookery and entering Competitions. She has won many prizes, including holidays and a moped. She enjoys entering Competitions, submitting her original recipes. She was first in many Competitions, including the Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu, Fruits of France, Bernard Matthews Turkey Recipe, and appeared on BBC’s The One Show Spag Bol contest. She was one of three Finalists, coming 2nd, which makes her Britain’s Spag Bol Queen! Now she runs B-C-ing-U! and loves it! After several years of being messed around by Editors, and having loads of contacts, Lyn formed her own online Magazine, vowing to treat her writers fairly, and to do everything possible to further their careers, publicise their books, etc. She now has a band of excellent regular writers, and the Magazine’s going from strength to strength! Lyn’s online published books; Adverse Camber A collection of my published poems. The First Book of Short Stories The Second Book of Short Stories The Third Book of Short Stories. Many of these stories have been previously published. St Anthony of Padua. The Patron St of the Old. A story of one woman’s terrible ordeal in a Home, and her family’s rescue of her. The Girl Who Watched. A Cuban girl is attacked by an English journalist & what follows! Willy the Whizz & the Wormhole. Suitable for Young Adults, aged 15-95! Get Out Of Debt And Stay Out – Forever! Unsympathetic, hard-hitting, realistic solutions to your problems. All these books are published by Andrews UK Ltd www.andrewsuk.com No, I didn’t pay them to Vanity Publish! They’re all available from Amazon, and many other online publishers. LYN FUNNELL.