Spotlight on Scottish Highlander: Exploring Glens, Bens, and Munros

If stunning scenery of mountains, forests and glens is your kind of thing, then a trip to the Scottish Highlands is the perfect way to while away the week. What’s more, you can enjoy the Glens, Bens, and Munros from the comfort of your own cosy cabin on our hotel barge, Scottish Highlander, bedecked with tartan-clad interiors and burgundy leather Chesterfield sofas that reflect a Scottish country manor house. If we’ve piqued your interest, then read on to find out the full itinerary and our top highlights from a cruise aboard the 8-passenger Scottish Highlander.

Scottish Highlander Cruising Past Urquhart Castle
Scottish Highlander cruising past Urquhart Castle

Short History of the Scottish Highlander

Now a European Waterways hotel barge, Scottish Highlander started life as a trading vessel Built in 1931 at the Gebroeders Van Zutphen shipyard in Vreeswijk, Netherlands, she is a  a Luxemotor, featuring the typical upsweep characteristic on her bow with the luxury of having a motor! Originally named Vertrouwen, which translates to‘Trusty’ in Dutch, she served as a freight barge for more than 60 years, transporting heavy cargo such as sand, grain and gravel along the waterways of northern Europe.

MV Vertrouwen
The Vertrouwen, before she was the Scottish Highlander

In 1991, she was purchased by an Englishman named Trevor Jones  and after a carefulrenovation in Rotterdam, she was sailed across the English Channel to Plymouth for more work. Following her makeover, the Vertrouwen  found her own way through the North Sea to Inverness, battling Force 8 gales on the way. In April 1993, she started a new life as a passenger vessel.

In 1999, European Waterways purchased the Vertrouwen to join a growing fleet. Founder and Managing Director, Derek Banks had set his sights on her to cruise the Caledonian Canal and the famed Loch Ness. After another renovation modernised her to the company’s high standards. In 2000 she departed on her maiden voyage for European Waterways under the name she’s now known under, Scottish Highlander.

Hotel Barge Scottish Highlander Today

Aboard the Scottish Highlander, you’ll enjoy the scenery of Scotland no matter the weather, from the comfort of an 8-passenger deluxe barge. Rest assured, you’ll be well taken care of by our five crew members, who are on hand to cater to your every need.

The barge enjoys 117 feet of rich, hard wood-panelled surroundings with large windows to enjoy every scene. Glide through open glens and past imposing castles from the comfort of warm, cosy cabins and a central saloon. Just add a single malt or two for the full experience!

The Scottish Highlander is furnished to bring the barge to life in Scottish colours and traditions. Filled with tartan fabrics, landscape paintings and Chesterfield sofas, you’ll experience the feel of a true Scottish country house.

The saloon is spacious and can easily seat all passengers for a collective discussion about the day’s activities. The bar is well-stocked with spirits, including over 20 single malt whiskies! A hard wood table seats all eight of the Scottish Highlander’s guests for mealtimes, too, so you’ll never need to go too far for dinner.

Dark wood panels, Chesterfield sofas, and tartan interiors on the Scottish Highlander
The Country Manor-style interiors on the Scottish Highlander

Uniquely, Scottish Highlander has a covered panoramic observation area in the wheelhouse, so you can admire the passing scenery from the stern of the barge and enjoy a friendly chat with the skipper . The forward open sun deck area provides more opportunities for photographs of the Caledonian Canal and landmarks like Urquhart Castle and Ben Nevis.

Scottish Highlander has a choice of cabins, from the standard double stateroom or the double junior suite. All cabins have the potential to be made into twin beds for travelling companions or doubles for couples.

Scottish Highlander - Observation Area
Scottish Highlander's observation area

Under-bed storage is fitted and there are dressing tables and brass port hole windows in every room. Each cabin comes complete with an ensuite bathroom, complete with shower and toiletries for your personal use. You’ll never need to worry about windy, autumnal nights as all cabins and the saloon are centrally heated to ensure they’re warm and cosy throughout the year!

Food aboard the Scottish Highlander is prepared by your very own master chef, with recipes being influenced by seasonal Scottish cuisine. Dishes feature salmon, game and seafood and are served tasting and looking extraordinary. A host of dietary requirements including vegan, vegetarian, and those with food allergies are also welcome on our barge cruises, and if you let us know in advance, you can expect alternative meals that are equally as delicious!

Scottish Highlander Cabin
Enjoy well-appointed cabins on board

Scottish Highlander on the Map – The Caledonian Canal, Loch Ness & the Highlands

Crossing the Scottish Highlands, The Caledonian Canal stretches approximately 60 miles (97 kilometres) from the western coast to the eastern coast. The full route leads from Corpach near Fort William to Clachnaharry, north of Inverness. Twisting and turning through the Highlands, it cuts through the Great Glen, which is on a geological fault line. The Caledonian Canal connects various natural lochs (or lakes), including Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Dochfour and the famous Loch Ness.

Constructed by renowned engineer Thomas Telford, the Caledonian Canal was built between 1803 and 1822. Created to be a strategic waterway at a time when the main transport was horse and cart, it provided a navigable route for ships traveling between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It was originally intended for commercial use, but with its breath-taking views of the rugged Scottish landscape, it now serves primarily as a picturesque route for leisure boating and recreational activities. With 170 feet of air draft, sailing boats are a regular sight. Unusual for a canal.

Fort William, Caledonian Canal
Fort William vistas
Highlander Barge cruises past Urquhart Castle -barge cruise europe
Our hotel-barge Scottish Highlander cruises past Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Itinerary Highlights

Book a cruise on the Scottish Highlander for a relaxing week of calm waterways, historic visits and rugged scenery. The Caledonian Canal offers beautiful views and comes with opportunities to explore on foot, and experience the extraordinary wildlife along the region’s waterways. There’s even more to explore in the Scottish Highlands and we offer some fabulous excursions that are always private, and often exclusive to European Waterways guests!

A visit to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself in the famous gastronomy and spirits of the region you’re exploring. Dishes served onboard the Scottish Highlander acknowledge the rich number of traditional foods and recipes available in this far north territory of the United Kingdom. Scotland is of course famed for its spirits too, and a tour of the renowned Ben Nevis whisky distillery might leave you with a taste for the “good stuff”. A guide will show you how the Ben Nevis whisky is distilled, and you’ll enjoy a private tasting, where you can sample aged whisky varieties.

Ben Nevis Distillery
Ben Nevis Distillery

If you love history, then the Scottish Highlands have plenty to offer. On a cruise with Scottish Highlander, you’ll have an opportunity to visit the sombre site of Culloden Moor, which was the scene of the last major battle on British soil. In 1746, the Duke of Cumberland marched his army towards the ‘pretender’, Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was attempting to take the British throne. Charles’ Scottish army was defeated in under an hour, with over 1300 lives being lost. The slain soldiers were buried in mass graves and are said to still haunt the moor to this day. Now marked with the Culloden Visitor centre, which sensitively remembers the story, guests on the Scottish Highlander can learn about the battle with a guide.

Our barge navigates the most beautiful locations, effortlessly taking guests to picturesque scenery. In particular, we visit the stunning landmark near Laggan where three sea lochs meet. Here, Eilean Donan castle sits perched on an outlay of land and is reachable via a stone footbridge. This picture-perfect castle has been made famous in photography, art and film, serving as a location in the 90’s James Bond adventure, “The World is Not Enough” and the film, “Highlander”.

Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle

Literature and culture lovers will be delighted to see the castle that inspired Shakespeare’s famous play, ‘Macbeth’. Enjoy a guided tour of the mysterious Cawdor Castle and see for yourself where the fictional character of Macbeth plotted to overthrow his enemies! Tapestries, artworks and historic furniture helps to set the scene at Cawdor Castle, which appears as a building that has stood still in time. Still occupied by the Dowager Countess of Cawdor for part of the year, the gardens are immaculately maintained and have been listed as one of the top 100 in Britain. A tour will reveal many hidden secrets and take you straight to the heart of the drama!

If you’re looking for a more unique experience, then perhaps a majestic private falconry display will be enough to impress you. Watch magnificent birds of prey sweep over your head at the exclusive Highland Club, situated on the banks of Loch Ness, against a backdrop of the Scottish Highlands. This memorable excursion is one you won’t forget!

Cawdor Castle Gardens
Cawdor Castle and gardens

In the Press

Before the global pandemic grounded UK travel, journalist, Andrew Eames  took a cruise aboard Scottish Highlander. Eames thoroughly enjoyed his stay, describing the barge as “a luxurious conversion of a Dutch barge with double staterooms”.

Andrew wrote of his trip across the Scottish Highlands that “The main attraction …was the Great Glen, a geological faultline that paints a diagonal stripe between the east and west coasts of Scotland.” He says that at the time of its building, the Caledonian Canal was the most natural course for water in the area, covering 38 miles of end-to-end lochs. Eames enjoyed navigating the wonders of the canal aboard the Scottish Highlander, pointing out the unusual sights of manned locks and lighthouses.

Scottish Highlander

He explains that during the twenty-first century, the canal is far less busy than it would have been in 1822, as railways and roads have meant there’s often a different type of traffic in the region.

For us on the Highlander that meant perfect peace — particularly when sitting out on the bow, surging past the occasional ruined castle and making the road traffic wait as we transited the swing bridges. At times we sailed through canyons of trees and deep, green pools; at others we were out in the middle of immense lochs, enjoying what felt like an ocean voyage.

Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland
Urquhart Castle

Over seven days and six nights, Andrew enjoyed “lazy lunch stops” and trips to “Glencoe, the distilleries, the Loch Ness Monster exhibition and Eilean Donan”, describing the latter as “the brooding castle set on a rock that is now the poster child of Scottish calendars”.

Glencoe-National-Park_Credit National Trust for Scotland
Glencoe National Park

Andrew enjoyed passing Highland  cattle, a hand-cranked iron swing bridge at Moy and various locks, bridges and cottages en route down the canal. He learnt that one farm had even been bisected by the canal when it was originally built under Thomas Telford’s instruction, much to the farmers’ dismay.

Andrew’s account of a stay on Scottish Highlander is a wistful memory of a peaceful barge cruise. Writing in 2022, Eames remembered his trip fondly, sparing a thought for the 200-year anniversary of the Caledonian Canal. You can read more from Andrew’s article in the Sunday Times here.

Highland Cow found in the Scottish Highlands
Highland Cow

Scottish Highlander is Perfect for:


If you’re looking to charter a private family cruise aboard Scottish Highlander, then we have plenty of alternative excursion choices to keep younger generations entertained! Take up to 8 family members on a Caledonian Canal cruise and stop off at locations like the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola, Great Glen Waterpark, and Treasures of the Earth Centre, which displays gemstones and fossils. Water sports, like sea kayaking and white-water rafting are also available, and there’s more traditional family activities like bowling and ice skating too. To find out more about potential family excursions, see the full itinerary.


Score a hole-in-one holiday when you find out what the Scottish Highlander can offer golfers. Whether you’re looking to charter a club cruise for up to 8 people or a private cruise with friends, our golf cruise is an excellent opportunity to try out the best of Scotland’s Highland golf ranges. Stops include the 18-hole courses at Newtonmore Golf Course and Championship Links Course at Cabot Highlands. There’s also the Championship Course at Royal Dornoch Golf Course, which was designed by Tom Morris. With a 9-hole round at Fort Augustus Golf Course, where the official green keepers are sheep too, there’s plenty of greens, roughs and bunkers to find your way around on a golf cruise aboard Scottish Highlander!


Whisky is the national spirit of Scotland, but is it your alcoholic beverage of choice? If the answer is yes, then look no further, as a Whisky Tail Cruise aboard the Scottish Highlander is the right vacation for you! Visit some of the finest distilleries in Scotland in the most picturesque areas of the highlands. There’s Dalwhinnie Distillery in the Cairngorms, the nineteenth century Tomatin Distillery, and Glen Ord Distillery on the Black Isle. There’s also an excursion to Benromach Distillery near Forres, which is the smallest Speyside distillery. On a Whisky Tail cruise aboard Scottish Highlander, you’ll taste single malt whiskies from up and down the Caledonian Canal, spanning a historic timeline of well over one hundred years. Discover the full itinerary before booking your place.

Spirit of Scotland Whisky on board
Single malt whiskies available on board

Ready to Cruise aboard the Scottish Highlander

If you’ve been inspired and would like to experience the Scottish Highlander for yourself, why not speak to a friendly member of the European Waterways team. Alternatively, order a brochure to consider all of our cruise options!

You can also cruise the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness aboard the 12-passenger Spirit of Scotland, enjoying the same itinerary in reverse.

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