Safari cruises launched on Loch Tay after 70-year absence

Loch Tay safari cruises to begin in April. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/Contributed
Loch Tay safari cruises to begin in April. Picture: Phil Wilkinson/Contributed
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THE first commercial boat to operate on Loch Tay since WWII will next month begin 90-minute excursions on the iconic tourist attraction.

The 12-seater rib boat will show passengers the majestic Perthshire water while they hear all about the magic and myths which stretch back to the Iron age.

Historic cruises on the River Tay. Picture: Contributed

Historic cruises on the River Tay. Picture: Contributed

The new attraction has been introduced in celebration of Highland Safaris 25th anniversary.

Loch Tay is a dark stretch of freshwater which lies in the valley between the villages of Killin and Kenmore, stretching over 15 miles in length and one mile wide.

Long and narrow with steep sides, Loch Tay is the largest loch in Perthshire and one of the deepest in Scotland. Less famous than lochs Lomond and Ness, it is rich in history, heritage and mythology.

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This made Loch Tay the perfect location for an exciting new venture from the award-winning husband and wife team Donald and Julie Riddell. The couple are behind the five-star visitor attraction, Highland Safaris.

A brand new, custom-built 12-seater boat, will now – for the first time in almost 70 years - allow visitors to discover and explore this magical stretch of Scottish water, with Loch Tay Safaris.

The new rib boat has been named Iolaire, which means ‘eagle’ in Gaelic and was also the name of Donald Riddell’s great grandfather’s steam yacht, which served as an anti-submarine vessel in the First World War.

Donald, explaining the provenance of the Iolaire, said: “Both of our families have connections with the Loch and its surrounding areas stretching back to be able to bring it back to life with Loch Tay Safaris is incredibly exciting.”

During the 90-minute cruise the experienced skipper, Alex Martin, will point out the Loch’s nature and wildlife while passengers can sit back and absorb the Loch’s history and folklore that dates back to the Iron Age.

He will tell tales of the ancient settlers who lived on Loch Tay almost 2,500 years ago, and hear of the Victorian pleasure steamers that once cruised the waters with crowds of day trippers enjoying the stunning views flanked by the impressive bulk of the Ben Lawers mountain range, much of which is designated as a National Nature Reserve.

It will be the first time a commercial vessel has sailed the Perthshire loch since the Queen of the Lake ceased operations at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Highland Safaris, which is based next to the village of Dull in Perthshire, started with a Land Rover Safari experience in the local mountains to explore wildlife, landscape and history, and was fuelled by the Riddell’s passion for Scotland’s nature and wilderness - a passion they love sharing.

The move on to the waters of Loch Tay means Highland Safaris is now uniquely placed to share all aspects of Scotland’s heritage, culture and wildlife – on land and now water too.

Highland Safaris newest venture welcomes a new addition to the team in Iolaire’s skipper Alex Martin.

He has a degree in Marine Biology and Oceanography and is quite the extreme sports fan having spent two winter seasons in the French Alps.

Alex has chosen Loch Tay Safaris for his next adventure.

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Highland Safaris have been operating for 25 years, providing clients a five-star experience in the heart of Scotland.

The history of this dramatic loch has long been entwined with the people who have used it through the ages.

Human inhabitation stretches back 9000 years to a Stone Age encampment on the hillside of Ben Lawers and the Loch itself was home to 18 Iron Age settlements called Crannogs.

Loch Tay is framed wonderfully by Ben Lawers, Scotland’s 10th largest peak and the hills of Glen Lyon, Scotland’s longest Glen. Red Deer roam the hillsides and Golden Eagles soar above the peaks.