Scotland’s coasts and waters have long proved a magnet for visitors, with many choosing to explore the landscape on a guided boat tour. To celebrate the Year of Coasts and Waters, Loch Tay Safaris teamed up with the Scottish Crannog Centre to create an innovative new tour. We spoke to Stuart Brain, Manager at Loch Tay Safaris, to find out more.
Why did your business decide to get involved with Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21?
A celebration of Scotland’s lochs, coasts and waterways was the perfect way to get involved in a Themed Year. Themed years raise the profile of tourism businesses involved in that particular theme and as we run a boat tour on Loch Tay this was our opportunity to participate and to raise the profile of Loch Tay Safaris, and also use this to offer our visitors something a little different.
How did the idea for the collaboration come about?
We took the Crannog team on the boat in 2019 as a fam trip that was only supposed to last an hour; two hours later after a lot of discussion, chat and fun we had devised a whole new tour based around crannogs on the loch. It was immediately shelved for future consideration but once the Themed Year was announced we thought that our musings could be developed into a proper tour. Then lockdown came about and things were very much put on hold for a year.
Once the lockdown restrictions were released and we had found out that the Year of Coasts and Waters had been extended, we were keen to announce to everyone that we were back open for business and that the area was also ready to welcome visitors.
Working in partnership with other businesses is always something that both Loch Tay Safaris and Highland Safaris have been keen on and we work with several local businesses in various ways. A collaborative cruise with the Crannog Centre was the ideal way to cement partnerships and promote collaboration between local business and also provide a fun, informative and brand-new tour for the reopening in 2021.
Can you tell us more about the new product you developed – what can visitors expect?
We are offering a truly unique, 5* tour collaboration that interprets Loch Tay and it’s crannogs like never before. On these special departures, our Skipper and crew are accompanied by a Scottish Crannog Centre Guide, and together they interpret Loch Tay’s crannogs, surrounded by the magical surroundings of the loch whilst bringing its Iron Age history to life.
Passengers learn about how the loch was formed, how the loch was surveyed, and the crannog sites recorded and how these sensitive sites were excavated as well as how people adapted to living around and over its mysterious dark waters. This all happens from aboard our custom-built RIB Iolaire with a comfortable heated cabin.
Once back on dry land, passengers have the opportunity to visit the Scottish Crannog Centre to see inside a reconstruction of a crannog first-hand and learn how the people lived, worked and used the environment around the loch.
The aim of these cruises is to raise the profile of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 to both locals and visitors alike and offer guests a chance to get back out and reconnect with nature and enjoy a truly unique tour. We are using the Themed Year to allow guests to see crannogs from a perspective only available on the water using the combined resources of two of Scotland’s leading tourist attractions.
Iolaire with the Scottish Crannog Centre behind. Image credit: Iain Struthers Photography
What feedback have you had so far from customers?
We have now run several of these special cruises and have had some great feedback both in person and on Tripadvisor. People really enjoy a slightly different view of the loch and with the aid of the Crannog Centre guide can picture how the loch looked during Neolithic times.
Feedback from those joining us has allowed us to make some subtle changes to information presented and the tour itself, primarily to reduce the sheer amount of information presented - both Loch Tay Safaris and Crannog Centre guides have a great depth of knowledge and were perhaps too keen to disseminate this to guests - less is definitely more in this case.
Overall, both businesses are delighted with the feedback from passengers and are both keen to run more collaborative cruises.
Do you feel that the Themed Year provided you with a new opportunity and would you potentially get involved in future Themed Years?
The Themed Year has certainly allowed us to raise the profile of both businesses by being able to promote a new, unique tour that is just that little bit different. The tour has been well received and has had some great press coverage locally and also at a national level. We are already looking ahead to the Year of Stories 2022 to see where we can develop a tour alongside this Themed Year.
These cruises are a limited time offer each Wednesday @14:00 from 4th of May until the 23rd of June. All booking must be made in advance at www.lochtaysafaris.net Adult £45.00 Child £30.00, price includes Loch Tay Safari Cruise and entry to the Scottish Crannog Centre Minimum numbers are required, and cruises are weather dependant.
Other examples of new product & experiences
Several other businesses have taken an innovative approach, creating new product and experiences to align with the themed year. Dunnet Bay Distillers created a new Coast and Waters themed tasting room for visitors to enjoy while sampling their award-winning spirits.
The Melvich Hotel on the Caithness coast have made the most of their location, offering discounts for surfing lessons and weekend collaborations with local watersports provider North Coast Watersports, as well as ‘SWELL surf + stay’ weekend packages.
National Trust for Scotland’s Culzean Castle & Country Park have launched a brand-new sculpture trail in their grounds as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters’ supported events programme. ‘Culzean by the Sea’ features 15 willow sculptures created by David Powell which depict real and mythical water-dwelling creatures. NTS also created a special trail map with fun facts and questions which visitors can complete as part of their visit. The trail runs until 26 September 2021.