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Review: Glen Tarsan

Cruise - River Cruise

A cruise with a difference with The Majestic Line

  • By SilverTraveller Alan-Fairfax

    83 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon Ribbon

  • 2012
  • Wife
  • Regular holiday
  • Outside

167 people found this review helpful

This was supposed to be a cruise with a difference and it really was, read on…

Once onboard it was time for the safety drill given by the Skipper which was very thorough and inspired confidence. A few minutes later it was a glass of Champagne in one hand and waving farewell with the other as we slipped away from our mooring at Holy Loch. A piper is playing on the quayside as we say goodbye and start our 4 day, 3 night cruise aboard Majestic Lines boat the Glen Tarsan.

Glen Tarsan started life as a fishing trawler operating out of Ireland but was converted into a small luxurious cruise boat that now operates around the Lochs and Isles of Western Scotland. At 85ft. in length, 24ft. width and weighing in at only 180 tonnes this has to be one of, if not the, smallest cruise vessel afloat. Carrying a maximum of 11 passengers in 6 comfortable en suite cabins puts this in a very exclusive part of the market. The crew of 4 were Skipper Iain, Chef Stephen, David the Engineer and Martin the Bosun. The crew all help about the ship from serving drinks and meals to keeping the cabins neat and tidy.

My cabin was on the main deck and had a window that opened. The bed was large and comfortable whilst the bathroom was large enough to have a wash basin unit, small shower cubicle and a proper flush toilet. Soap, shampoo, shower gel and towels are all supplied as is a hair dryer. In the cabin are several electrical sockets and above the bed are reading lights. Certainly the best use has been made of all possible space.

In the main saloon is the large dining table which everyone shares. With large windows on 3 side’s it means the beautiful scenery makes a great backdrop whilst eating. Comfy arm chairs line one side of the saloon where you can sit and enjoy a book from the good selection carried on board. There are also DVD’s to watch as well as an active screen that shows the position of the boat. In the corner is a small but well stocked bar at reasonable prices. Opening hours are 0900hrs – 0859hrs.

First night dinner was the time to meet our fellow passengers who had travelled from other parts of the British Isles as well as France. The meal was a real taste of things to come. Nibbles were Mixed Greek Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes, followed by slow cooked Gigot of Argyll Lamb with an herb crust, Turnip Dauphiness, Green Beans, Spring onion Masu and Red Wine Gravy. Pudding was a fabulous Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake. There were selections of cheeses and the choice of red or white wine is included in the cruise fare. To finish off was a ‘Sweet’ that the Chef called ‘Stags Breath’ which was a drink of Glayva and Glen morangie.

By now we had dropped anchor for the night and were at one end of Lake Striven. Surrounded by pine clad hills and a water so still that the reflection of the boat could be seen so clearly. The only moving things were the Gannets in the sky looking down on the lake for fish. Suddenly one would pull in its wings and streak for the water like a dive bomber before entering it and re-emerging with a fish. Sitting at the back of the ship on the open deck the stillness and quietness were haunting.

Night comes late at this time of year in Scotland and it was still light as I headed tor that large bed for my first night’s sleep aboard the Glen Tarsan.

The next morning I was up early and tried the shower. It was powerful and the water hot. Next stop was the wheel house as Majestic Line operates an open policy allowing passengers to visit at any time. Iain the Skipper was already there getting the weather reports for the day ahead and checking his charts. As I left and started back down the aroma of breakfast wafted towards me. Next stop the saloon where the table had been laid and some of my fellow passengers had already gathered. Within a few minutes the bell was rung indicating breakfast was about to be served. This turned out to be another feast with a choice of several cereals or porridge followed by the meatiest kippers I have ever had. Toast with jams and marmalades were in abundance all washed down by a choice of various teas or coffee.

Whilst having breakfast the anchor was raised and we began our journey along the loch towards our destination of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. The weather was unfortunately not at its best so most people remained in the saloon as we cut through the water at a steady 7 knots.

At about 10.30am we dropped anchor in Rothesay Bay. Time now for our first ride in the small tender that would take us ashore. Martin and David were in charge and gave us our life jackets which they insisted we wear at all time whilst in the tender. The transfer took about 4 minutes as we bounced across the water with the wind in our faces.

On landing 4 of us took a taxi to Mount Stuart where the original house was built in about 1716 but which was unfortunately destroyed by fire. The present day house is still claimed to be unfinished despite continual building through the 1900’s. It has the most magnificent marble hall where huge pictures adorn two of the walls. In one corner is an organ that was played by Lionel Ritchie when he and his then wife Madonna stayed at the house for the wedding of Stella McCartney. A marble staircase leads to the beautiful gallery and the various bedrooms which have been slept in by so many famous people over the years. For me the jewel in the crown was the white marble chapel that is so plain yet so exotic. When the sun shines through the red glass it transforms the marble to pink.

It was then back to the ship for lunch and an afternoon cruising through the Kyle’s of Bute towards Loch Riddon where we would eventually anchor for the night. Passing the occasional Porpoise and watching the birds glide through the sky it was so, so, relaxing. I went and joined Iain in the wheel house from where you get the perfect view. Iain is a great person to talk with as his obvious intimate knowledge of the lochs and isles is fascinating. As the end of the loch came into sight the engine was throttled back and the boat slowed to enable the anchor to be dropped. Standing on one of the wheel house wings with the engine switched off you again become aware of the stillness about you and the tranquillity of the area. Iain announced that Dave and Martin would take the tender to the foot of the cliffs where the water was still deep and place the Lobster pots to see what could be caught. Off they went with two Silver Travellers aboard with them.

Dinner was another beautiful meal starting with Nibbles of Haggis & Whiskey on Rye bread and/or hot Smoked Salmon Pate and Smoked Prawn on Pumpernickel. A main course of local Salmon and Prawn parcel accompanied by Lemongrass and Ginger with Potatoes, Carrots and Mange Tout. For those that could manage it there was still Orange Pannacotta accompanied by a Strawberry and Orange salad and a selection of cheeses to come. Tonight the ‘Sweet’ was an Arran Fondant. Again the wine washed this down so well. Sitting around chatting after dinner it was so obvious that this cruise was living up to everyone’s expectations. Again most people turned in fairly early ready for the next day.

On deck at 7am the next morning you could see the mist rising from the pine cladded hills and everything was silent. Even the birds were still asleep and the water was like a mirror only to be rippled as the tender made its way to the Lobster pots to see what had been caught. On their return it was found that the pots only contained small crabs which were put back into the loch.

At breakfast Iain announced that we would be heading for the town of Tarbert which is situated on Loch Fyne and entrance to the Kintyre peninsula. This is a small town where houses nestle around the natural harbour and the fishing industry is still important. We went ashore and explored the small art galleries and shops. The view of the town is dominated by the church which has an unusual four arch tower with a further tower atop this. It was then back to the boat and an afternoons sailing past the many seafood farms to our evening anchorage at Otter Ferry on Loch Fyne. On our journey Iain stopped the boat on several occasions so we could see the various forms of wild life. The height of the afternoon for me was seeing some baby seals basking on a large rock. They just lay there looking at us with an uninterested look on their faces. A sight I had often seen on a wildlife program but never before as a reality. A fabulous sight which I captured on disc. Finally at about 5pm we arrived at Otter Ferry where the anchor was dropped and the tender launched to take those that wanted to the Oyster Catcher. No it has nothing to do with the famous mollusc but is in fact a pub on the shores of the loch. Sitting by the shore with a pint of real ale looking out across still water to the ship that had been home for the last 3 days was just dreamy.

Tonight was our last night and I wondered what delights Stephen had prepared for our dinner. Too soon the tender was there to take us back to the boat. As we boarded a wonderful aroma wafted from the galley telling us that dinner was on its way and it was time for pre dinner drinks. Tonight of all nights the sky had cleared and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. The sun shone through the saloon windows illuminating all areas and the table was laid to the high standard we had by now become accustomed to.

Tonight’s starter was Parmesan Risotto with Monk fish and roasted Garlic. It was delicious. Main course, Roast Duck Breast accompanied by creamed cabbage and peas, mashed potato with bacon and Madeira gravy. For those that could manage it there was Chocolate and Islay Malt Tart with Blackberries and a selection of Cheeses. The ‘Sweet’ this evening was Bilgewater Gin and Lime followed by coffee. With a cloudless blue sky it was then that moment to go out on the open deck to see the sun drop down behind the hills on the western horizon.

The next morning it was up, pack, have breakfast and get ready to disembark at Portavadie ready for Andy the Shore Manager to drive us back to Glasgow Airport. Saying goodbye to Iain, Stephen, Martin and David was like saying goodbye to friends which is what they had become over the last 4 days.

How do you summarise a trip like this? Well, with great difficulty. Majestic is a cruise line that has captured a niche in the market. They have taken 2 large fishing boats and turned them into small luxury cruise boats. The Glen Tarsan and its sister ship the Glen Massen. They go to places that not even small cruise ships can’t get to. They can stop near islands so that the passengers can see the wildlife, anchor at night in peaceful and secluded backwaters and lochs. The scenery is breath taking and the stillness at night is almost eerie. They have an open wheel house policy and engine room policy so you can see the real workings of the boat and have the chance to become a part of it. Combine this with good food, comfortable accommodation, a professional, knowledgeable and friendly crew for whom nothing is too much trouble and you have a recipe for success. Until I took this cruise I didn’t realise how beautiful the area was and wouldn’t have missed it for anything. To Iain, Martin and David, you are a great crew and to Stephen you are a great Chef, those Kippers were fantastic.

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 2 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    over 7 years ago
    It sounds fantastic and so different to the massive cruise ships...
  • Su
    almost 8 years ago
    Sounds a wonderful holiday. We have never been on a river cruise, but after reading this I think it would be something we'd consider.