Editors note: Edward Garrett and his 26-year-old son Will just returned from a week’s sailing on the Scottish Highlander luxury barge. His son is reporting on the trip from his perspective in a separate blog on this site.
Second of three reports
Our traveling companions consisted of two well-traveled couples (one from London and the other from Sydney) who showed great consideration for other guests, an absolute necessity in such close quarters. In fact, it quickly becomes apparent that the good temperament of your traveling companions is essential for a pleasant journey. In fact, our traveling companions were so enamored with this type of cruising that they were on their second and fourth cruises with European Waterways, and assured me that they had never once experienced ungracious traveling companions.
Meals on board accommodate all guests at a single non-assigned seating, and were excellent. Rather than a menu, all meals are table d’hôte consisting of starters, a main dish and dessert dishes, and were introduced by our affable chef Dale just prior to being served. The cuisine was Scottish and always paired with a very nice selection of wines.
Special food requirements such as vegetarian or allergies are catered to if requested in advance (at least eight weeks prior to departure).
The galley was good-sized and immaculate
I was able to visit the ship’s galley on numerous occasions to observe the chef at work. To my surprise he used no recipes, but prepared everything from memory; sometimes changing preparation in midstream as his imagination dictated. Very creative indeed.
The kitchen itself was larger than you might imagine on a hotel barge, and well equipped. Food storage, handling and preparation followed good standard techniques and the cleaning and sanitizing of equipment followed industry doctrine.
Absolutely delicious full Scottish breakfasts were served at guest’s convenience including regional bacon and sausage, eggs (in various styles), porridge, haggis, black pudding, cereals, toast and breads, coffee, tea, fruit and juice.
I actually liked the haggis and black pudding!
I had tried both haggis and black pudding on previous trips to Scotland and found them, shall I say, unappetizing. Our chef, however, assured me that they had probably been prepared incorrectly, and urged me to try his. They were both delectable!
Lunch and dinner began with our guide introducing us to the wines that would accompany our meal: their origins, history and pairing rational. Wines from the U.S., Chili, Argentina, France, Spain, Italy and Portugal were served and all were first-rate.
Following the wines being served for our starters, the chef walked us through the meal offerings. He was indeed talented, combining texture, flavor, aroma and presentation in the creation of delicious dishes. His selections were imaginative and took full advantage of fresh local products. While the guests on board were well familiar with fine cuisine from their own experiences, all were impressed and appreciative of his skills. Table service was always friendly and attentive.
The regional cheeses were outstanding
Of special note were the offerings of regional Scottish cheeses following each meal. Not widely known for its cheeses, the assortments were absolutely delicious, high quality and surprising in their variety. There are currently more than two dozen cheese makers across Scotland, many from small creameries and farms. We were served excellent examples of Howgate, Scottish Brie, Brodick Blue, Crowdie, Swinzie and the perennial favorite, Scottish Cheddar.
By way of after-dinner entertainment, our group spent a little time each evening sampling the wide selection of single malt whiskies aboard, rating each in turn. On the last evening we had the “Final Four” playoffs to determine which whisky from which region of Scotland we enjoyed the most. My favorite has always been Lagavulin from Islay, but I was out-voted. The best? Sorry. It’s really better if you do your own research and gain valuable insight into the truth about Nessie sightings.
Next: An interesting assortment of shore excursions from the Scottish Highlander