Places to Visit in Scotland
- Loch Lomond Seaplanes
The First in Britain
It seems extraordinary that the new tourism and travel venture by Loch Lomond Seaplanes is the first and only commercial seaplane company not only in Scotland but also in the United Kingdom.
Along the coasts and lakes of Canada, United States, island hopping in the Maldives, and around Australia and New Zealand, travelling by seaplane is the obvious, fast, safe and common mode of transport. Likewise, Scotland's landscape especially its wild and isolated Highland region featuring miles of lochs and seashore with small fishing ports, beaches and numerous islands is ideally suited for seaplane travel whether for a leisure excursion, a chartered day trip or a fast convenient service for island residents.
The Launch of Loch Lomond Seaplanes
The idea to create the first commercial Seaplane business came to Captain David West when observing the popular and successful commercial operations in Australia and Canada. If it worked there as a viable business, why not Scotland? West is a commercial pilot with 25 years experience flying all types of aircraft for international airlines. In May 2004 the company was launched with an office based at the marina at Rhu, Helensburgh, a short drive to Luss on Loch Lomond where the aircraft is based for excursions. This is a Cessna T206 Stationair, an amphibian plane that is able to land on water and on land. Upholstered in soft leather, it seats four passengers plus the pilot.
Captain West has joined forces with Pilot Shawn Stewart from Canada who has been flying seaplanes on Canada's West Coast around Victoria and Vancouver for over six years. He runs a training company teaching pilots and owns his own seaplane, a quick and easy way to get around the communities of British Columbia.
A Choice of Seaplane Journeys
Loch Lomond Seaplanes offers a range of half hour, one or two hour sightseeing excursion tours from Loch Lomond -that's Cameron House and the Loch Lomond Golf Course on the doorstep. Take a short trip around the loch and the Trossachs, high above the new National Park and rather than having to climb up one or two Munros - hills over 3000 feet - you can fly over them instead. The cost can be a very reasonable £110 for a Loch Lomond and Trossachs Panorama lasting 30 minutes. Or fly further afield to the West Coast, almost to the ferry port of Oban to see Mull and further south Jura and Islay. There are also history and heritage trips, which will take you over Inveraray, Kilchurn and Stalker Castles, skimming over Glencoe - all on one trip.
With a party of four passengers you can plan your own customised tour around Scotland. As the plane can take off on water or land, you can select your choice of pick up point and destination. For a birthday or celebration, why not take the seaplane and go somewhere rather special for lunch? Suggested restaurants are the superb hideaway for gourmet food at Monachyle Mhor, Balquidder or the Royal Hotel at Tighnabruaich on the Kyle of Bute for fresh seafood. If you are a golfer, the seaplane can whizz you and friends around a couple of fine courses, perhaps at Turnberry, Ayrshire or at Dornoch at the other side of the country on the North East coast. Trips incorporating wildlife, whisky tasting, fishing or mountain climbing can also be arranged.
Wherever you plan to go, you are sure to experience an exhilarating journey. My companion Ken, a keen photographer, and I experienced a fantastic and memorable 90-minute trip over to Argyll on the West coast one gloriously warm August day. The Cessna plane was pulled up on the beach just north of Luss, Loch Lomond. We met Shawn the pilot and clambered aboard, stepping up on the floating runners. Safely belted in with headphones on, we "taxied" out into the centre of the loch. Then with full throttle, we sped down the calm surface of the water and quickly lifted high in the air. We flew north, skimming over the hills to observe the fantastic terrain spread out below like a living, moving map. The distance travelled in just fifteen minutes is incredible and soon we were seeing Loch Awe ahead of us and Oban to the left. Shimmering in the sunlight were the individual shapes of the Western Isles, lying like long dark whales in the sea. It was simply stunning to see all around for miles and miles in every direction.
Depending on the duration of your journey perhaps you'll have time to stop off for lunch or drink at a lochside restaurant. From Loch Awe, we turned south heading for the Crinan Canal, opposite the island of Jura. The Cessna circled round lower and lower and landed near the marina, then taxied in to moor at the jetty, just like a normal boat. We sat outside the bar at the Crinan Hotel and sipped a glass of wine - coffee for our pilot - as we admired the fabulous views. Then back on board the seaplane, speeding off across the water and lifting high in the sky again. On the return journey we headed south towards Helensburgh and the Clyde and then inland and over the low hills to Loch Lomond. In just twenty minutes we had landed gently on the loch and taxied into the sandy beach.
This is certainly a fantastic way to explore Scotland without hours of motoring by road. The scenery may be spectacular but when time is precious on a vacation, you really wish to avoid driving miles through narrow glens and along single-track roads to get to the coast.
Destination Anywhere - Round Scotland in a Day
This private tour includes up to three hours flying and takes in Loch Lomond, Skye and Loch Ness. For two people only, it is totally bespoke, allowing a couple the freedom and choice to travel where you wish, to take in a certain golf course, a picnic lunch on an island or at a favourite restaurant or visit a castle just as they wish. You create the itinerary for the day with the seaplane at your disposal from 10 in the morning to 6 at night.
For leisure or corporate passengers, the ultimate journey by Loch Lomond Seaplanes is to charter the seaplane for your own personal itinerary. You could fly into Glasgow airport and then after a short stay in the city, take the train to Balloch on Loch Lomond and spend a night or two at Cameron House or the Lodge on Loch Lomond. Then take the Cessna to explore further afield as above, taking you to your next destination - one of Scotland's delightful country house hotels renowned for fine food such as Ardeonaig on Loch Tay or Ardanaiseig on Loch Awe. Stay here for a few days. The seaplane can then return to collect you after a relaxing stay.
Loch Lomond Seaplanes is a member of the prestigious Connoisseurs Scotland, representing fine 5 star hotels, luxury cruises and railway journeys.
Scotland is a very popular destination for weddings and honeymoons with a backdrop against ancient castles, Highland scenery and beautiful sandy beaches. With new civil wedding licence laws, couples may marry wherever they like. What could be more romantic than arriving on a Hebridean island or a lochside hotel by seaplane? ?
It seems that there is now a large number of Scottish island residents who may work or have business during the week in London and require fast, safe transport home on Friday night. Arriving at Glasgow airport, the seaplane can transport people to their homes on Jura or Mull saving the several hours normally spent driving by road followed by a ferry crossing.
Future Plans and Developments
Loch Lomond Seaplanes has plans for 2005 to expand the business with two larger planes, which would operate out of Glasgow and the Clyde area. They are also in negotiation with airports, regional councils and authorities across Scotland to establish a network of pick up and landing points to develop a flexible and wide based sightseeing and transport service for leisure, business and commuter travellers.
More Information and Bookings
Loch Lomond Seaplanes can be contacted by post via P O Box 26613, Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, G84 9YG (Telephone + 44  870 2421457). Their Web Site has more information and their e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The illustration here shows Loch Lomond Seaplanes aircraft taking off at Helensburgh.
Vivien Devlin, September, 2004
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