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Loch Ness cruise business with red carpet guest list for sale

One of the Cruise Loch Ness vessels heads up the Caledonian Canal to the world-famous loch.
One of the Cruise Loch Ness vessels heads up the Caledonian Canal to the world-famous loch.

A 53-year-old Highland tourism business with monster appeal is up for sale for the first time.

Property giant Savills is inviting offers for Cruise Loch Ness, whose vessels ply back and forth across parts of one of the most famous and mystifying bodies of water in the world.

The award-winning business is based in Fort Augustus.

It has been owned and run by the same family since Norman Mackenzie launched it more than 50 years ago.

Mr Mackenzie’s son, Ron, has owned the operation outright since June 2000.

Current owner Ron Mackenzie.

One of the biggest days in the firm’s history was in August 2001, when legendary Scottish entertainer Sir Billy Connolly chartered one of its boats, Royal Scot, for the day.

Sir Billy and his wife, Pamela Stephenson, invited along a few of their Hollywood chums, including Robin Williams, Ewan McGregor, Steve Buscemi and Eric Idle,  for Cruise Loch Ness’ first big celebrity private hire.

Sir Billy talks to his wife, Pamela, after their Loch Ness cruise.

Celebrities and non-celebrities are always keen to hear what may or may not lie beneath the deep waters of the loch.

Sonar equipment beams live images to Nessie hunters on the Cruise Loch Ness fleet.

Savills is marketing a 100% stake in the business, which started in May 1968 with an ex RNLI lifeboat carrying only 12 passengers.

Today, it has a fleet of four high specification vessels.

These include its  flagship boat Spirit of Loch Ness, which can carry up to 210 people, and The Legend of Loch Ness, with a maximum capacity of 108 passengers.

Spirit of Loch Ness, a £1.5m catamaran.

Two rigid inflatable boats, carrying a maximum of 12 passengers each, provide a more exhilarating experience.

The business has won multiple awards over the years, including one for the nation’s best visitor attraction, which came at the 2019 Scottish Thistle Awards.

It also celebrated a double triumph in the UK final of the Federation of Small Businesses’ annual awards that year.

It won the federation’s top gong for family-run firms and was also crowned small business of the year.

‘Rare opportunity’

Richard Prestwich, director in the leisure and trade-related team at Savills, said: “This is an extremely rare opportunity and the first time this business has been taken to the market.

“The highly reputable, award-winning visitor attraction is in a world-renowned location and has strong credentials, with a proven track record.

“It is recognised as one of the leading tourist attractions in Scotland and we expect significant interest.”

The late, great Robin Williams, star of a raft of Hollywood movies, enjoyed a day out on the loch with Sir Billy Connolly.

Savills highlighted the tourism appeal of Fort Augustus in its sales pitch.

It added: “The village is a tourist hub in its own right and boasts a selection of niche tourist boutiques, cafes, restaurants, pubs and accommodation.

“Loch Ness cruises are the main attraction in the area and the bespoke designed pontoons provide accessible boarding to the vessels on the Caledonia Canal.”

According to research published in 2018, the Loch Ness Monster was worth nearly £41m to the Scottish economy annually in the years before the Covid-19 pandemic.

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