The largest boat to ever sail Loch Ness, the Jacobite Warrior, was officially christened today (22 June) by Fergus Ewing at a special launch ceremony.
The Warrior, set to be a huge boost the Highland tourism industry, will carry up around 1,500 tourists a day. She marks an investment of over £1million from award winning tourist cruising company Jacobite Cruises.
Freda Newton, owner of Jacobite Cruises, said: "We are delighted to welcome Mr Ewing as a guest of honour on board the Jacobite Warrior. She is a fantastic addition to our fleet and today's launch ceremony marks a significant milestone for Jacobite Cruises.
"The Warrior is twice the size of our existing boats and has capacity to carry over 250 passengers. In previous years we were turning people away because we simply didn't have enough room to welcome everyone on board. Now with the addition of the Warrior we no longer have that issue.
"At Jacobite Cruises we strive to offer an unrivalled experience of Loch Ness and we see the Warrior as a welcome investment to the burgeoning Highland tourism industry."
At yesterday's launch ceremony Mr Ewing, the Scottish Government's Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism partook in a traditional naming ceremony with a Scottish twist. A splash of Glen Mhor whisky, which is distilled from the water of Loch Ness, was poured over the boat. The whisky was then distributed round the 80 attending guests who were serenaded on the cruise by a traditional Scottish piper.
Mr Ewing said: "Today's launch ceremony marks an important investment in the Highland economy and I am delighted to have been involved in the naming ceremony for this impressive boat.
"Tourism is one of Scotland's key growth sectors and is the Highland's most important industry, worth over £600million to the economy. Jacobite is a perfect example of a local tourism company not only investing in the future of tourism in the Highlands, but investing to improve the customer experience of visitors to the area. I am pleased to be here in person to offer sincere congratulations to Freda Newton and her team."
This latest Jacobite expansion has been assisted by financial backing from Bank of Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Rhona Fraser from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "We are delighted to have supported Jacobite Cruises with their latest venture. This is only one of a number of projects we have worked together on over a number of years. Loch Ness is a destination that attracts visitors from across the world and the Jacobite Warrior adds to the high quality experience offered by the company. We wish Jacobite Cruises all the best and look forward to working with them well into the future."
Relationship Manager at the Bank of Scotland, Steve Blacklaw welcomed the firm's newest venture.
He said: "We have a long-standing and very positive relationship with Jacobite and are delighted to support this addition to their fleet," said Steve.
"The new vessel will bring an added attraction to the visitor attractions already available on Loch Ness and I am sure will have a hugely positive impact on all aspects of the local tourist trade. We wish the team at Jacobite Cruises every success in the future."