Cruising to five-star status

Sweeney’s Balloch business buoyed by brilliance

Cruising to success –  John Sweeney jr, VisitScotland Regional Director David Adams McGilp, John Sweeney, David Adams, Craig Sweeney and Marc Sweeney.  Picture by Ian Watson

One of Scotland’s oldest family businesses has become one of only four five-star tours in the West of Scotland following a grading from VisitScotland.

Sweeney’s Cruise Co, operating boats on Loch Lomond since the 1880s, has received the top grading from the national tourism organisation’s Quality Assurance (QA) Scheme in recognition of its exceptional standards. The QA Scheme is a benchmark for quality across the tourism industry and operates across accommodation, visitor attractions and food sectors.

Based in Balloch, the business started out as a few rowing boats but now operates one of Scotland’s most luxurious passenger fleets, offering eight different cruises on board five vessels. After over 130 years, it has come to know every inch of Loch Lomond’s 23 miles, varied wildlife and wealth of history, legend and folklore.

Current manager John Sweeney, the fifth generation of his family to run the company, is always looking to improve the visitor experience, and has joined an impressive network of VisitScotland Information Partners (VIPs) committed to providing local information. The VIP programme looks to harness the local knowledge, warmth and enthusiasm of partners across the country to help visitors receive the warmest of welcomes and make the most of their trip to Scotland.

The business also enlisted the vocal talents of Neil Oliver, best known for presenting the BBC documentary Coast, in 2013 to enrich the tours for its patrons. Due to Oliver’s international acclaim, Sweeney’s have reported a significant increase in visitors from countries like Australia and New Zealand.

The company has plans to expand the variety of high quality onboard dining options for charters and special events. This will be spearheaded by new head chef Joanne Hamilton who brings with her a wealth of experience after travelling the world catering for celebrities.

John Sweeney, Manager of Sweeney’s Cruise Co, said: “It’s great to receive this award from VisitScotland. We’ve been offering boat tours on Loch Lomond for well over a century and in the last five years we’ve put in a lot of time and effort into getting ourselves a five-star grading. We are delighted to see all the hard work has paid off.”

David Adams McGilp, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “Congratulations to Sweeney’s Cruise Co on this outstanding achievement. It is a testament to the hard work put in by the Sweeney family and their fantastic team to achieve these exceptional standards.

“Our Quality Assurance Scheme is world-leading and provides a trusted, independent and impartial source of information for visitors. It is about much more than just a star rating – it is about the entire visitor experience and investing in the business to make it as economically sustainable, and profitable, as it can be.”

VisitScotland star awards are indicators of quality and provide reassurance to visitors. The national tourism organisation offers support to businesses to ensure they meet and exceed the high standards expected by visitors.

For more information about Sweeney’s Cruise Co go to

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