CRUISE Loch Ness are celebrating their best ever winter season, with an uplift of 16% in winter passenger numbers between 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.

It is a sharp increase on previous years, where winter passenger numbers rose by 6-7% year-on-year.

The firm launched a custom-built catamaran which holds 220 passengers last year to meet demand.

After being crowned small business of the year at the national FSB Business Awards, directors Ronald and Debi Mackenzie are preparing for what they think will be their busiest ever summer season.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited the team at the Fort Augustus base, saying: “It’s fantastic to hear that Cruise Loch Ness has had its best ever winter season, which is a testament to the hard work of Ronald, Debi and their team.”

Managing director, Ronald Mackenzie, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Cabinet Secretary today and show her our fleet. Loch Ness is one of Scotland’s best tourism assets and we are delighted to help so many visitors discover and enjoy it. We didn’t spot Nessie today, but the Cabinet Secretary is always welcome back!”