Fort Augustus – Corpach – Glenfinnan

Aug 08, 2018 - Lord of the Glens


Today we traveled through the lower end of the Caledonian Canal, passing many notable canal features. Not far southwest of Fort Augustus, we reached the high point of the route at Loch Oich, 106 feet above sea level. Then, moving down toward sea level, the ship sailed through Laggan Avenue—a section where trees were planted to stabilize the banks, making for a verdant, lush passage through a narrow stretch of the canal. Further along was Moy Bridge, the last remaining Telford-designed bridge on the canal, and one that is still hand-cranked. Just before we put into our berth for the night at Corpach, Lord of the Glens worked its way down through Neptune’s Staircase, a series of eight locks that lowered the ship about 62 feet over a quarter of a mile, taking us almost down to sea level.

During our morning sail, naturalist Robin gave a presentation on “Natural Scotland,” an overview of the Highland geology, flora, and fauna that we will encounter along the way. She emphasized that this is a cultural landscape, where nature and culture are intertwined.

After lunch, most of us set off by bus for Glenfinnan, a beautiful valley not far from the canal, with a monument and visitor center. In 1745, Prince Charles landed in Glenfinnan and raised his standard to begin the campaign to restore the Stuart dynasty—the campaign that ended in the disastrous defeat at Culloden.

In Glenfinnan, one hiking group was dropped off at the train station above the monument to walk across the hills back to the visitor center. At the train station, the group saw a Jacobite steam train that had stopped to gather passengers before puffing off toward Mallaig on the coast. Then they were off for the hill walk over rough terrain, with dramatic Highland scenery around Loch Sheil and a view of the train viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films.

A second walking group started off near the monument itself to enjoy the forested trail on the shores of Loch Sheil. This group encountered the Glenfinnan Estate manager who shared some of the challenges of running such a large estate.

A few hardy folk opted to kayak in the afternoon, paddling around Loch Linnhe near our berth. They enjoyed spectacular scenery, with Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the U.K. at 4,412 feet, hovering in the background.

Before dinner, Captain Tony Reading gave a talk on the history of the Caledonian Canal. Following dinner, the BBC documentary “Canal Walks: The Caledonian Canal”—which included an interview with Captain Tony—played in the lounge. A special captain indeed!

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About the Author

Robin Patten

Naturalist

The natural world has always been central to Robin’s life. At an early age, she was out exploring the Montana backcountry, learning natural history through experience. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in landscape ecology from Colorado State University, followed by an M.S. in Environmental Writing from the University of Montana and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Scotland’s Centre for Mountain Studies. Her studies included environmental history and cultural geography, and her work often focuses on the interactions between cultures and landscapes. Robin still lives in Montana, writing and working from a small cabin near Yellowstone National Park.

About the Photographer

Eric Kruszewski

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

An editorial photographer and videographer based in Washington, D.C., Eric Kruszewski's multimedia work focuses on reportage and travel. His work is represented by National Geographic Creative, and he is a regular contributor to National Geographic's Image Collection.

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