Sep 01, 2018 - Lord of the Glens
After a tranquil night in the Caledonian Canal at Corpach at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak, there was no sight of the mountain this morning as the view was hidden behind a veil of cloud and mist. Berthed close to us was the Vic 32, built in 1943, a rare survivor of a Clyde Puffer, a coal-powered workhorse that once plied the west coast of Scotland. But soon we were sailing in stately fashion along the canal to Banavie, where first the railway bridge, then the road bridge swung open for us to pass, before we began our ascent of Neptune’s Staircase. This flight of eight locks is one of the most spectacular features of Telford’s Canal, which was completed in 1822, although we were as much a curiosity to the canal-side onlookers as the historic engineering was to us.
Onward we sailed, past Moy Bridge, the last original hand-cranked swing bridge, through Loch Lochy, past the ruins of Invergarry Castle, along the beautiful ‘Laggan Avenue’, and into Loch Oich, at 106 feet the highest point of the canal. Afterwards, it was delightful to walk the final stretch on the canal towpath, as Lord of the Glens steamed past towards her berth at Fort Augustus.
This charming village is built around the five locks that descend to the deep waters of Loch Ness, although its name goes back to the time of the Jacobite rebellions when General Wade built a fort here in the early 19th century. A Benedictine abbey was later built on the site, today converted into luxury apartments overlooking Loch Ness. Another hike led through the lovely countryside around the village, along a peaty trout-rich river, through a venerable graveyard graced with timeless yews, where ‘John Anderson my Jo’, the subject of Rabbie Burns’ famous song is buried, through some of the Celtic ‘rain forest’ with hazel, rowan, hawthorn, alder and ancient oaks, and home along the line of Wade’s military road. The day was completed in appropriate style with some sweet and stirring traditional Scottish music on the small pipes and accordion. A fitting end to a day full of Highland delights.
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