A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
It was mostly pouring rain. We had some nice country to look at when it wasn’t pouring rain. When it was pouring rain we washed ourselves of the smell of bigotry. We drove alongside the railway line out to Kyle of Lochalsh. We crossed the bridge to the isle of Skye and headed over the beautiful road to Armadale. The ferry across to Mallaig was closed due to wind. This was inspiration for my planned Rail Trail Isle of Skye multi-day hike.
There’s one of the Cal-Mac Ferries we never caught. So an enforced change of route. Instead of going via Mallaig we would have to go via Loch Ness and The Great Glen. No-one is disappointed by that.
So we turned around and drove back inland all the way to Loch Ness. No cheesy Loch Ness Monster hysteria was witnessed and instead we marveled at the very real Caledonian Canal.
The fantastic topography of Scotland means that the canal which connects Inverness on the north west coast to Fort William on the east is only 60 miles long. 60 miles from coast to coast along the Great Glen, an ancient tectonic fault line. Compare that with hundreds of miles of the North Sea around the scarily named Cape Wrath and down the rocky north atlantic coast of Scotland. That trip didn’t work out too well for the Spanish Armada of 1588. Originally the canal was designed with sailing ships in mind. It can handle long, wide, deep and tall. However by the time it was finished things had changed. Is it not always so. Sailing vessels still pass through it with out lowering masts, bridges for cars and trains are either high above the canal or more often they pivot out of the way.
Interestingly one of the reasons the Caledonian Canal was built was to reinvigorate the depressed highlands in the wake of the Highland Clearances. The great Scottish Engineer Thomas Telford was charged with the design. The project, of course, was completed late and for a lot more money than originally estimated. By 1822 the interest of the Royal Navy had wained somewhat after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. The nature of ocean going ships was changing too; great steam powered steel vessels were being built and the canal, while large, was not large enough.
We were once again blessed with sunshine. (It is always better appreciated when girth by clouds and downpours.) We met the Loch at Invermoriston and travelled along the canal and railway all the way to Fort William. Funnily enough that is the start of the Cape Wrath Trail: a great walk using the oldest form of human transport and links the problem and the (failed) solution of trans-caledonian ship travel.
Thats another walk for the bucket list.
There can hardly be a more epic setting for a canal than this. That said the same Thomas Telford designed the Gota Canal in Sweden which is referred to as the sister project of the Caledonian. That’s pretty and pretty interesting too. The more I see the more I want to see.
Unusually there are no photos from me on this Post. That’s due to rain, driving and the fact that the best stuff I got was in Video form and I can’t get that up here on WordPress in my current set up. Thus thanks to:
CalMac Ferries, Google Maps, Scottish Canals, “Bruce”, Iain Harper and http://www.gotakanal.se/en/
( Cape Wrath Photo Thanks to “Bruce” via the very cute blog http://northtothecape.tumblr.com Interestingly this blog became another blog; http://capewrathtrailguide.org/blog/ which is in fact the blog of the book shown above. I am hoping that plugging the book and saying “Thanks Bruce” is good enough as a photo credit. )