Jul 26, 2018 - Lord of the Glens
Scotland is often thought of as full of damp mists and blowing clouds, but today, the sleepy village of Corpach woke to a morning sparkling with gentle sunshine and clear, blue skies. The waters of the Caledonian Canal and adjacent Loch Linnhe were glassy and calm, and Britain’s highest mountain, the mighty Ben Nevis, presided over the view.
Out we sailed through the last sea lock, past the historic pepperpot lighthouse into salt water. The town of Fort William, founded in 1690 as a government garrison to keep an eye on unruly Highland clans during the reign of King William of Orange and Queen Mary, slipped away behind us as we continued southwest toward Oban.
We passed by salmon and mussel farms, and dolphins swam beside us for a brief while. Photographer Eric Kruszewski gave a presentation on the marvels of smartphone photography. Soon Lord of the Glens approached Oban Bay, guarded on one side by the ancient ruins of Dunollie Castle, and sheltered by the island of Kerrera on the other. Today, the bay thronged cheerfully with ferries, yachts, and fishing boats, but back in the year 1263 AD, a great Viking fleet of longships led by King Haakon IV of Norway mustered here, preparing to do battle with the king of Scotland for possession of the Hebrides.
There was much to see and do in Oban. People have lived here for at least 8,000 years, since Mesolithic times, as evidenced by tools and other artifacts found in caves. The town has produced whiskey since 1794, and a tour of the fascinating process of malting the barley, distilling the spirit, and maturing the casks concluded with a tasting of delicious 14-year-old malt.
The skyline of the town is dominated by a peculiar circular stone structure reminiscent of the Colosseum. McCaig’s Tower was commissioned by a wealthy local businessman as a monument to his family, but the structure was unfinished by the time of his death in 1902. A brisk uphill walk to the tower was rewarded with magnificent views across the bay to the islands of the Hebrides and beyond.
Known as “the Seafood Capital of the North,” Oban is celebrated for its marine harvest and, while much of it is exported to the continent, the town is full of restaurants, cafés, and shops serving a great variety of fresh fish, crab, mussels, scallops, oysters, and lobsters.
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