Corpach to Fort Augustus

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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About the Author

Carol Knott

Expedition Leader

Carol studied archaeology, history and philosophy at the University of Glasgow, her native city. She spent many years as an archaeologist in the southeast of England, specializing in medieval ceramics and the conservation of historic houses and gardens. Since 1988 she has worked as an archaeologist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, living in a crofting village on the Isle of Lewis, and was formerly archaeologist for the National Trust for Scotland for their World Heritage site of St Kilda. Her great pleasure is to explore the cultures of Scotland, Europe and the north Atlantic, and to bring them to life for a modern audience. 

About the Photographer

Brenda Tharp

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

For over 20 years, Brenda has used her photographs of the world to celebrate its beauty, and inspire others to protect what we have. Brenda grew up exploring the woods, lakes, and coastlines of New Jersey and New England and her family traveled regularly throughout the eastern U.S., camping, hiking, backpacking, and canoeing. She spent most of her childhood engaging with nature in some form or another and learning about animal behavior. When her father taught her some photography at 13, Brenda soon combined her love for nature with her newfound passion, and several years later her adventure began as a freelance photographer, teacher, and writer.

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