Jun 06, 2019 - Lord of the Glens

Tidal considerations necessitated an early departure from Oban this morning as we had to arrive at Corpach where the Atlantic sea lock of the Caledonian Canal is situated at the top of the tide. The Caledonian Canal was engineered in the opening decade of the 19th century by the great Scottish engineer Thomas Telford. It was a government-funded project at the time of the French Revolutionary Wars, designed to enable the more rapid exchange of naval vessels from the North Sea to the Atlantic. By the time the canal was completed, the wars had ended and the age of sail had been replaced by the age of steam. The larger steam-powered vessels were unable to navigate the canal and its commercial future looked unviable. Today, the bulk of the traffic on the canal is recreational and our ship, Lord of the Glens, is the largest vessel plying its tranquil waters. The canal runs through the Great Glen, a route from the earliest times, and links a sequence of freshwater lochs, including Loch Ness—the largest body of fresh water in Britain. 

Corpach is nestled beneath Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, a dramatic mountain with snow still glistening on its peak as we approach midsummer. A number of graded walks were offered from Corpach, including a section of mountain trail at Glenfinnan, famous as the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie set foot on mainland Scotland for the first time and raised his standard to start the ill-fated Jacobite rebellion of 1745. It is now mainly visited for views of the railway viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter films for the Hogwarts Express sequences. A gentler nature trail that negotiated wetlands and native forest was also enjoyed as was a walk along both sides of the Caledonian Canal to view Neptune’s Staircase, a spectacular sequence of eight locks that raise the canal to more than 60 feet within less than two miles of sea level. A sizable group opted for a kayaking adventure in Loch Eil, a sea loch that runs west of Corpach.

It was an active day and good appetites were satisfied with a lunch of fresh mussels obtained the day before at Inverlussa on the Isle of Mull and a dinner of local game casserole.

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About the Author

David Barnes

Expedition Leader

David studied history at the University of York in England and theology at the University of Wales. Research in the field of religious history (at Cardiff) followed on naturally. He has spent most of his professional life teaching history, most recently in adult education departments within the University of Wales where he has taught a wide variety of courses pertinent to the wider Atlantic world. In 1988, he made his first lecture-tour of the U.S. for the English Speaking Union. He has published extensively on Welsh history and topography–his most recent book being the Companion Guide to Wales (2005)–and is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Welsh cultural and literary journals. In the1990s, David was active in the field of international education, traveling worldwide and spending a year in the U.S. (in Atlanta and New York City). He speaks English and French in addition to his native Welsh.

About the Photographer

Eric Kruszewski

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Eric is an editorial and commercial photographer, videographer and FAA-certified drone pilot based near Washington, D.C. His work focuses on travel and documentaries and is represented by National Geographic Image Collection.

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