Corpach, Fort Augustus

Jun 07, 2019 - Lord of the Glens

Today we started our northeast journey up the Caledonian Canal to Inverness. The canal is 60 miles long, consisting of both natural lochs and constructed stretches, with a total of 29 locks. We began our travels up the canal by climbing Neptune’s Staircase, a series of eight locks that raise the canal by 19m (62ft) over a quarter of a mile. The warm, sunny weather provided an ideal morning for watching the locks in operation as we made the ascent.

Once above Neptune’s Staircase, guests heard a talk on Scotland’s geology, flora, and fauna followed by a presentation on “Photography in a Positive Light: Taking your Photography to the Next Level.”

Between today’s starting point at Corpach and our destination at Fort Augustus, we traveled through many notable canal features. Mid-morning, we sailed through Moi Bridge, the last Telford designed bridge on the canal, which is still hand-cranked. Further along, we passed through the verdant stretch of Laggan Avenue, where the canal was dug down and trees planted to stabilize the soil piled on the canal banks. The lush woodland reaches over the water making for a green passage along the narrow stretch. Not far past Laggan Avenue, the ship entered Loch Oich, the highest part of the canal at 106 feet (32m) above sea level.

Shortly after lunch, one group set off on bicycles and another group on foot to follow the canal tow path to meet the boat at Fort Augustus, a pleasant way to enjoy the surrounding scenery. We all united in Fort Augustus, a small town established as a fort in 1729, part of the effort to subdue the Jacobites. The town is named after William Augustus, second son of King George II, who led the government troops at the Battle of Culloden.

In late afternoon, another walk was offered, a meandering scenic loop in the outskirts of Fort Augustus. We walked through pastures, oak woodlands, and into the Kilchuimen cemetery, where poet Robert Burns’ friend John Anderson is buried. In the peaceful graveyard with its towering yew trees, we read the poem Burns wrote for his friend, “John Anderson, My Jo.” Near the cemetery, a sheep farmer was vaccinating lambs, giving us a view of a farmer at work.

After a good day of presentations and outdoor activity, we all settled into the lounge for recap, with a highlight reel of past Scotland trips and a video on peat formation. The evening ended with traditional Scottish music from the Nessies, appropriate since we are now berthed near Loch Ness itself.

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About the Author

Robin Patten


The natural world has always been central to Robin’s life. At an early age, she was out exploring the Montana backcountry, learning natural history through experience. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in landscape ecology from Colorado State University, followed by an M.S. in Environmental Writing from the University of Montana and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Scotland’s Centre for Mountain Studies. Her studies included environmental history and cultural geography, and her work often focuses on the interactions between cultures and landscapes. Robin still lives in Montana, writing and working from a small cabin near Yellowstone National Park.

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