Caledonian Canal | Loch Lochy | Neptune's Staircase

Jul 23, 2019 - Lord of the Glens

Morning light streamed across the Caledonian Canal as we disembarked early for our pre-breakfast walk. The canal path was a beautiful, lined with wildflowers, and home to a plethora of frogs that hopped across our route into the undergrowth. The incredible light dappled the small cottages nearby and imposing mountains loomed behind them.

We chatted as we made our way—three miles from Fort Augustus to Kytra—and then returned to board the ship for breakfast. Afterward, we continued our journey through the canal system. Most of us headed outside to take in the beautiful landscapes and we spotted our first wild mammals—a small herd of red deer up on a hillside.

As we passed into Loch Lochy, we heard a fascinating lecture on photography that included a good smattering of comedy and tips for everyone at every level. As the talk came to a close, we passed through Moy Bridge, a beautiful, old swing bridge.

After lunch, we sailed through a famous feat of engineering: Neptune’s Staircase. The staircase lock system was designed and built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822 and comprises eight locks on the Caledonian Canal. It is the longest staircase lock system in Britain and although it’s driven by hydraulic power today, it was originally built to be powered by hand.

Once through the locks, it was time to head our separate ways for the afternoon. Most of us headed to Glenfinnan to see the historic viaduct of recent Harry Potter fame and walk around the beautiful estate. The weather was kind to us and bathed the beautiful pathways and hillsides in glorious sunshine. We explored the grounds, enjoying the natural beauty of Scotland and the atmosphere of a true, highland estate. Those who chose not to visit the estate went kayaking and had a fantastic time paddling about in the loch.

After our afternoon’s exploits, we returned to the ship for evening recap and dinner, after which Glenfinnan Estate Manager Alastair Gibson regaled us with stories from his time on the job.

We overnighted in our mooring at Corpach and looked forward to heading into the salt waters of Loch Linnhe and for more exciting adventures.

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About the Author

Ella Potts


Ella’s passion has always been in marine conservation, with a childhood spent swimming, kayaking or boating in the chilly waters of the UK, or surveying the marine life of those waters from windswept headlands. She has numerous, distinct early memories of shivering adults, wrapped up in jumpers and cagoules, looking down at her with slight horror through sheets of rain and commenting on her short sleeves. A phenomena that persists to this day.  She graduated with a Masters degree in Marine Biology: Conservation and Resource Management from Swansea University, setting her up for a career protecting those marine ecosystems that she so loves. 

Ella has worked for several British whale conservancy charities, including ORCA and the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) and is a British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) marine mammal medic. She has a real passion for lecturing, and during her time in these different organizations has presented to vastly ranging audiences; from groups of young children right up to filled auditoriums at the headquarters of HWDT partner, WWF. 

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