Activities today started even before breakfast had been served when a group of our fellow travelers took the opportunity to walk along the canal tow path—flat, even, straight—toward the first set of locks that the ship would encounter. It was wet and gray, but spirits were high.
Those left on board enjoyed a hearty breakfast as the ship cast off and sailed quietly into the middle of the canal and headed west. Mid-morning, our historian gave a presentation on the Scottish Highland Clearances, detailing the appalling actions of 18th- and 19th-century landowners and clan chieftains who brutally forced tens of thousands of their own people off the land and into starvation while the chieftains grew richer with the introduction of sheep. A very black and notorious time in Scottish history.
By mid-afternoon we were moored alongside in Corpach with the western end of the canal only two locks away, dead ahead of us. We would navigate these locks tomorrow. But for this afternoon we took a coach and headed west along the banks of quiet Loch Shiel and toward Glenfinnan. This is where Bonnie Prince Charlie mustered his loyal Jacobite chieftains in 1745 and started the rebellion that ended in Culloden. It is a beautiful spot with misty mountains surrounding the soft, dark waters of Loch Finnan, all framing the Victorian-constructed tower raised to commemorate the many clansmen who died during the campaign.
The area is a huge draw for fans of the highly successful “Harry Potter” series of books and films. Glenfinnan is the location of the enormous railway viaduct seen in the films with the Hogwarts Express train (in reality, the Jacobite Steam train from nearby Fort William) crossing its wide, curved track. Hundreds of fans daily squeeze into the narrow historic, scenic location just to get a glimpse and photograph of the train. Despite the crowds, we had a choice of hikes and eventually found some peace and quiet in this wonderful location.
Post-dinner, we had an enlightening insight into the life and work of a professional gamekeeper when Alistair Gibson, head stalker at the huge Glenfinnan Estate, gave his deeply personal and fascinating comments into managing a herd of some 650 deer, hundreds of acres of forest, and generally maintaining the hills, glens, lochs, and fields that we have been passing through for the last two days.
Tomorrow we will leave the freshwater of the Caledonian Canal and head into the saltwater of Loch Linnhe, bound for Oban.