Over breakfast we cast off at the top of the flight of locks in Fort Augustus in sunshine and heavy showers, completing our transit of the Caledonian Canal. Although we were held up at Laggan Locks which were under repair, we enjoyed a few presentations by staff as we advanced along the canal to its highest point at Loch Oich before crossing the shallow Loch Lochy over lunch. By early afternoon we had arrived at the top of Neptune’s Staircase—an impressive flight of eight locks that lowers the canal down to the Atlantic sea lock at Corpach. We overnighted in the Corpach basin beneath the great massif of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain on mainland Britain.
Our afternoon activities were centered on Glenfinnan where a National Trust for Scotland visitor center was established to commemorate the place where ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie first raised his standard on the Scottish mainland at the start of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Today the site has been re-branded to celebrate Harry Potter, for the railway viaduct behind the center is the one over which the Hogwarts Express travels in the movies. One group took a longer hike which approached the viaduct from above before passing beneath it to return to the visitor center. A gentler walk was offered from the center itself over a boardwalk viewing wetland flora: birch, willow, alder, and a variety of ferns. So much rain had fallen over the past week that whole sections of the boardwalk were underwater. After dinner we were privileged to hear a presentation by Alasdair Gibson, the Glenfinnan estate manager who enthralled and amused by turns with his accounts of deer stalking on the estate.