It was 6:15 a.m.; the lights of Oban harbor were twinkling and the town still sleeping as we met for our early morning hikes in the gathering morning light. Some walked along the shoreline to a lighthouse. Others took the steep uphill route to McCaig’s Tower to drink in the view of Oban with its fishing boats, ferries, yachts, and all the islands beyond.
Back on board we were ready to cast off, sailing in beautiful weather between the mainland and the islands of Kerrera, Lismore, and Shuna, along the length of Loch Linnhe. Past the Corran Narrows, protected by a Stevenson lighthouse, past the town of Fort William, and finally to the entrance of the famous Caledonian Canal. Everyone was out on deck to witness the delicate maneuvering by Captain Tony and his crew as our good-sized ship, the Lord of the Glens, lined up to fit neatly into the first lock. The basin at Corpach is a lovely spot, with views over the sea and hills, dominated by the towering of Ben Nevis — at 4,411 feet, the highest mountain in the U.K.
Following lunch the afternoon was ours to explore. One group had the great pleasure of kayaking in perfect conditions in the waters of Loch Eil. The rest of us went by bus to Glenfinnan, famous originally as the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745, thus beginning the last, ill-fated Jacobite rebellion. Its popularity today, however, surrounds the steam train that runs from Fort William to Mallaig, made famous by its role in the Harry Potter movies. On schedule, the train came puffing across the viaduct that spans the deep glen at Glenfinnan, 100 feet above the river. The elegant viaduct comprises twenty-one arches, each fifty feet wide and constructed of mass concrete, and was completed in 1897. In the evening we enjoyed the company of Alastair, the manager of Glenfinnan Estate, who fascinated us with stories of deerstalking, forestry, and life in this part of Scotland.