Yesterday, Tuesday 12th September, the outing was to “The Caledonian Canal and Nevis Distillery”. The following pre-prepared blog still seems appropriate. It has been enhanced based on yesterday’s trip.
A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Not Panama
The idea of linking together the lochs that eventually formed in this valley fault to provide a short-cut from west to east had been around for years.
Creating a canal across the heart of the Scottish Highlands from coast to coast was the jackpot project of Thomas Telford. (fbb has noticed a strange likeness between Mr Telford and bus boss Julian Peddle …
… but he doesn’t think they are related!)
Born in 1757 in the parish of Westerkirk near Lagholm, Dumfriesshire, Telford was commissioned by the government to give an objective opinion on improving Highland communications. The Government’s intentions were fourfold:
to find promising fishing stations
to see if a canal from east to west coast was practical
to find suitable harbours in the north-east for trading with the Baltic and use by the Royal Navy
to establish ‘a safe and convenient intercourse between the Mainland of Scotland and the Islands’
Started in 1803, the Caledonian Canal project was budgeted at £474,531 plus £15,000 for land purchases. A year later they were asked to estimate the cost of making the canal big enough to accommodate the 32-gun and 44-gun frigates of the Royal Navy. With £20,000 allocated for preparatory works and £50,000 a year after that, the canal project was programmed to take 10 years.
The section of canal from Inverness to Loch Ness was opened in the summer of 1818.
Finally completed in 1822, the canal has more recently become a popular attraction for visitors and recreation users …
So from Fort William at the head of Loch Linnhe is a canal into Loch Lochy …
… then another trench into the diminutive Loch Oich …
Finally it was out to the sea at Inverness.
Inconsiderately these various elongated ponds were all at different heights above sea level, so, as hinted above, Locks were needed between the lochs.
Near Fort William is Neptune’s Staircase, with nine lock gates to negotiate!
Neptune’s Staircase Visit
There were boats waiting to descend and ascend, those coming down were high masted …
… and would need both rail and road bridges to swing.
One other excitement was presented to fbb, who was too dozy to recognise it in time for adequate photography. A hissing a clanking was heard, plus a solitary “toot”. It was none other than the “Jacobite” steam hauled train just starting on its trip to Mallaig.
And this is what it looks like properly pictured.