Fort William to Inverness via Caledonian Canal - Itinerary
Fort William to Inverness Via Caledonian Canal
Day 1 -
Slicing through the Great Glen of the Scottish Highlands, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Ness and Loch Dochfour lie in near-perfect alignment between Fort William and Inverness. Only relatively short artificial canals were required to link them together. The result? A 60-mile connection between western and eastern seawaters, with water supply guaranteed.Thomas Telford, usually heads the plaudits for this spectacular feat of engineering - a feat in which his artistic inclinations were permitted to run riot. At more than 50 yards (46m) long, its locks were huge by the standards of the time. Many of them are arranged in `staircases` interconnected locks in which the top gates of one lock are the bottom gates of the next.
The massive eight-lock flight at Banavie, known as Neptune`s Staircase, is little short of breathtaking. The entire canal smacks of similar engineering feats on a grand scale, defying direct comparison with any other canal in Britain. This special trip will provide relaxed cruising with good company in sheltered waters whilst enjoying the benefits of living aboard a traditional pilot cutter. The amazing scenic contrast between East and West Scotland has to be seen to be believed.
After arriving Lizzie May’s skipper will explain the plan for the next few days, weather and tides are not an issue regarding progress and after safety briefings, you will be introduced to the traditional sailing skills needed to sail Lizzie May in the fresh water lochs that are part of the canal. Apart from her barrel windlass there are no winches on board – just blocks and tackles. She has five sails for fast light wind sailing and smaller sail plans to cope with higher wind speeds and of course an auxiliary diesel engine for use in the interconnecting waters between the lochs . Lizzie Mays design is based on the tough pilot cutters that operated in the long ocean swells off the Isles of Scilly, she is a great boat and you will feel like you are on a much larger vessel.
Lizzie May will begin at Banavie at the Fort William end of the canal and with the help of everyone aboard she will work her way through the first few locks and swing bridges with the support of the helpful canal staff. Your skipper will try to reach Gairlochy before the canal closes for the night and you will learn how to secure Lizzie May to a floating pontoon before retiring below decks to enjoy an evening meal or have a pre dinner strole along banks of the canal.
Day 2 - Not only is the Caledonian canal an amazing feat of engineering , pioneered by Thomas Telford but its route takes you through Scottish culture and heritage fought over for centuries and the scene of countless battles. Here is one example; The Well of the Seven Heads.
On returning from France in 1663, two members of the McDonnells of Keppoch were murdered by their uncle and his six sons during a family quarrel at a celebration. All those responsible were rounded up and beheaded, their severed heads being washed in the spring running into Loch Oich before being presented before the Chief in Invergarry Castle. The monument, erected in 1812 is at Invergarry Castle lwhich you will pass later today on during the sail up Loch Lochy.
An early start today is required to enjoy hands on working of warps in the locks when your rope throwing skills will be tested as well as your knots. Tonight could be spent in the enchanting town of Fort Augustus. There will be an opportunity to explore this area on foot .
Day 3 - After breakfast at Fort Augustus (which was built by General Wade between the Jacobite rising of 1715 and1745) you will sail up Loch Ness and also get a chance to spot Nessie. One of our skippers saw the Loch Ness monster in the summer of 1972 at the South West corner of the Loch so keep your eyes peeled as Lizzie May departs from Fort Augustus. Further up on the port side (left) you will see Urquart Castle which is one of Scotland’s largest castles. It was used from the 13th to 17th centuries and featured prominently in Scotland’s struggle for independence under the control of Robert the Bruce.
You could be hoisting the lofty topsail along with the other four sails which Lizzie May carries and magestically glide up loch Ness with many admiring glances from passers by.
Day 4 - This morning Lizzie May could be leaving from an anchorage near the North West end of Loch Ness or from Dochgarroch in the final stretch of the canal before arriving in Inverness (Scotlands Highland Capital). You could be disembarking at Muirtown Basin in the canal or at the new Inverness Marina which is in the Beauly Basin outside the canal. Both locations are suitable for easy access to public transport within Inverness