Our planned route from the Isle of Skye had been to take the ferry from Armadale to the mainland at Mallaig. In addition to the ferry ride, that route would have provided me with no less than 5 railway stations as well as a view of the “Harry Potter” railroad viaduct.
As Robert Burns stated, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley”! …and astray or awry they did. First of all I needed a reservation, secondly, timing with the drive to the ferry was an issue. Consequently, we went to plan B.
It was a foggy and drizzly day with occasional spates of rain to boot! Our ‘new’ route took us back over the Skye Bridge, then past the Eilean Donan Castle and the towns of Inverinate and Cluanie Bridge toward Fort Augustus.
I borrowed this picture of Eilean Donan Castle from the Internet.
Iconic photos of Eilean Donan Castle abound but the fact is that it was destroyed during the Jacobite Uprising in 1719. At the time it was being primarily defended by Spanish soldiers whose government had allied with the Jacobites. A British fleet arrived and captured the castle…and then spent 2 days and 27 barrels of gunpowder demolishing the castle.
While this castle is a famous Scottish icon that’s featured in advertising and films, it is actually a reconstruction that was completed in 1932... Despite its relative ‘newness’, the castle is a very popular tourist attraction. For more information, go to http://www.eileandonancastle.com/.
The weather cleared a bit as we drove east along A87. We turned north on A82 at Invergarry and then we came to the Oich River. This is the ‘new’ Bridge of Oich. The old bridge was swept away in a flood back in 1849 and this replacement bridge wasn’t completed until 1854…meaning that it’s only 173 years old!
Also known as the Victoria Bridge, it is a taper principle suspension bridge. It was used for road traffic until 1932 when it was replaced. After it was taken out of service, the bridge began a major decline and it was closed to public use. It was renovated in 1997 for Historic Scotland, (now Historic Environment Scotland…a government agency), and it now serves as a public footbridge and point of interest.
This is the River Oich and that’s the new (85 year old) bridge that carries A82 across the river. The river is only 5.6 miles long. Flowing through the Great Glen, it carries water from Loch Oich to the southwest to Loch Ness to the northeast.
· The Great Glen is a long and straight valley or glen that extends 62 miles from Inverness in the northeast on the Moray Firth to Fort William at the head of Loch Linnhe in the southwest. The Great Glen follows a large geological fault which bisects the Scottish Highlands into the Grampian Mountains to the southeast and the Northwest Highlands to the northwest. It has always been a natural route for travel in the Highlands…
This is the Caledonian Canal. The canal runs parallel to the River Oich for the river’s entire 5.6 mile length. The canal itself is 60 miles long, connecting the Scottish east coast at Inverness with the west coast near Fort William. Having been completed in 1822, the canal itself is now a ‘Scheduled Ancient Monument’, a designation that protects it and 20,000 other scheduled monuments in the United Kingdom from unauthorized change…
It was still cloudy but not raining when we arrived in attractive village of Fort Augustus. Fort Augustus is situated at the south end of Loch Ness on the Oich River. With a population of roughly 700, the village relies heavily on tourism. Founded in the 17th century, the settlement was called Kiliwhimin. It was named Fort Augustus after the Jacobite Rising of 1715.
· The Jacobite Rising of 1715 was the attempt by James Francis Edward Stuart to regain the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland for the exiled House of Stuart. James died in Rome at the age of 77 and was buried in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
· The second Jacobite Rising took place in 1745. It was the attempt by Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) to regain the throne for the House of Stuart. Most of the British Army was occupied on the European Continent during another conflict. Nevertheless, following some successes by the Jacobite forces, some British divisions were recalled and the last battle on Scottish soil took place on a moor at Culloden. The Battle of Culloden ended with the final defeat of the Jacobite cause. Charles escaped, eventually dying in Rome at the age of 68 where he was buried at the Vatican alongside his brother and father.
Enough history for the moment… Laurie and I posed for this photo beside the Caledonian Canal. Our luncheon destination, The Lock Inn Village Pub and Restaurant (red sign) is just over Laurie’s head. Note the white building over my shoulder on the right. The sign states, D.J. MacDougall – Butcher. More on that later in this posting…
This is the interior of The Lock Inn. Bill is at the bar acquiring a few brews for our table. Once again, since I was the driver, I was restricted to a single half pint!
This is the view from the bar looking toward the dining area of The Lock Inn. We were seated along that stone wall at the end. There is a big fireplace which I am sure is welcome during cold weather…
We stuck to a fairly light lunch as we all had plenty to eat for breakfast and we had big plans for dinner this evening. There were a couple of cups of the soup of the ‘moment’ with some nice bread and butter. (4.35 pounds sterling/$5.65 US)
Bill ordered this Sea Food Salad…more seafood than salad…but that is a good thing. (8.75 pound sterling/$11.40 US) It was all very good but the fresh smoked salmon was excellent!
This was my mistake… It’s called a Cheese and Ham Sandwich and it came with a little rocket salad and some decent chips. (6.95 pounds sterling/$9.00 US) The sandwich consisted of 2 thin slices of ham and a wad of fairly bland shredded cheddar cheese. Bummer!
The Lock Inn does not have a website for me to post…
Almost all of the businesses in Fort Augustus that cater to tourists are lined up on either side of the Caledonian Canal. Only a third of the entire 60 mile length of the canal is man-made. The remainder of this canal/waterway consists of Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. There are 29 locks, 4 aqueducts and 10 bridges along the course of the canal.
The Caledonian Canal was conceived as a way to provide much needed employment to the region because of the Highland Clearances, which had deprived many of their homes and jobs. It was also felt that the canal would provide safer passage for wooden sailing ships, allowing them to avoid the dangerous route around the north coast of Scotland. It was never a financial success and, with a depth of only 15 feet, the canal ended up being too shallow for larger vessels. Today however, it is a major draw for tourists…
Back to D.J. MacDougall – Butcher. Now this is a real butcher shop! The meat is so attractive, it’s almost too pretty to eat… Try finding a really nice butcher shop in East Tennessee. It is one thing that we do miss about our former home in Chicago!
Hikers, boaters and casual diners take note! Hot filled rolls, soup and sandwiches to go at the butcher shop... The sandwiches have to be better than the one I had for lunch. How about a hot beef sausage roll or a smoke venison sandwich. Yum! To learn more, go to http://enjoylochness.com/activities/d-j-macdougall-butcher.
The building at the left across the Caledonia Canal is War Memorial Hall. It was originally built in 1892 as a community hall but by 1900 it was being used as a drill hall by the Imperial Yeomanry Regiment. Today this building is indeed a war memorial and community hall…
The regiment was established by Brigadier Simon Joseph Fraser, 14th Lord Lovat. He was an aristocrat, landowner, soldier, politician and the 23rd Chief of Clan Fraser. In World War I, Lord Lovat commanded the Highland Mounted Brigade and in March of 1916, he took command of the 4th Mounted Division…basically a home defense group that remained in the United Kingdom for the duration of the war. In the recent past, the Fraser family still owned over 26,000 acres of land along with Beaufort Castle.
At one point in the mid-1800s, there was concern that the military was stretched too far and a system of volunteer military units (militia/national guard) was set up. The Volunteer Act of 1863 provide regulations for these groups and it set standards for drills as well as a requirement for annual inspections. Roughly 344 drill halls of various sizes, styles and configurations were built in Scotland, of which only about 182 survive.
The ‘Chieftain’ is about to dock after taking tourists on a cruise on Loch Ness…looking for “Nessie”…the Loch Ness Monster.
Loch Ness is 22.5 miles long by 1.7 miles wide and it reaches a depth of 745 feet. With 22 square miles of surface water, it is the second largest loch in Scotland after Loch Lomond. In volume of water, Loch Ness is the largest.
Moving on down A82 toward North Ballachulish, our destination for the evening, we came to a dead stop…with police holding up traffic and flashing lights everywhere. Laurie was sure what the problem was but we couldn’t see it from where we were… While we waited in line near the Oich River, we had time to admire this old stone wall layered in thick lush moss.
Yikes! I think I see the problem…and Laurie was right! We had passed this big convoy of trucks, guide vehicles, workers and police on our way to Fort Augustus from the Isle of Skye. They were in the process of moving giant wind turbine blades along Scotland’s narrow, shoulder-less roads for installation in a wind farm.
Renewable energy is a hot topic in Scotland. The natural resources for renewable energy is enormous with the most important potential sources being wind, waves and tide. We saw several wind farms on our travels through the country…both inland and along the shoreline. I guess that the question is, how many wind turbines cluttering up the highlands scenery and shoreline are too many. As of April of 2014, Scotland already had 2,315 units installed with 405 under construction and another 1,163 permitted…or about 1 wind turbine for every 8 square miles in the country.
So…where can cars, buses and other trucks go when confronted by these behemoth trucks and turbine blades? It’s easy to see the scope of the problem when transporting these units along these highways…
During 2015, Scotland generated 59% of its electricity via renewable resources…exceeding the country’s lofty goal of 50% for that year. The Scottish Government’s energy plan calls for 100% of the country’s needs to be generated through renewable resources by 2020.
A few cars lucked out. We were waved forward and allowed to park where we’d stopped before by the River Oich. It was raining but I got out of the car and snapped this photo from the old Bridge of Oich. That is one giant piece of hardware on that truck!
We watched as crews tried to secure the traffic gates for swing-bridge over the adjacent Caledonian Canal. They were obviously concerned that they’d be destroyed by the passing trucks. Eventually the convoy crept by, (no visible damage done), but it had traffic blocked up for quite a distance in both directions. We were lucky in that we were in the lead group headed south after the convoy passed.
Next stop…North Ballachulish on Loch Leven near the west coast of Scotland.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a tour and a bit of history!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave