Neptuns Staircase Fort Augustus
The canal was started in 1803 to plans produced by Thomas Telford following survey work by James Watt thirty years earlier. It was the biggest of the building schemes undertaken by the Government to provide work and stem the flood of emigration from the Highlands. The huge scale of the work and the shortage of skilled engineers meant that the seven year schedule and £350,000 budget always looked optimistic. It was: by the time the canal finally opened in 1822 it had taken 17 years and cost £840,000. And instead of the 20 foot depth in Telford's plans, the canal when it initially opened was only 14 feet deep, too shallow for many of the increasingly large ships being built at the time.
Unsurprisingly, the canal did not initially prove successful. A second phase of construction was undertaken between 1844 and 1847. What emerged from this was, finally, the canal originally proposed by Telford.
Once finished, the Caledonian Canal provided the long hoped-for route between eastern and western Scotland. This allowed mariners to avoid the long and often hazardous route round the west of Scotland and through the Pentland Firth. The irony was that by the time the canal was finally complete, steam ships could make the passage around Scotland much more easily than the sailing ships in whose era it was designed. Nonetheless, until the railway reached Inverness the quickest way from there to Glasgow was by steamer via the Caledonian and Crinan Canals, probably calling at Oban en route.
Of its 60 mile length, 38 miles are along Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, with the remaining 22 miles being through canals proper. The biggest problem faced by the designers and builders was one of level; and along the length of the canal there are no fewer than 29 locks.
There are many ways to see and enjoy the Caledonian Canal. You could, of course, sail through it, and there are also opportunities to sail on or along parts of it from Inverness, Fort Augustus, and Drumnadrochit in particular.
You can also visit and marvel at the canal without risk of getting your feet wet. The most impressive single engineering feat on the Canal lies north of Fort William, where you will see Neptune's Staircase signposted off the A830 Mallaig road just before Corpach. This is a ladder of eight locks that raises vessels to a height of 70 feet above sea level over a distance of 500 yards. Following a vessel through the locks is an ideal way to understand how this deceptively simple process works.
Be warned, though, if you are visiting on a clear day, it is difficult to pay complete attention to the locks as this is also one of the best viewpoints available for the dark north west side of Ben Nevis, and its 2000 foot cliffs are an enthralling distraction. Nearby the canal emerges into the end of Loch Linnhe at Corpach, where there is an interesting canal basin.
Fort Augustus is lokated at the west end of the Loch Ness. Here you find the flight of locks to chang...
A seat in the woodlands at Allt na Criche, near Loch Ness, Scotland. The woods are planted with a var...
Looking out from the top of Meall Fuar-mhonaidh, near Loch Ness, Scotland. At a height of 699 metres ...
Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.
The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.
Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".
Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.
Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states.
Text by Steve Smith.