After my run along the Caledonain Canal from Clachnaharry, Inverness to Dochfour, I decided to do a similar ‘From sea to loch’ run along the southern section of the canal. Neil had meeting in Fort William that he expected to take up to 2 hours and I reckoned this would give me time to do a run from the sea at Corpach to Loch Lochy.
The southern end/start of the Caledonian Canal links to the sea loch, Loch Linnhe in the village of Corpach on the ‘Road to the Isles’ which leads to Mallaig. Neil was unable to drop me at Corpach, so I did an extended warm-up, walking from Inverlochy along the Great Glen Way to the sea loch. This route started off following the River Lochy, passed through the housing estates of Caol, and along the shore at Loch Linnhe.
From here there was a wonderful view back to ‘The Ben’ (Nevis) which unusually was visible today. There is a local saying: “If you can see Ben Nevis, it’s going to rain. If you can’t see Ben Nevis, it’s raining” which turned out to be incorrect today.
It was a little windy at the loch side, but once I’d gone five minutes along the canal, it was beautifully warm and I was in just t-shirt and shorts for the run.
The sign for boats leaving the canal says, “Thank you for using the Caledonian Canal. We hope you enjoyed the Great Glen. Bon Voyage!”
During Victorian times, paddle steamers sailed up Loch Linnhe into the bay at Corpach and then into the Caledonian Canal as early travellers journeyed to Loch Ness and Inverness in the north. It is still busy here now with tourist boats and some commercial boats moored and passing along the canal.
At just under 2 km from the start of the canal I came to a hive of activity at the series of locks known as Neptune’s Staircase. Neptune’s Staircase opened in 1822 and this was one of the largest engineering projects in its day. The eight locks raise boats 20 metres in about 500m. The tourist boat, Lord of the Glens was being transported down the locks and it was a pretty tight squeeze for this 150ft mini cruise liner.
Once past the locks the path became much quieter. I passed several groups of walkers and a few folks who were carrying backpacks and I presume were walking the Great Glen Way. The footpath here is sandwiched between the canal on the left and the River Lochy on the right and although flat has the lovely backdrop of the hills to the north. I passed a couple of weirs where water is channelled from the canal down to the river.
A couple of kilometres before Gairlochy I came to a wee cottage on the canal tow path and a swing bridge. This is Moy Bridge, the only original surviving swing bridge, which is still hand operated using the old winch mechanism. From what I’ve read and from photographs I think the bridge is usually in the ‘open-to-walkers’ position and has to be swung aside for the boats, but today it was in the open to canal traffic position. A guy popped his head out of the garden shed beside the cottage as I went past, but seeing me run straight ahead (after stopping for a picture) just said hello, then went again.
The cast iron bridge was constructed in pieces in North Wales before being assembled on site in 1821. In order to open it, the keeper has to open the south leaf first and then row across the canal to open the remaining section – a time-consuming job that is still carried out today.
From here, as I approached Gairlochy, I met one or two more people and was soon at the Gairlochy swing bridge.
The Great Glen Way crosses this bridge and goes up the north side of Loch Lochy. I continued on the tow path on the south until I came to the pepper-pot lighthouse (in reality an unoccupied beacon) on the shore of Loch Lochy.
I had about 20 minutes wait until Neil had finished and arrived. This had not been a strenuous run at all (~13km) but I’d found it a little tiring, maybe due to my routine blood donation the previous evening.
I need to look for a better waist bag though as my present one was uncomfortable. I was carrying a little extra water (needed to drink more to replenish my fluids) and with my camera and windshirt, no matter how I adjusted the waist belt and compression strap, it didn’t fit snug and not bounce. 😦
More photos on Flickr