Day Trip to Scotland
9 February 2002
With return flights at £4.99 each, we travelled to Scotland
for the day on Stephen's birthday.
In our hire car, a Fiat Punto with very dodgy windscreen wipers, we set off from
Glasgow Prestwick airport at about half past eight on the Saturday morning.
We drove up the coast to Greenock, across the Erkskine Bridge,
and up the road of varying quality along the beautiful shores of Loch Lomond. We
reached the mystical place of Crianlarich, signposted for 50 miles, but which we
had never heard of. We continued generally northwestwards across the expanse of
Rannoch Moor, and descended into Glencoe.
Stob Dearg (1022m) - the red Granite peak which hits your eye as you
approach Glencoe over Rannoch Moor - is the highest outpost of Buachaille Etive
Mor, a ridge of 7km which includes four peaks all over the magic 3000ft mark.
The walls, gullies and buttresses you can see from the road appear fearsome and
have claimed quite a few lives.
Approaching from the south-west, the first eight locks of the
Calendonian Canal form a staircase, known as "Neptune's Staircase", and after
lunch in Fort William, we drove the couple of kilometres to Banavie to see them.
A panoramic shot, from partway up the staircase, looking across the Ben Nevis
and other mountains. If you look closely, Lucy can be spotted on the gates of
the lock above the photograph, and below!
Looking down the locks to the entrance canal from Loch Linnhe and the sea
The canal was the greatest engineering endeavor of its time, allowing sea-going
vessels to travel across Scotland by linking a series of lochs. It was surveyed
by Thomas Telford in 1801, with construction beginning in 1803. The impetus for
building the canal was the danger to west coast shipping by French pirates
during the Napoleonic Wars, though by the time it was finally completed, that
danger had gone, and it was a means of creating work in an area of unemployment.
Boats above the locks on the section of the canal that runs north-east to Loch
No water shortage here!
Stephen, towards the bottom of the locks
We then drove back up Glencoe and eventually to Crianlarich,
where we diverged from our outward route and travelled to Falkirk. From a
200-year-old engineering marvel on the Caledonian Canal, we had reached the site
of one of the modern wonders of the inland waterways, the Millennium or Falkirk
The Falkirk Wheel is a boat lift designed to connect the Union Canal with the
Forth and Clyde Canal, some 25 m below. It is part of the Millennium project to
restore the canals linking the east and west coasts of Scotland.
Previously there had been a long flight of locks to make the
connection between the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, but these have been
destroyed and built upon. The Union Canal to the east has been extended, ending
with a smaller number of locks and then a tunnel under the Antonine Wall, which
emerges along the embankment and aqueduct shown, to the Wheel. Boats will be
carried in the caissons of the wheel down into or up from a new basin, which
will connect with the Forth & Clyde Canal to the west.
From this other angle, the Wheel can be seen to have rotated since the earlier
The Wheel will take about 15 minutes to rotate, vastly quicker
than it would have taken to lift boats the 25m using locks.
The Wheel is due to open later in 2002.