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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Looking down the locks to the entrance canal from Loch Linnhe and the sea

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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.

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Boats above the locks on the section of the canal that runs north-east to Loch Lochy

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No water shortage here!

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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 Wheel.

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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.

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From this other angle, the Wheel can be seen to have rotated since the earlier photograph.

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.

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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson