Caledonian Canal to Oban

Negotiating the Caledonian Canal could not be easier with all of the Locks attended by helpful staff and with regular pre-emptive exchanges on Ch 74, the locks are often made ready for your arrival. Overnight moorings on pontoons are available and included within the transit fee. Although the weather was variable, the scenery was STUNNING.

Transiting the heart of Scotland

One of the staff in Whitehills had been very knowledgeable about the canal and helpfully annotated the ‘Skippers Guide’ with insights and advice. Using this, our whole experience was significantly enhanced. We were able to find a superb family restaurant at our first overnight stop in Dochgarroch which turned out to be charmingly eclectic, with none of the furniture or crockery matching. It did not have a liquor license but having been forewarned, we were prepared and took our own wine with no corkage charge!

Alongside in Dochgarroch on our first night in the Canal

The first section of the canal leads into Loch Ness which at over 20 miles in length is a passage in itself with no real stops available.

Loch Ness Castle

At the western end of Loch Ness is Fort Augustus and a flight of locks. (see the video of Loch Ness and the Fort Augustus in the web site) We found the very well positioned ‘Lock Inn’ in the evening after mooring at the top of the flight of locks. The following day we moored at picturesque Gairlochy after sailing down Loch Lochy.

The Fort Augustus flight of Locks

I was reminded overnight to remember to always moor with the bow into the breeze as, with stern to and a considerable fetch, the ripples under the counter drove my wife to seek peace elsewhere in the yacht!

Lucy and Paula seemingly enjoying themselves
Stunning scenery
Paula and Lucy feeling the cold

After descending the spectacular ‘Neptune’s Staircase’ of 8 locks (see the video in the ‘video’ section of the web site) at Fort William, we were once again grateful for the annotations on our chart, booking the superficially unattractive Lochy Bar in Cao for what turned out to be an excellent and inexpensive meal.

It was just as well that we had booked as the restaurant was full of ladies ‘of a certain age’ taking advantage of the ‘early bird’ deal of a meal for £4.45!

Lucy doing all the work while Paula and Graham have a chat.
Moored in Corpach Basin with the top of Ben Nevis lost in the cloud
Turning in the canal to face into the wind and the noisy ripples

Exiting the sea loch at Corpach, we carried the tide but, with little wind, we motored down Loch Linnie to moor in Oban Marina, opposite the town on the island of Kererra. The internet reviews of the ‘Waypoints’ restaurant (a wooden shed) in the Marina were sufficient to keep us on the island and we were not disappointed enjoying another excellent meal.

Oban viewed from our mooring on Kererra Island
Oban closer to with Lucy and Paula loitering on the right.

With Paula and our friends flying out of Glasgow in the evening and the new crew flying in the following morning, it seemed easier, quicker and even cheaper to hire a car and stay over in an hotel rather than leave them to the vagaries of the rail service. This also gave us the whole day to gently take the scenic route through the Highlands, stopping for refreshments with wonderful vistas outside in the warm sunshine.

Highland Stag very close up !

We had planned this coming week to ‘trial’ the crew for next year’s big adventure, flying the Parasailor, commissioning the unused water maker and making overnight passages to the outer islands but fate has struck a cruel blow. Bob has found that the offer of a post retirement consultancy involving 3 weeks in Kuala Lumpur and Nepal was too lucrative to ignore and Barry, having been delayed in France returned to a mountain of work and customers baying for his attention so, it is just down to me and Stephen for the week.

It is time to review the weather, crew change options and to plan ahead accordingly. It would be an awful shame to curtail the west coast island experience but I have the memories of having been here before. Whatever the decisions, prudence must reign supreme.

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