The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is upon us and we are celebrating the richness of Scotland’s intriguing history, impressive cultural heritage and fascinating archaeology.
One of the historic attractions is said to have been predicted by the Brahan Seer, known in Scottish Gaelic as Coinneach Odhar, who lived in the 17th century.
The Highland prophet “saw” the coming of the Caledonian Canal, some 200 years before it was opened. He stated “that a time would come when full rigged ships will be seen sailing inward eastward and westward by the back of Tomnahurich at Inverness”.
The canal, which was opened in 1822, is one of the finest pieces of engineering in Western Europe. It was masterminded by Scotsman Thomas Telford, an engineer with vision. He originally trained as a stonemason before becoming one of Britain’s finest civil engineers.
The Caledonian Canal was built on blood, sweat and tears by hardy Highland crofters using only pick and shovel, barrows and hand carts. They constructed 35 kilometres (22 miles) of channel and 29 massive locks.
This linked four of Scotland’s largest freshwater lochs, including the mighty Loch Ness, to create a waterway passage from Fort William on the west coast to Inverness on the east coast. From sea to sea, this is a distance of approximately 100 kilometres (62 miles).
The canal cost more than £900,000 and some 3000 local people were employed during its construction. Unfortunately, the timing of the canal was wrong as the advancement in shipbuilding created ships that were too large to use the facility.
In addition, the Royal Navy had also little use for it as Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo in 1815 and the threat to shipping had gone.
However, usage did increase during the Second World War and fishing boats found it a godsend rather than navigating the Pentland Firth.
The Caledonian Canal is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and attracts over a million visitors per annum, making it an important contributor to the Highland economy.
Also, Dochgarroch Lock on the canal is a popular spring/summer departure point for a Loch Ness by Jacobite cruise and the location of our HQ.
So please do come and visit us at the Caledonian Canal and share in our celebrations of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 – #HHA2017