Welcome to a Loch Ness Tour. These pages were brought to you by Bob and Kath Carter who have travelled extensively around the Loch Ness area and documented places, landmarks and people that will be of great interest to the traveller to this beautiful area of the Highlands of Scotland. Please enjoy your tour.
The Great Glen
Welcome to the Highlands of Scotland, or to be more specific the Great Glen. The glen was formed by a geological fault line which runs from Fort William in the south to Inverness in the north, leaving a trench like glen, which runs for about 60 miles. The lochs were formed by the retreat of the last ice age some 10 to 12 thousand years ago, carving deep and straight grooves which were filled by the melting ice water, therefore creating the lochs of the great glen, namely Lochs Lochy, Oich and the largest Ness. Hopefully this guide may give you just a small glimpse of what to see and where to visit around the Loch Ness area, but there is only one way to see the Loch and that is to travel around it. Please allow plenty of time, as there are a lot of miles to cover on your journey with both the scenery and through the mists of time both past and present. To have an understanding about the highlands you need to take a look at the past of the highlanders, where less than 300 years ago they roamed the glens and mountains free, living life like their forefathers before them. In as much as they fashioned the land then the land in its turn fashioned them. Though the English and the Lowlanders, at this time viewed these people as savages and attempted to break them as a race they have still retained their fierce clan status (clan meaning children in Gaelic) and their pride to become a people who will welcome everybody from around the world and give of themselves in every way.
It is because of this that everyone can appreciate the hospitality of the Highlanders. Most people in the clans can recite their lineage back to one person, which is an achievement that most people would like to be able to do.
At the south west end of Loch Ness lies the sleepy village of Fort Augustus, the first thing you cannot help but notice is that the village has been separated by the locks of the Caledonian canal, which runs from Fort William in the south to Beauly firth in the north.
The canal was built for two reasons: 1: to create work in the 19th century highlands to slow down the highland clearances, which were taking place as landowners found they could make
more money out of sheep farming than the rents paid by tenants. The tenants were driven out of their homes, sometimes with as little as half an hours notice, no matter what time of the day or night, winter or summer and thousands of highlanders boarded ships bound for the Americas and other places for example New Zealand and Australia. 2: Because French privateers had attacked many of the ships that sailed round the north of Scotland and the cargo was stolen to fund Napoleons war against the English. Thomas Telford was commissioned in 1805 to create a safe passage from one coast to the other. The canal was finished in 1822 but it was found to be lacking, therefore it was upgraded and improved and was reopened in 1847, the total length of the canal is 60 miles, although of this 22 miles is actually the canal itself the rest being made up of Lochs Dochfour, Ness, Oich and Lochy.
The village was originally called Kilcumein which means “Church of Cumein” It was after the Jacobite rising of 1715 was crushed that the Irish born general George Wade was made commander of Northern Britain and he was instructed to police the Highlands so there could be no more risings. It was with this in mind that he began constructing a series of roads linking together the forts he was building. At Fort Augustus there was a small detachment of men. The remains of the barrack block are still in evidence near the Lovat Arms Hotel. On the
site which the Abbey now stands General Wade constructed a substantial fort, which when completed in 1730 was named Fort Augustus in honour of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, the youngest son of George 11. The fort however did not fare well as in the Jacobite rising the artillery took up position on the hill behind the fort and with the first shot from its canon found the powder room causing a massive explosion. And within a short span of time the fort surrendered without another shot being fired. The Jacobites themselves did not occupy the fort for long, only for about three months, before they themselves were removed. It was after the battle of Culloden in 1746 that the Duke of Cumberland used the fort as a hunting lodge, to hunt and put to death the Jacobites that had escaped. It was here that the Duke was presented with the head of Roderick Mackenzie, a young lawyer from Edinburgh, who was said to look uncannily like the Bonnie Prince. After he was captured and shot in Glenmoriston his dying words were reported as being “you have killed your king”. Convinced it was Prince Charles they decapitated the body and carried the head to the Duke. It was never reported what the Duke said when it was brought to his attention that a mistake had been made, but he still claimed it was his greatest trophy.
In 1867 the fort and its grounds were auctioned off for the sum of £5000 to Lord Lovat, this was ironic, as it was one of his ancestors, Simon, who was held at the fort for his part in the rising. And was transported to London and executed. In 1876 his son presented the fort to the Benedictine monks to use as a monastery, in 1878 the first boys school was opened and in 1882 the monastery was upgraded to an Abbey and flourished. But due to a fall in attendance the school doors were closed in 1993 and finally in 1998, due to the land lease running out and the fact the Abbey was; losing money it closed its doors to the public and to the monks.
Although the Abbey may be the most historic building in Fort Augustus there is plenty of other things to see and do. At the bottom of the locks there is an impressive bridge that takes the
A82 over the canal and when the yachts and other large vessels wish to pass the road traffic is stopped, and the bridge swings out of the way, using massive hydraulic rams. If you follow the canal down past the bridge you will reach Loch Ness and a spectacular view gives you just a glimpse of the sheer size of the Loch. To give you a better idea of the size regular boat trips leave Fort Augustus that will take you out on the Loch, with full colour sonar just in case Nessie wishes to make an appearance.
Halfway up the flight of locks is the new canal heritage centre for those of you who wish to learn more about the canal. Admission is free. When you are crossing the stone bridge over the River Oich, if you look up river you will see the remains of a viaduct. This was part of the Fort William to Fort Augustus railway; this only stayed open for 12 years, as it lost so much money that it had to be abandoned.
Leaving Fort Augustus travelling north on the A82 after about a mile (1.6km) you will reach Inchnacardoch Bay. It is in this bay that the only island on Loch Ness is situated. Cherry Island or to give it its correct name “Eileen Mhuireach” which means island of Murdoch. Although all that can be seen today is a rocky tree clad island, it is in fact man made and is known as a crannog, which originally covered an area of 160ft by 180ft (48mts by 54 mts). Crannogs date back to prehistoric times and were built to protect people from wild animals, such as bears and wolfs, but it also gave protection from other clans when they came raiding.
Laying large beams of oak on silt constructed Crannogs and oak posts were driven vertically down the outside edge of the beams. Boulders and rocks were placed on top of the oak beams until the island was above water level. Then soil and turf was added it was after this that the buildings were put into place. These would consist of pens for the livestock. A large defensive wooden fence would have totally encircled the crannog. Some crannogs had a shallow causeway to the land, where others had a boat to ferry them to and fro. In there time their crannogs would have been a formidable stronghold.
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