Leaving Fort William, we still had 65 miles to go to reach our base for the night, Inverness. Our next stop was the famous Commando Memorial, 10 miles away in Spean Bridge…
This incredible 17 ft tall monument was created by Scott Sutherland in 1951, and features three Soldiers, looking out across what was once the Commando Training Depot.
During World War II, under orders from Winston Churchill himself, a large task-force of Commando’s were trained here in readiness for the Invasion of Europe. Over 1,500 Commando’s were killed in the eventual battles, and the Monument pays tribute to their sacrifice.
The Soldiers have a unique setting, as they not only gaze out across their old training grounds, but also Scotland/Britain’s highest peak, the edifice that is Ben Nevis, shown centre.
With a total height of 4,411 ft, it marks the highest point in the United Kingdom, atop what was once an active volcano. The first ascent on record was by James Robertson (Botanist from Edinburgh) in 1771. Ben Nevis is easily accessible from Fort William, which became a popular starting point after the arrival of the West Highland Line in 1894.
Our next stop was Loch Lochy, one of the Lochs which makes up the Great Glen Fault.
There is a small pull in next to the Loch, which was almost perfectly still, reflecting the bright blue sky above it. Sometimes you forgot your still in Britain, it feels like you could be in the Canadian Mountains, or the American Rockies.
Loch Lochy is Scotland’s third deepest Loch, although it doesn’t look it from this vantage point. It is joined by the Caledonian Canal to both Loch Eil to the South, and Loch Oich to the North.
If you follow the Caledonian Canal North, you will first pass through Loch Oich, and then through another section of the Canal to the famous lock gates at Fort Augustus. As the next section is Loch Ness, the famous figure of Nessie can be found next to the Canal, in tribute to the legendary monster who supposedly resides in the Loch.
Fort Augustus is one of three major forts which form a rough line across the Highlands, from Fort George near Inverness, down to Fort William. This eventually gave the town its name, after the garrison created by General Wade in the 17th Century.
The area has seen many battles, particularly during the Jacobite Rebellions in the 18th century.
Construction on the Caledonian Canal began in 1803, with working being carried out at both ends, to eventually meet somewhere in the middle. A total of 60 miles was built, utilising the Lochs in between, connected by specially dug Canals.
It reached Fort Augustus in 1816, with the set of five locks complete by 1820, under the supervision of Simpson & Cargill.
Looking past Nessie, the entrance to Loch Ness is just visible, and the next leg of our journey along the A82 would let us get much closer!
Around two thirds of the way along Loch Ness, are the picturesque ruins of Urquhart Castle. The Great Glen has long been a strategic line through the Highlands, hence the three Forts I mentioned earlier.
Urquhart Castle is located on an outcrop into Loch Ness, with good visibility across the Loch. Although it is highly likely it predates this, the earliest record of the Castle is from 1296, after Edward I and the English Army invaded Scotland, and captured the Castle.
It kept changing hands between English and Scots for the next couple of centuries, before passing into the hands of the Earl of Huntly. Various raids were carried out in the area by local Clans, and in 1527 one such raid left the Castle partially ruined, although it was later repaired. The last major offensive the Castle saw was in 1690, after a 500 strong army of Jacobites attempted to invade. It was defended by soldiers loyal to William of Orange, and the soldiers largely held out until the overall Jacobite rebellion had been put down. They then blew up the Castle to stop the Jacobites taking control. The Castle has slowly decayed ever since, being protected by the Seafield Family from 1884, and it is now owned by Historic Scotland. The public can visit for a fee.
On the left you can see the “Grant Tower”, the most secure sections of the Castle, and one of the most extant. At five storeys it would have been a fantastic look out point and a good place to hole up in if the rest of the Castle was taken.
Loch Ness is quite a site to behold. At 23 miles long, it is the second largest Loch in Scotland, after only Loch Lomond, although by volume it is the largest overall. It stretches as far as the eye can see, bounded on all sides by Mountains and Hills.
It is perhaps most famous for the Loch Ness Monster, of which there have been numerous sightings over the last few centuries. It wasn’t until George Spicer’s account in 1933 that the idea really began to take off, and there have been many attempts to prove its existence ever since, including faked footage. A famous photograph called the “Surgeon’s Photograph” after Robert Wilson, a Gynaecologist from London, was published in 1934, reputing to show the Monster. It has since been denounced as fake, yet the interest remains.
There are plenty of stopping points along the Loch by the main road, although so far no sightings!
We would soon arrive in Inverness, the last stop of the day…