Scotland | Barge Trip on Loch Ness

by Jim and Melanie

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On September 3 we began our trip on the Fingal of Caledonia, one of two barges owned by Caledonian Discovery. Each day the barge averaged about 10 miles of progress. The first day it was about 6 miles. We moored that night north of the entrance into Loch Ness. Next morning we were underway before breakfast.

 

After dinner every evening, the activities director outlined the options for the next day. Our cruise was focused on hill hiking. Mountains rise up on either side of the lochs and canal, while foot paths line most of the way. Passengers could hike, bike, or walk, depending on the weather and their preferences. The activities director led the most challenging of those options, and those who chose otherwise were on their own.

Our intention when we booked the trip was to hike as much as possible. However Jim injured a knee in May and Melanie did in early August, leaving her unable to trek very far. Below we’ll share a few pictures of our outings, as well as some of the vast beauty of the Great Glen.

Foyers Falls

Loch Ness is approximately 23 miles long. Our progress on Day 2 would take us about halfway, to the town of Foyers. On the north side of the loch is a peak that two adventurous passengers chose to hike, led by Steve. On the south side is a less challenging choice, a beautiful waterfall tucked within woods, which we opted for. Roundtrip of our outing was about 3 miles. Part of the journey was on paved roads, and part was on maintained hiking trail.

 

Captain Adam checked the water traffic from our Foyers mooring. Could there be pirates?

 

Later that afternoon, Jim posed for a photo. What’s that behind you, Jim??

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Fort Augustus

2016_0905barge3_02After mooring at Foyers overnight, we proceeded to the locks at Fort Augustus. Jim steered us toward our destination for part of the way. Steering was a challenge for a couple of reasons. It was windy. And, the barge was built in the 1920s. The steering mechanism was via chains and gears. It had a lot of slack. It took more than a full turn left or right to engage the chain and gears to get a response from the rudder. Jim handled the challenge well. He is a former farm boy.

As we neared Fort Augustus, Captain Adam took over the wheel for the final approach to the locks. Moving a 180 ton vessel into and through is a delicate job. Not one for an amateur.

Fort Augustus is a small village on the south end of Loch Ness, with a population of about 650. From the looks of the main street, most of them are involved with the tourist trade.

After passing through the locks, all passengers and a new crew member, Susie, hiked to another waterfall. We enjoyed an ancient cemetery, some tree covered lanes, a boggy patch, ferns, and pushed through shoulder-high bracken on the way. Round trip mileage was about 5 miles.

 

At the end of our busy day, Chef Kevin served another delicious dinner, which we all enjoyed. What kinds of meals did he fix? Salmon, venison stew, curried chicken, and haggis-stuffed chicken, to name some of the dinners. And there were always vegetarian options. Breakfasts were wonderful, too!

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Chef Kevin preparing dinner

The next day we continued our journey through canal to Loch Oich. Come back next time for more of our adventures.

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23 thoughts on “Scotland | Barge Trip on Loch Ness

  1. underswansea

    Sounds like a wonderful trip! And that does look like Nessy popping her head up behind you. Thanks for the post, my mothers parents were from Scotland and I’ve always been interested in it over there! 🙂 Bob

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  2. shoreacres

    I’m sorry to hear you were a bit limited in your hiking abilities, but there clearly was enough to keep you happy and active. The scenery is lovely, and the waterfall’s especially attractive. I would have loved taking the helm of the barge, and the experience of the locks. I was surprised by those; I wouldn’t have thought of locks in Scotland.

    The photo with Nessie in the background is a hoot. Did she smile for your cameras?

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      mm, I didn’t see her smile! But the captain was smiling in the wheelhouse.

      Yes, the scenery IS lovely, much more lush than we expected. As to the locks, Jim will tell you more about them in a few days.

      The hiking is coming along. We did walk a lot on our trip, even though my mileage was limited at any one time. Sunday morning we took a short hike at the reservoir. Probably not quite 2 miles, but the rougher footing was good for me. Thanks.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      We don’t have any photos that would show the art with any detail. There were 3 paintings, 2 of which included the Fingal and the other had a sailboat. Also there was an illustrated map right of the doorway to the cabins.

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    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Oh, yes, he enjoyed that quite a bit! The captain was generous with his wheelhouse. While maneuvering for locks or to anchor, etc, required his full attention, he didn’t mind company or a moment’s relief at the wheel.

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