Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Fort William Highland Scotland.


Ben Nevis.
Dominated by Britain’s highest mountain Ben Nevis and located on the shores of Loch Linnhe Fort William is a centre for walking and climbing but in my opinion the town it self has little to interest the inquisitive visitor other than a great array of shops and supermarkets. The A82 which runs between the shopping area and the Loch does nothing to help, but it does has a car park for motor homes and caravans something many other towns that set out to attract visitors should think seriously about.



Fort William without the shops and the A82.
Caledonian Canal.

The Caledonian Canal runs from Inverness in the North to Corpach near Fort William in the South (see also Fort Augustus) has 38 miles of natural Lochs and 22 miles of canal cuttings. Built by that clever wee chap Thomas Telford and opened in 1822 its most famous feature is the series of locks at Banavie known as Neptune’s Staircase which allows a change of level of over 20m, it’s the longest staircase lock in Britain consisting of eight locks each 55m wide by 12m and it takes approximately 90 minutes to pass through the system. Unfortunately it was not open on our visit due to the yearly maintenance that takes place at this time of year.
 
Mostly canals are used for pleasure craft but the Caledonian Canal is also used to transport timber. 

Neptune's Staircase with its eight locks. 

Nice to relax with a coffee and a slice of cake. 

There is another set of lock gates further down at Corpach that allows access into Loch Linnhe and eventually the sea. Unusually the Canal still has a commercial use with barges transporting timber from forestry plantations from the west coast up to Inverness. The complete areas of locks and tow path’s, which forms part of the Great Glen Way, are exceptionally well kept and with a grand cup of coffee and a piece of millionaires shortbread to be had in the Moorings Hotel it's well worth the time to explore this area of the great canal.

Corpach Locks. 

View of Fort William from Corpach. 



Monday, 21 March 2016

Blair Castle and Blair Atholl Estate Perthshire Scotland.



Although Blair Castle and its magnificently well kept and managed grounds are allegedly one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland, visit the area before the tourist season starts (Easter 2016 is in late March) and there is hardly anyone about. Fortunately the Castle was open to receive coach trips and we had permission to tag along.  Both Castle and ground’s are well worth a visit if you’re staying in the area at any time during the season. 30 plus rooms in the castle are normally open to the public where you get to see a fine collection of weapons, furniture and portraits along with some cracking snuff boxes.
Front entrance to Blair Castle.

The castle and adjoining building's. 

Houses a fine collection of weapons....

.... and some rather interesting furniture....

Blair Atholl is a wee village that originally served the castle but the vast Atholl estate - 145000 acres in total and the Scottish baronial style castle central to its grounds dominate the area. It was largely rebuilt in its present form in 1869 for John Murray 7th Duke of Atholl. The history of the people who lived and were connected to this large house includes some very interesting historic characters and their accompanying turbulent events. To this day The Duke of Atholl has the grand distinction of having the only remaining private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders.

A beautiful part of Scotland.
Diana the Goddess of Hunting.

Hercules standing guard over the Walled Garden.
St Brides Kirk....

.... resting place of Jacobite leader Bonnie Dundee.
This is an idyllic area for some picturesque walks especially around the estate, which take in forestry and farmland and where you can see various types of beasts including Highland cattle, and the estates 33 Highland ponies. Be sure to visit the Deer Park where you can see up close a herd of Red Deer including a majestic stag. Also worth a look are Diana’s Grove, St Bride's Kirk, Hercules Garden, the Horseshoe Pond, and the charming Glen Tilt Village. 


Highland Ponies bred for the terrain.

The Red Stag and his Ladies. 

In the grounds of the estate stands a gothic folly called the Whim that can be seen from the castle. Built in 1761 it can be reached by following the Banvie Burn located behind St Brides Church. Well worth the effort to see the stunning views of the parkland and designed landscape created in the 18th century by the second Duke of Atholl.

The Whim....

....with its stunning veiws.