Day 8, June 3:
Got up around 7am, had breakfast on the boat, then departed from Fort William around 8:30. Made it to Gairlochy locks at 9:30am. We were apparently the first folks through the Moy Swing Bridge since the lock tender cranked furiously to get the bridge open for us. Pretty neat to see that work. We made it to Laggan Locks by 11:30am and made a quick stop to drop recycling before heading on through Laggan Avenue, a beautiful pine tree lined section of the canal. I had some time to relax and knit since we had sailed this way before and I knew what to expect. We hit Cullochy Locks at 2:00 after a short stop at the Great Glen park to have lunch at their pontoon. The morning’s rain had mostly stopped by the time we were far enough from Fort William and it was shaping up to be a really pretty day. From what we heard from others, it ALWAYS rains at Fort William, so our experience was pretty well average. We also stopped at the Well of the Seven Heads again (it’s a pretty spot to tie up) where we were greeted by two swans and a batch of cygnets! Papa swan was having nothing of our being there and demanded bread from the boat. He almost didn’t let Doug off the boat since they were right up against the stern with their cygnets – there was some hissing and lunging involved. We made Kytra lock at 3 and took our time getting to Fort Augustus by 3:30. Doug made a spectacular parallel parking job (at the end of the time lapse below), and the boat behind us was so impressed that they recruited Doug to help with locking down. The Lisa, the large sailboat behind us, had a crew of four seniors (pensioners if you’re British), and Doug was more than happy to lend a hand for such a lovely vessel. We met the crew later for a pint or two at the Lock inn and hung around with them till about 10pm. A great time!
Day 9, June 4:
Got up early to catch a shower before the facilities filled up. The shower facilities at Fort Augustus stink like wet sheep, but are still usable. No other facility was quite as clean as the Gairlochy facility (except Caley’s marina), so I was a little bit spoiled I suppose. We did a little backtracking this day because we had made such great time to Fort Augustus. We took our time getting going in the morning and got underway around 9:15am. Made it to Kytra Locks at 9:45 where we saw Linda again and got another gold star for proper life vest use. Went through Cullochy at 10:45 after a short wait for another boat coming through. Stopped again at the Well of the Seven Heads for a rest and a snack then turned back around to Cullochy Locks where we stopped and got out to see the Bridge of Oich. We went through the lock at 1:30, then made it back through Kytra by 2:30 where we stopped to set up a little barbecue lunch with a single-use barbeque tray. The lock tender’s dog was pretty interested in what we were doing and came over for some head scritches. We made it back to Fort Augustus and went right down through the locks, having made it just in time for an opening. Going back down that staircase is definitely quicker than going up. We tied up at the bottom at 5:30, took a walk, had a pint at the Lock Inn, then it was back to the boat for a Doug-cooked meal, fajitas!
We slept in a little, but were up for breakfast by 8:30 and pulled away from the pontoon at 9:30 into a drizzly, foggy, but very calm Loch Ness. Loch Ness is probably one of the longer segments of the trip, so we only made it to Urquhart Bay Harbor at 12:30. We stopped there to make lunch and then we were back off into the fog at 1pm. The fog was finally starting to lift a little, but it had gotten pretty chilly. It was still raining when we made it to Dochgarroch Lock at 2:30. Shortly after leaving Urquhart Bay Harbor, we picked up two stowaways – two Mallard ducks had flown over and landed on the roof! We fed the very friendly ducks a slice of bread and they hung around with us for about an hour, preening and drinking rain water off the roof before flying off. After Dochgarroch Lock was the Tomnahurich bridge, and then we slowly sailed back into the Caley Cruisers marina. A crew member came out to refuel the boat, then we tied up and were all settled with the bill by 5:30pm. Made dinner, packed up, and relaxed for the evening.
Got up, had breakfast, and handed the keys to the boat back over. The VERY kind staff at Caley Cruisers offered to take us to the train station which was really VERY nice of them! We hopped a train at I think 9:45am and took the four hour trip back to Edinburgh. Pretty uneventful train ride, and we were both kinda bummed to be leaving such a great week behind. Back in Edinburgh, we took a cab to the Grassmarket Hotel (it was MUCH warmer in Edinburgh and neither of us were interested in walking with our big backpacks. The room wasn’t quite ready at the hotel, so we had a pint at the White Hart Inn, and then got settled in our room. The room was a lot smaller than the previous room (three sides of the bed were flush up against the wall), but it really didn’t matter since we were just going to be sleeping there. Headed off to see about finding some whisky to bring home (two half-liter bottles in addition to the Ben Nevis 10). The shop keeper even let Doug fill his own bottle out of the casks lined up on the wall. Walked around a bit since we hadn’t seen much of the other side of Edinburgh beyond the train station, and ended up at the Cloisters again for dinner. Back to bed early since our flight was supposed to be at 8am.
Day 12, June 7:
Woke up to get ready for our flight when Doug realized that the flight had been delayed two hours. Instead of rushing to get ready, we took our time, had breakfast at the bar next door, and settled up with the hotel at a leaisurely pace. Hopped a cab, and made it to the airport with plenty of time since the flight had been delayed further – the inbound flight was late, so the departing flight on the same aircraft was running behind. We finally boarded and headed back home, sad to leave such a great vacation behind.
We had some lessons learned on packing and grocery shopping that I’d like to share in case anyone reading this is looking for tips.
Things to Pack:
- a deck of cards
- clothes pins for hanging towels up
- binoculars to help sight buoys and wildlife
- a flag to represent your country or persuasion of piracy
- male to male headphone cable for your mp3 player to plug into the jack on the stereo
- inverter for the cigarette lighter port on the dash
Things we forgot or almost forgot to buy first round included paper towels, tissues, salt and pepper, sugar, cream, tea, and coffee. Keep a journal or ship’s log! It helped me go back and write up the blog posts and is just a fun way to remember what happened over the trip, even if it’s just a few lines about how neat the Moy Swing Bridge was or how far you travelled that day. Don’t plan too much – the bridge/lock openings don’t run on any sort of schedule and it works best to take them as they come and not worry about time. We had PLENTY of time to get there and back and could’ve even taken longer getting out to Fort William with no problem. Overall? I’d do this again in a heartbeat! I didn’t at all like the one big Caribbean cruise we went on (too much structure, too little to do on the boat in between ports), but this really had the right pace of sight seeing and relaxation time. Too much relaxation time (like at an all-inclusive resort) is SO ANNOYING to me – I like to go-go-go and see everything there is to see, but at the same time those go-go-go vacations never really feel like a vacation once you get home. This felt like a vacation and, I keep saying it, but it was really just the right mix of time to relax and running around seeing the sights. We’ve already started looking at taking boating holidays in other places around the world since this seems to be a pretty popular thing to do in Europe and there are a bunch of no-license-required waterways that allow novice boaters to have at it. So, that was our Scotland vacation! Can’t wait for the next one.