Caledonian Canal Day 7: Banavie to Oban


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The famous Neptune’s Staircase is the longest staircase lock in Britain—a series of eight locks carry boats up or down 64 feet over a distance of 180 feet. The typical time to pass through Neptune’s Staircase is about 90 minutes, but the Scottish Canal staff rushed us through in barely 70 minutes so we could reach the Corpach Sea Lock before it shut down for several hours at low tide.

On our seventh and final day in the Caledonian Canal, we travelled just over a mile, through ten locks and one bridge, from Banavie Top Basin through Neptune’s Staircase and out through the Corpach Sea Lock. Back in saltwater, we continued south for another 30 miles to overnight at Oban. Known as the “Gateway to the Isles”, Oban is Caledonian MacBrayne‘s busiest ferry terminal, with several excellent restaurants and interesting places to explore.

Below are trip highlights from October 20th, 2017 in the southwest Scotland. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps

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Fog

A calm, but foggy morning, at Banavie Top Basin.
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Neptune’s Staircase

We had arranged an 8:30am transit through the famous Neptune’s Staircase. At 180 feet (55 m) long, Neptune’s Staircase is the longest lock flight in Britain and will lower Dirona 64 ft (20m) through a series of eight locks.
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Lock Keeper

Looking up to the lock keeper in Neptune’s Staircase in the seventh lock of Neptune’s Staircase. We’re almost down now.
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Bottom

The typical time to pass through Neptune’s Staircase is about 90 minutes, but the Scottish Canal staff rushed us through in barely 70 minutes so we could reach the sea lock before it shut down for several hours at low tide. Corpach Sea Lock only operates with at least 1m of tide, and closes for about 2 hours either side of a spring tide. Today is a spring tide, with low tide around 1:30pm, so we need to be through by 11:30am.
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Banavie Swing Bridge

Passing through the Banavie Swing Bridge, our last bridge on the Caledonian Canal. We have two more interior locks to pass through before we reach the sea lock, roughly a mile away.
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Reflections

Reflections in the calm channel beyond the Banavie Swing Bridge.
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Heading North

We waited for two sailboats heading north to clear the locks above Corpach Basin before we passed through.
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Norwegian Rescue Ships

Two former Norwegian Rescue Ships, the Hjalmar Bjorge and the Elizabeth G moored at Corpach Basin. Both are now charter boats for the Northern Light Cruising Company. We saw the Hjalmar Bjorge at Loch Maddy in the Outer Hebrides a few weeks back. We know another former Norwegian Rescue Ship well—the Paul Johansen that we visited most recently in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and frequently saw in Port Madison near Seattle.
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Corpach Sea Lock

At least 1m of tide is needed to float the sea lock gate here at Corpah, with 1.4m needed at Clachnaharry at the north end of the canal. We entered the Corpach Sea Lock at 10:22am with plenty of time to get through before the low tide closure around 11:30am.
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Jacobite Steam Train

The Jacobite Steam Train heading north to Malaig from Fort William along the West Highland Line. This train portrayed the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies.
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End of the Line

Those entering the Caledonian Canal at Corpach see this sign the on way in. And this is the last sign we see as we leave the canal. What a fabulous trip we had.
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Back to Sea

Exiting the sea lock at Corpach and entering Loch Linnhe.
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Underwater Center

One of several dive platforms of the commercial dive school Underwater Center.
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Crannog

Passing the Crannog restaurant where we had dinner last night.
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Mountains

The clouds are clearing and we’re getting view to the mountain scenery along Loch Linnhe.
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Corran Lighthouse

The small car ferry arriving into Ardgour from Corran with the Corran Lighthouse in the background. The lighthouse was built in 1860 by Thomas and David Stevenson, father and uncle to author Robert Louis Stevenson.
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11.4 knots

We passed through the Corran Narrows about an hour before slack water on an ebbing tide and were making 11.4 knots when we’d normally be doing 8.25 knots at 1800 RPM. The water level dropped visibly in the channel as the water surged out.
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Castle Stalker

Castle Stalker on the east side of Loch Linnhe is believed to have been built in the 1400s. The castle was the scene for the Castle Aargh! at the end of the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
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Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle just visible above the trees to our southeast dates to the 13th century and is one of Scotland’s oldest castles.
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Traffic

Oban is a busy ferry terminal—we saw near-constant ferry traffic for the first few hours of our arrival. These are three CalMac ferries off the north end of Kerrera Island at the entrance to Oban Bay.
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Dunollie Castle

Scotland sure has a lot of castles—Dunollie Castle is our third castle sighting of the day. The ruins date from the 15th century, but a fortification existed on the site since the late 7th century.
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Hutchenson Memorial

Memorial on Kerrera Island to David Hutchenson, who in 1851 started a steamship company to serve northwest Scotland that evolved into today’s CalMac enterprise.
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War Memorial

Memorial to those from Oban who lost their lives in World War I. Fallen soldiers from World War II and the Falklands were later added.
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St. Columba’s Cathedral

St. Columba’s Cathedral in Oban was completed in 1959 and funded partly from money raised in Scotland, Ireland and Canada.
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Kerrera Sound

Looking south through Kerrera Sound—we’ll be passing through there in the dark when we leave Oban early tomorrow morning.
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Glen Tarsan

At the North Pier Pontoons in downtown Oban we caught up with the Glen Tarsan, that left Fort William a day ahead of us. Prominent above Oban is McCaig’s Tower —we plan to walk up there this afternoon.
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Mora Edith MacDonald

It was looking like we were going to be yet again moored beside an RNLB lifeboat, but they only stopped briefly on the dock. Their permanent berth is along the south shore of Oban Bay.
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Majestic Line

All three vessels of the Majestic Line were moored at the North Pier Pontoons. Behind the Glen Tarsan is the newest boat in the fleet, the Glen Etive, that cruises to the Outer Hebrides and St. Kilda. The third boat is the Glen Massan, a converted traditional fishing vessel like the Glen Tarsan.
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Museum

Our first stop was the small but information-packed Oban War and Peace Museum that provided a great introduction to Oban and it’s history.
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George Street

Looking north along George Street in downtown Oban.
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Vent Covers

We got a kick out of these colorful knitted covers on a series of heating oil tank vents.
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McCaig’s Tower

McCaig’s Tower was a philanthropic project of wealthy local banker John Stuart McCaig, who wanted to built a monument to his family and provide work for local stonemasons in the winter.
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Tower Interior

Construction of McCaig’s Tower started in 1897 with an elaborate plan to include a museum and an art gallery. But only the outer walls were completed when construction ceased after McCaig died in 1902.
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North Pier Pontoons

View to the Glen Tarsan and Dirona on the North Pier Pontoons from McCaig’s Tower.
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CalMac Ferries

The CalMac ferry Isle of Mull departing Oban with another CalMac ferry moored close by.
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Channel Out

The Isle of Mull heading out the channel through which we arrived into Oban earlier today.
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Jacob’s Ladder

Taking Jacob’s Ladder back down into Oban from McCaig’s Tower.
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Aulay’s Bar

We’d read that Aulay’s Bar was a good local’s pub and was it ever. We sat down for a pint shortly before the end of the business day and the place filled within minutes with everyone knowing everyone else (except us).
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Waterfront Fishouse

After a little more walking around, we stopped in at the Waterfront Fishouse shortly after they opened for dinner and snagged the best seat in the house for an excellent fresh seafood meal. Dirona is visible at the far right of the picture, left of the orange windsock.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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2 comments on “Caledonian Canal Day 7: Banavie to Oban
  1. Chris Bannister says:

    Hi James and Jennifer, I haven’t tracked your progress for a week or so and I am in Falmouth on a visiting ship as well. I went for a walk and was surprised to see you in front of Lyme Bay. I’ve been following you for a while now so it was really nice to see Dirona in real life. All the best and Merry Christmas.

    • Merry Christmas to you as well Chris. We’re currently doing some boat work and I have the injectors and everything above the cylinder head off the main engine so there is work underway but, if you would like a boat tour, we could do it later in the day. Email me if you decide you would like to drop by.

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