Day 3 of Leg 3 saw the Sail for Macmillan navigating Loch Oich, a freshwater loch lying between Loch Ness and Loch Lochy. This narrow stretch of water is the highest point of the Caledonian Canal and was once the strategic seat of the Chiefs of the Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry, a powerful branch of the Clan Donald. The dramatic, fjord-like landscape is steeped in a bloody history of clan warfare and bloody rebellion.
On their more peaceful passage, our crews will have spotted the very impressive ruins of Invergarry castle, a large 17th-century L-plan tower house, consisting of the main block of five storeys with a six-storey round stair-tower. It is not certain when the first structure was erected on Creagan an Fhithich but there are at least two sites prior to the present castle.
The castle’s position overlooking Loch Oich on Creagan an Fhithich – the Raven’s Rock – in the Great Glen, was a strategic one in the days of clan warfare. The walls are pierced by shot-holes. This castle was in the hands of the MacDonalds by 1731, and during the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46 was twice visited by Bonnie Prince Charlie. John MacDonnell of Glengarry and his son were imprisoned after the Rising and Invergarry was burnt by the ‘Butcher’ Duke of Cumberland.
Alongside the watery route, our fundraisers have taken this week, runs a Lochside drive from Inverness to Fortwilliam called General Wade’s Military Road. This is one of a network of military roads constructed in the Scottish Highlands during the middle part of the 18th century, as part of an attempt by the British Government to bring order to a part of the country which had risen up in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.
Three forts were constructed by the British government along the length of the Great Glen in the early 18th century. At its southwestern end was Fort William, at the head of Loch Linnhe, where the town of that name now stands. A second fort had been constructed in 1715 at the southern end of Loch Ness at Kilcumein. It was named Fort Augustus after Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. At its north-eastern end, the original Fort George was constructed in Inverness – it was not until the destruction of that fort in the rebellion of 1746 that a replacement was constructed at Ardersier Point on the Moray Firth.
As the photos show, our teams are enjoying the beautiful weather, fabulous sailing and top-class catering to keep their strength up. The day was completed by a fortuitous mooring next to the Eagle Barge Inn at Laggan Lock.
The Eagle is a large Dutch barge that was built in 1926 in Holland. Used as a troop carrier in World War II, she was particularly popular because, instead of being welded, she is pot riveted. This means that she is a lot sturdier – if you break a weld it keeps on tearing; if you knock out a pot rivet there are about a million more to keep the join together. As well as this, the barge is armour plated. This makes her around about 200 tonnes.
Once the war was over, it was her weight that made her, yet again, interesting. She was used as a sugar beet mover. However, because of her weight, she was used to transport across the Channel. This is unusual since canal barges are not suited to this purpose. The Eagle, made it across the Channel unharmed, though it was a risky thing to attempt. One large wave and she would have been sunk. After she was decommissioned she was brought over to Scotland and placed on the Caledonian Canal at Laggan locks and was converted into the Bar and Restaurant that she is today.
Suitably fortified from the victuals on The Eagle our crews set sail in the morning once again, heading into Loch Lochy. Anyone interested in taking part in a Sail for Macmillan should contact Colin and Jan of Premier Sailing, who will be happy to share more details and if you wish you may express an interest in taking part in 2018, without obligation.
Donations to support the cause may be given to the Just Giving page.