Sep 03, 2019 - Lord of the Glens

Over breakfast we cast off at the top of the flight of locks in Fort Augustus in sunshine and heavy showers, completing our transit of the Caledonian Canal. Although we were held up at Laggan Locks which were under repair, we enjoyed a few presentations by staff as we advanced along the canal to its highest point at Loch Oich before crossing the shallow Loch Lochy over lunch. By early afternoon we had arrived at the top of Neptune’s Staircase—an impressive flight of eight locks that lowers the canal down to the Atlantic sea lock at Corpach. We overnighted in the Corpach basin beneath the great massif of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain on mainland Britain.

Our afternoon activities were centered on Glenfinnan where a National Trust for Scotland visitor center was established to commemorate the place where ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie first raised his standard on the Scottish mainland at the start of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. Today the site has been re-branded to celebrate Harry Potter, for the railway viaduct behind the center is the one over which the Hogwarts Express travels in the movies. One group took a longer hike which approached the viaduct from above before passing beneath it to return to the visitor center. A gentler walk was offered from the center itself over a boardwalk viewing wetland flora: birch, willow, alder, and a variety of ferns. So much rain had fallen over the past week that whole sections of the boardwalk were underwater. After dinner we were privileged to hear a presentation by Alasdair Gibson, the Glenfinnan estate manager who enthralled and amused by turns with his accounts of deer stalking on the estate.

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About the Author

David Barnes

Expedition Leader

David studied history at the University of York in England and theology at the University of Wales. Research in the field of religious history (at Cardiff) followed on naturally. He has spent most of his professional life teaching history, most recently in adult education departments within the University of Wales where he has taught a wide variety of courses pertinent to the wider Atlantic world. In 1988, he made his first lecture-tour of the U.S. for the English Speaking Union. He has published extensively on Welsh history and topography–his most recent book being the Companion Guide to Wales (2005)–and is a frequent contributor of articles and reviews to Welsh cultural and literary journals. In the1990s, David was active in the field of international education, traveling worldwide and spending a year in the U.S. (in Atlanta and New York City). He speaks English and French in addition to his native Welsh.

About the Photographer

Erika Skogg


Erika Skogg is a photographer, educator, and National Geographic Explorer with experience documenting cultural stories from the United States to Morocco, Greenland, Iceland, Colombia, and beyond. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Erika’s photographic research and storytelling ideas are driven by the desire to immerse, understand, and visually preserve the region’s local Nordic culture, and in 2018, Erika received a National Geographic Early Career Grant for her project “Scandinavian American.” Erika travels to Scandinavia regularly in search of the cultural connections to our emigrant history and promote an interest in one’s own genealogy to foster a respect for the continued immigration of today.

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