Julia Bradbury isn’t my favourite walker and I’d rather be out walking myself than watching a TV programme about it. But occasionally she walks in a place I’m particularly interested in and so I’ll download the programme on iplayer and then try to make enough effort to actually watch it. She’s now doing a series on canal walks and the first was featuring the Caledonian Canal and the first part of the Great Glen Way. As this is where I’m hoping to walk in the summer I thought I should download it.
I’ve just watched the programme and I did find it quite worthwhile. It’s useful to see what the places actually look like as then I’ll be better prepared when I come to walk in them. She also gave some history about the canal which was interesting.
The canal was built by Thomas Telford and was on a scale that hadn’t been seen before. It joined up the west coast to the east coast utilising the lochs that were already there. It was the first canal big enough to take more than just barges and was meant to aid fishing boats in their journey from coast to coast as it would save them having to go round the more dangerous coast to the north of Scotland. The canal got public funding which was also a first, because the government were keen to invest in the area to stop migration and encourage business by making the area more economically viable.
The canal ended up being way over budget and taking about three times as long as originally planned. Some things never change! By the time it was ready and functional advances in shipping meant the north coast could be more easily and safely tackled and the railway system was taking over from the canals. So this amazing example of engineering was never used to its full potential and ended up being a bit of a white elephant. It looks stunning though and provides a great walk or cycle and is set to be the UK’s first long distance canoe trail as well. So at least it’s appreciated and well used even if not for the original reason!