Queen Victoria On The Canal

The Scotsman, Sep 17, 1873.

AFTER a week spent in Lochaber amid scenery as grand and wild as any that can be met elsewhere in Scotland, Her Majesty the Queen started yesterday morning on her return journey to Balmoral Castle. Shortly after eight o'clock, the Queen, accompanied by Princess Beatrice, and attended by Lady Churchill, Major-General Ponsonby, and Dr Fox, left Inverlochy Castle, and drove to Banavie, where the steamship Gondolier (Captain Angus Cameron) was in waiting to convey the royal party along the Caledonian Canal to Inverness. The vessel, which had been specially chartered for the purpose from Messrs Hutcheson, was fitted up in a very elegant manner, the saloon being laid with Victoria tartan, and festooned with beautiful flowers. The upper deck was also carpeted, and along it was thrown another of deer-skins and rugs. Several inviting arm-chairs were placed in the saloon and on the upper deck for the use of Her Majesty. At 8.47 the Gondolier was ready, and steamed slowly up the loch with the royal party on board, and amid the cheers of a large crowd of spectators who had met to pay their last respects on this occasion to their Queen. The morning was beautifully fine, with a bracing breeze blowing, which was just sufficient to raise a ripple on the larger lochs. From the deck of the boat could be obtained a splendid view of Ben Nevis, whose misty covering, however, at that early hour, had not lifted. The cutting between Banavie and Gairlochy is about 7 miles in length, and the scenery along the banks, although not particularly striking, upon the whole is very pleasant. At Gairlochy a number of flags were displayed. There a sprinkling of people from the surrounding district had met, and cheered as the boat passed through the locks. Her Majesty, who was at the time upon the saloon or upper deck, graciously acknowledged those expressions of loyalty. Once through the locks, the Gondolier now entered Loch Lochy, and on the right is seen the weir over which the surplus water of the loch rolls, and forms the river Lochy, which rushes away at headlong speed to join its- old tributary the Spean in the valley below. On the same side are seen the Glenfintary Hills, with Glenfintary House and the Belford Monument rising amid a grove of firs at the base, while away right ahead, and closing in the view, stand the dark slopes of the Laggan Hills. On the left, Auchnacarry House, the seat of Lochiel, peeps out from amid the umbrageous shades of Glen Arkaig, while a little further along the shore is the farm of Clunes, at the back of which rise the wooded crags which gave so secure a shelter to Prince Charlie after his defeat at Culloden. Looking back from a point a little to the east of the Bay of Arkaig, a most beautiful view is obtained of the whole of that romantic glen, over which towers in the distance the heights of Glenmalie; while away on the south, surrounded by a crowd of adoring peaks, frowns the Big Ben in all its glory. The hills which form the screen of Loch Lochy are for the most part covered with very good sheep pasture, those on the right-hand side being more verdant than their compeers on the opposite shore; but, although they are partly wooded, they have by no means a soft aspect, as their sides are torn and river by immense gulleys and fissures, down a few of which rush brawling torrents. It may be remarked that near the head of the loch was fought a very fierce battle in 1544 between the Frasers and the Macdonalds of Clanranald. After a sail of 8 miles along Loch Lochy, the steamer comes to another cutting, two miles in length, at the head of which are the Laggan locks. Here Mr Ellice, M.P. for St Andrews, and Mrs Ellice, whose palatial residence is built on the side of Loch Oich, came on board the Gondolier, and were graciously received by the Queen, who entered into conversation with them. Mr Ellice accompanied the boat to Cullochy, seven miles further on. At Laggan there was also a gathering of people, who cheered as Her Majesty passed; and, by way of practically showing their goodwill to the reigning house, numbers of them manned the marching spikes at the locks, and thus assisted the steamer to get faster through.
Passing into Loch Oich, which is the next in the chain, the scenery almost instantly changes, and be-comes most beautiful and pleasant to the eye. The hills slope gently upwards from the edge of the loch, and instead of being in the least degree sterile, they are covered with splendid trees from base to summit. When in Loch Oich, and viewing its softened scenery, one could easily fancy oneself in the lowlands, and not in the heart of the Great Glen. A road, nearly shaded, runs along its north bank, and on the side of this, near the foot of the loch, stands a small pyramid, on the top of which is a group of seven heads. The monument, which is known as “The Well of the Seven Heads," is said to have been erected by Colonel Macdonell, the last chief of the clan of that name - who, by the way, was the prototype of Fergus M'Ivor in Sir Walter Scott's "Waverley" - to commemorate an act of summary vengeance by one of his ancestors on several persons who hid committed an atrocious murder further along the shore of the loch, on the same side, is seen the Glengarry boundary, near which rises a rock at the head of a little bay. The ruins of the old castle of Glengarry, the ancient seat of the clan Macdonell. The Castle was burned by the Duke of Cumberland in 1740, but the walls still remain, and they appeared from the boat to be in a tolerably good state of preservation. Over the battlements floated a flag, a thing that has been a stranger to the walls for a long time. Near the mouth of the Garry, and situated a short distance to the east of the Castle, is now seen Glenquoich House, the residence of Mr Edward Ellice, M.P., and at the foot of a terrace which slopes down to the water's edge, lay on the still waters of the Loch a pretty little yacht and several barges, all of which were gaily decked out with bunting. The steamer now passes several pretty little wooded islets, and soon comes to Aberchalder, which is at the head of Loch Oich. On the right the river Oich runs off from the Loch, and ahead it is seen pursuing its way by the side of the canal, until it mingles its waters with those of Loch Ness. At Cullochy it is crossed by a neat suspension bridge, which has been built by Mr Ellice, who, as has already been noticed, left the Gondolier at this point. The canal here reaches its highest elevation, being 100 feet above the level of high water at Inverness. From Cullochy the waters fall in the locks until, at Fort Augustus, the level of Loch Ness is reached. A cutting of five miles-connects Loch Oich with Loch Ness, and along this the Gondolier proceeded. The weather which, during the morning had been very fine, suddenly became overcast about noon, and as Her Majesty went downstairs to luncheon it came on a smart shower, which, fortunately, however, did not last long.
At Fort Augustus, which was reached at 12.25, there was a great turn out of the gentry of the district, and the inhabitants, generally, all eager, to catch a glimpse of royalty. The village of Fort Augustus lies on each side of the canal, and the houses are built in a very straggling manner, and are spread over a large area of ground. In anticipation of the visit of Her Majesty, considerable preparation had been made to give her a hearty reception as the steamer passed through the locks, of which there are five here. Flags floated in great profusion on each side of the canal, and near to its junction with the Ness a triumphal arch, composed of heather and evergreens, was erected. The fort, which is now dismantled, having been sold to the Master of Lovat some years ago, stands on a promontory overlooking Loch Ness, but it has not by any means a formidable appearance. But for a turreted rampart which surrounds it the place would easily pass for a block of ordinary dwelling houses. As the Gondolier neared the village, the Edinburgh, the ordinary passenger boat, which was lying in Loch Ness, fired a gun, and the crowd at the upper end of the rocks immediately raised a hearty cheering, which were again and again renewed. When the steamer was in the lower loch, Her Majesty came upon the saloon and graciously acknowledged the applaudits of the assemblage. The scenery round Fort Augustus is altogether different from that of Loch Oich, being wild and Highland in its character, but it looked very charming in the sunshine, which again broke over the scene. There was no rain, and the weather during the rest of the day was delightful. The Gondolier now sailed into Loch Ness, a magnificent sheet of water, 23 1/2 miles long, and about 1 1/4 miles wide, and the prospect that opened to the view was charming in the extreme. The hills that throw their shadows over its waters are magnificently wooded, but the scenery, if less refined and charming than Loch Oich, is yet wonderfully fine, and presents some points of great force and beauty. The hills again lose the barren sterility of those around Fort Augustus, and become wooded to the top, and here on their slopes can be seen some waving fields of corn, which tend greatly to add a diversity of character to the scene. From the deck of the steamer a view can now be obtained of the pretty Glenmoriston, with the clachan of Invermoriston lying at the base of a thickly wooded hill. On the heights above is Invermoriston House, the seat of Sir George Brook Middleton, and on those above Knockie Lodge, the seat of Lord Waversey. On the opposite shore of the loch guns were fired as the Gondolier hove in sight, some exquisite scenery is now passed between this and the spot where Foyers Water falls into Loch Ness, and Her Majesty sat for some time sketching as the boat sailed up the loch. The romantic-looking bridge hear the mouth, of the Foyers Water was distinctly seen from the deck, and at this pier the Edinbro', whose, passengers were at the time all away doing the Falls, was passed. The peak of Mealfourvounie, which rises to an altitude of about 2700 feet, is a prominent object on the left, with the ruins of Urquhart Castle standing on a precipitous rock at its base. The ruins consist of a turreted three-storey square keep, with remains of outworks, and among these were assembled a large number of ladies and gentlemen.....