Editorial – The Scottish Banner Says….

October – 2022 (Vol. 46, Number 04)

Coinneach MacLeod, The Hebridean Baker and his Westie Seòras. Photo: Susie Lowe.

The Banner Says…

Celebrating 200 years of Scotland’s inland waterways

Today in our modern world of motorways, rail corridors and airports it is hard to even comprehend just how important the inland waterways were to Scotland during the Industrial Revolution.

This year Scotland is celebrating the 200th anniversary of two incredible canal waterways, both that of the Caledonian Canal (which celebrates 200 years this month) and the Union Canal.  Each of these waterways have played an important role in Scotland’s engineering and transport history.

The Caledonian Canal

The 60-mile/97 km Caledonian Canal, Scotland’s longest inland waterway, connects the Highland capital of Inverness with Fort William and opened on October 30th, 1822. To build this amazing feat of engineering Scotland’s first ever steam dredger was used, it was purpose built for the incredibly difficult terrain of the Scottish Highlands. The project was engineered by the famous Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford. The incredible project which at the time had many sceptics cost £900,000, £425,000 over budget, and provided much needed work for thousands of locals during construction. This amount was a huge sum for those times and work began in 1804 and finished 12 years past schedule
in 1822.

The Caledonian Canal was created to assist ships safely getting to the north of Scotland and also from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea without having to navigate the perilous Pentland Firth, a strait between the Orkney Islands and Caithness. Thus, creating a route for goods to travel fairly quickly from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east, which goes through the great Lochs of Oich, Lochy, and Scotland’s most famous, Ness.

The Union Canal

Also opening in 1822 was the Union Canal, which runs from Falkirk to Edinburgh. The Union Canal took less time to develop at only four years and links with the key transport route the Forth & Clyde Canal and linking to Glasgow and much of central Scotland. This would have been the way to travel from Edinburgh to Glasgow for both freight and passengers.

The canal also played its role in the development of both Edinburgh and Glasgow. As Edinburgh created its very fashionable New Town it required fuel and items for building and the canal provided a link to Glasgow for supplies. The Scottish capital also sent horse manure off the manicured streets of Edinburgh, this was a time when horse and cart were the form of transport and sent to the central belt to be used as fertiliser on Scottish farms. The canal also greatly contributed to Glasgow’s huge role as a key city in Britain’s Industrial Revolution.

It was however the rise of rail travel for both people and goods that saw the decline of the canals by the 1840s and eventually an end to commercial traffic by the 1930s as the new era of rail took over.

The Falkirk Wheel

In Scotland today the canal waterways are still in use, however they are for pleasure boating and walkers and cyclists along the banks. Those waterways still weave through some spectacular Scottish landscape and are a unique way to see Scotland at a slower pace. In 2001, as part of the Millennium Link Project, the Forth & Clyde Canal was reopened as part of the £83.4m project, which became one of the largest canal restoration projects ever to take place in Britain.

This also led to one of Scotland’s most unique modern engineering feats, the Falkirk Wheel. Opening in 2022 the Falkirk Wheel connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal by lifting boats 115 feet and is the only rotating boat lift in the world. The Falkirk Wheel replaced the 11 lock gates used to connect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, as after the 1930s they were filled in with land built upon them, allowing Glasgow and Edinburgh to again be linked by canals. Today the Falkirk Wheel is one of Scotland’s top attractions and while it may not be connecting freight and passengers, like the canals once did, it has become a vital part of the waterway system and celebrates Scotland’s rich heritage.

In this issue 

We are delighted to have in this issue Coinneach MacLeod, or as many may know him as, The Hebridean Baker. Coinneach is passionate about Scotland, food and of course the Hebrides and shares that passion with millions of people around the world through his social media and cookbooks.

Lying in the heart of Perthshire is the very scenic Sma’ Glen, a relatively small part of Scotland but one that has a rich history. This picturesque location, found just outside of Crieff, holds many stories within its land from traces of a Roman fort, to the alleged grave of the Gaelic bard Ossian. For those who enjoyed the classic film Chariots of Fire, Sma’ Glen was also used as a filming location.

Queen Elizabeth II
As we go to press the UK is in a period of national mourning over the death of The Queen, who died at 96 in Scotland at Balmoral Castle, in Aberdeenshire. Queen Elizabeth loved the Highland estate which was purchased by the Royal Family in 1852 under Queen Victoria’s reign. Queen Elizabeth had not only a love for Scotland but also the pipe band movement worldwide. The Piper to the Sovereign, or Queen’s Piper, was a role created in 1843 and Queen Elizabeth had a piper with her throughout her life.

This issue features the great connection that Queen Elizabeth, the longest reigning monarch in British history, had to Scotland after her incredible seven-decade reign. It was only last year at the opening of Scottish Parliament The Queen said: “I have spoken before of my deep and abiding affection for this wonderful country. It is often said that it is the people that make a place and there are few places where this is truer than in Scotland.”

Have you been on any of Scotland’s canals or visited the Falkirk Wheel? Do you have you any comments from the content in this month’s edition? Share your story with us by email, post, social media or at: www.scottishbanner.com/contact-us

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