Monday, August 9, 2010

The Caledonian Canal

'The military road connecting the chains of forts, as it is called, and running in the general line of the present Caledonian Canal, has now completely opened the great glen, or chasm, extending almost across the whole island, once doubtless filled by the sea, and still affording basins for that long line of lakes, by means of which modern art has united the German and Atlantic Oceans. The paths or tracks by which the natives traversed this extensive valley, were, in 1645-6, in the same situation as when they awaked the strain of an Irish engineer officer, who had been employed in converting them into practicable military roads, and whose eulogium begins, and, for aught I know, ends, as follows:

Had you seen but these roads before they were made,
You would have held up your hands and bless'd General Wade.'

The Caledonian Canal, built by Thomas Telford, makes an appearance in Walter Scott's "A Legend of Montrose".  The canal itself covers about 60 miles, from Inverness on the eastmost end to Corpach on the west.  The canal makes use of four lochs along the way, including Loch Ness.

Work officially began in 1803, and in part, this project represented a jobs program for the Highlands after the Clearances had depleted the area of so many inhabitants.  Scott's text above describes previous usage along the line the canal system took.

The engineer Thomas Telford was born on August 9, 1757.

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