Friday 17th June, 2005
Saturday 18th June, 2005
Sunday 19th June, 2005
Monday, 20th June, 2005
Tuesday 21st June, 2005
Wednesday 22nd June, 2005
Thursday 23rd June, 2005
Friday 24th June, 2005

Friday 17th June, 2005

Drop Cap e got away early, as usual, and were soon motoring easily down the A9 towards Crieff. We arrived, after traversing some gorgeous highland scenery complete with patches of snow, (the Cairngorms, like Ben Nevis, being ski areas), at about 11:30.

Loch Earn photograph

Mac at lovely Loch Earn, Central Scotland

Drop Cap e checked out the whereabouts of our B & B, Ardo Howe, which we found easily, posted two boxes of clothes home and put in three bags of washing in the laundry, which promised them back by this afternoon. Relieved of care, we bought some lunch at a lovely bakery and headed off towards Lochearnhead.

Drop Cap e had our lunch in a picnic layby by Loch Earn in St. Fillans. Loch Earn was its serene and beautiful self. It is such a lovely area and so little known outside the area.

Falls of Dochart photograph

The Falls of Dochart, Killin, Scotland

Drop Cap hen we had finished lunch we cruised into Lochearnhead, past Earnknowe, where we have twice stayed in self catering units, then, finding we could not get down the south side of Loch Earn due to a bridge collapse and repairwork ongoing, we went the other way to Killin and the wonderful Falls of Dochart. We haven't seen them before when it was fine and they were just superb. It has been a lovely day.

Drop Cap e went down the south side of Loch Tay to the Crannog Centre, which we visited last time so didn't take the time today. We have had a great day, fine and beautiful. We came back to Crieff, picked up the laundry, and checked into the B & B. Our rooms were great, on the ground floor, always and so seldom, a bonus.

Drop Cap e went out to find dinner and had a great meal in the Red Onion Bistro in Crieff's High Street. Roast lamb for the first time in ages. Lovely.

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Saturday 18th June, 2005

Falkirk Wheel photograph

The Falkirk Wheel Boat Lift, at rest

Drop Cap ut and away from Crieff to Falkirk. That was fairly easy. But we could not find the base or follow the directions given to us for the Falkirk Wheel, so stopped in Camelon and phoned them. We were then given more comprehensive (and comprehensible) directions which got us to the amazing Falkirk Wheel by about 11:30.

Falkirk Wheel photograph

The Falkirk Wheel Boat Lift, working

Drop Cap his incredible structure, complete with Visitor Centre and picnic areas etc rose out of the canal like the space age artifact that it is. Dozens of people were being ferried up and over the wheel on pleasure jaunts.

Falkirk Wheel photograph

The Falkirk Wheel, showing Aqueduct

Drop Cap e found that our boat would not be ready for some time so went to see the wheel in action, had lunch and hung about while people who arrived after us swanned off with the luggage trolleys and got off before us which annoyed us somewhat.

Drop Cap owever, we eventually got off, through the swing bridge and lock and into the bottom of the wheel, with another boat. Actually going up the wheel was no more worrying than the London Eye but since I was sitting, holding a rope outside on the bow, I felt it in my stomach.

Drop Cap hen you get to the top the water equalises and you motor out onto the Union Canal. It only takes about fifteen minutes. Compare that with the time it would take to go up a series of eleven locks, which is what it replaced. All day, I imagine!

Drop Cap e went along an aqueduct, through a tunnel and up a double staircase lock before deciding that it was late enough to finish for the day. So we moored up to a pontoon on the far side of the locks and read the maps, got some dinner and explored our new domain.

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Sunday 19th June, 2005

Drop Cap woke to a grey day after the wonderful, hot weather yesterday (it was however, rather humid) and by the time we left, it was raining. We went on regardless and saw no other boats all morning.

Drop Cap e were held up by a flashing red light at the entrance to Falkirk Tunnel and waited a good fifteen minutes for it to change. (According to the Boat Manual, a flashing red light means a boat coming through). We eventually rang the number on the BW sign but got more accurate information from a towpath jogger who told us there were no boats in the tunnel and he had seen none all morning, so we went in.

It was the longest tunnel we have been in and definitely the wettest! There was one significant waterspout from the roof near the beginning and several overgrown drips on the way. The manual recommends wet weather gear and a waterproof torch, both of which we found on the boat.

Canal boat photograph

The "Willow Grouse" moored at Linlithgow

Drop Cap he "Willow Grouse" is a user friendly boat. She may be a bit long in the tooth at fifteen years old but her engine is only six months old. There is a permanent double bed (not very big) and a permanent single (also not really big enough for Geoff) but the lounge pulls out to a double which Mac is using (the pillows and doona were in lockers underneath) because I have picked up a terrible cold and find the close quarters of the other bed too confining.
Apart from that, though, she has the biggest and best bathroom and galley I have ever had on a canal boat, a real shower cubicle and shelf space in the bathroom and good stove and fridge and lots of cupboard and bench top space. Great.

Drop Cap e idled along until we reached the town of Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. We passed over several aqueducts, passed under umpteen bridges and dawdled past a prison and lots of swans and ducks.

We encountered several anglers, one of whom had tangled his line and lure in a tree on the other side of the canal just as we appeared. We were able to lift the line over the boat and disentangle the tackle. Just doing our bit for waterways harmony. Anglers tend to hate boaters.

We tied up to the rings in the canal basin, filled with water, then moved a bit further along. There are not many moorings and all of them are now taken. Unfortunately, this canal seems to have very overgrown banks where it is difficult to moor close-in, so you have to look for pontoons. These of course, are near towns.

Dovecot photograph

Doocot, at Linlithgow Basin

Drop Cap inlithgow is an ancient Royal Borough with countless historic buildings and a palace where Mary Q of S and her father, James V, were born. We were too late to shop but had a tasty and very filling Indian meal and came back to the boat. Tomorrow I would like to see the Palace and do a load of shopping at Tesco's before leaving.

There is a weird little doocot just across the road, quite unusual.

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Monday, 20th June, 2005

Linlithgow Palace Gatehouse photograph

Gatehouse, Linlithgow Palace, Scotland

Drop Cap oday was an interesting one. It was fine, and mostly sunny. We filled up with water again, mooring beside a boat moored on the water point, then went into Linlithgow and visited Linlithgow Palace, the ruins of the Castle of Scottish kings, birthplace, as I said before, of Mary Queen of Scots and her father James V.

Linlithgow Palace photograph

South Side, Linlithgow Palace, Scotland

Drop Cap his is a very large building, with a lot remaining, but we just walked around the outside, a route which took us past the Linlithgow Loch, mingling with riotous groups of costumed schoolchildren enjoying a living history lesson, and past the beautiful St. Michael's church, with its unique metal spire of a stylised Crown of Thorns.

St. Michaels Church photograph

St. Michael's Church, Linlithgow

Shale Bing photograph

Shale "Bing", Niddrie Castle in Foreground

Drop Cap ith stops for lunch and afternoon tea we motored idly through some very varied countryside. (If I lived in this climate I would want a house in bright colours and styling, not grey stucco boxes all the same). We traversed open fields, deep green woods and peculiar "Shale Bings", which are huge, mountainous slag heaps left over from extracting paraffin from shale in Victorian times. They are reddish, like Central Australia, and are now being colonised by all sorts of plants, so they are beginning to add another dimension to the canal banks.
We passed by Niddrie Castle, which once held Mary Q of S prisoner, but is now a private residence. It looks like a ruin but has glass in the windows and a roof in good repair.

Almond Aqueduct photograph

Anglers far below Almond Aqueduct

Drop Cap e had intended to go to Ratho for the night. This is the site of the Edinburgh Canal Centre and is supposed to have lots of facilities. However, we passed over the Almond Aqueduct, two and a half miles short of Ratho (about an hour's travel!) and, finding lots of mooring bollards and a side canal out of the way, we decided to stop here for the night. We don't need water or anything this evening.

Drop Cap oon after tying up, the first car arrived with a couple of anglers, who went down the steps to the river spanned by the aqueduct. Then several others, including picnickers, more anglers and just rubberneckers. Then two restaurant barges from the Bridge Inn at Ratho went by, lit up like Christmas trees and festooned with flags, pumping out loud music. Not as peaceful and secluded as we had thought, particularly since it seems to be under the flight path of Edinburgh Airport. Oh well, live and learn.

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Tuesday 21st June, 2005

Drop Cap e had to pole off and haul for a little to get started this morning as we were thoroughly grounded in mud. But it wasn't too bad. We headed into Ratho, just over half an hour, to find the only two public moorings were filled by two fellow Grouses, Red and Sage. The waterpoint was moored over by a hideous purple barge (tourist cruises) so we tied up to it and filled up. Every other mooring was private and reserved! So much for all the facilities.

Overgrown Canal photograph

Wildly Overgrown Union Canal

Drop Cap e motored on from Ratho, getting ever closer to Edinburgh, through a lot of the depressing outer suburbs. There was still some rural quiet but literally nowhere to moor. We are thoroughly disgusted by the state of maintenance of this canal. The banks are wildly overgrown, with nowhere to just moor for lunch etc unless you take your life in your hands and do a blind leap of faith, trusting in something solid under the growth.

Drop Cap nfortunately, they have built the banks up by dropping large jagged rocks in the water and cementing and capping on top. A lot of these rocks are free at the very edge of the water, making a hazard for boats trying to moor. And the state of the water, particularly in the urban areas, makes the white swans look black (nearly) and contains detritus ranging from supermarket trolleys and bicycle parts, armchairs, brooms and buckets, drink cans and bottles, plastic shopping bags and takeaway food cartons. People never fail to disappoint me!

Slateford Aqueduct photograph

Slateford Aqueduct, from street level

Drop Cap fter crossing under a motorway the traffic and urban scenery was so depressing that we decided not to bother going all the way in to Edinburgh, so we turned around and moored at the Slateford Aqueduct for the night. This is high over the Water of Leith and a railway bridge. It is the start of a restricted section of canal which is devoted to rowers for two hours a day. What with having to remember this and to phone to have a lift bridge raised and restricted time allowed at Edinburgh quay we thought it would not be worth the trouble.

Drop Cap o we did another, hopefully the last, shop at a SUPER Asda supermarket (it sold furniture, clothes, food of all kinds and ethnic persuasions and had toilets and its own McDonalds.)

Drop Cap n the way back to the boat we stopped at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre and went in for half an hour or so. This is a very imaginatively put together display on the history and wildlife associated with the Water of Leith, a river which runs through Edinburgh. It was very good.

Drop Cap e have decided to try Ratho tomorrow night and if we can't stop, go on to the Almond Aqueduct where we were last night.
I am also somewhat concerned that our sullage tank may be full. Considering our bilge needed a thorough pumpout and water was far from full, I have no faith that they actually pumped out the tank!

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Wednesday 22nd June, 2005

Moored Canal Boat photograph

Moored at Slateford Aqueduct

Drop Cap espite the efforts of some of the local junior hoons, who were bouncing on the pontoon, yelling and peering in the windows while we were moored at Slateford Aqueduct, we managed a night's sleep. It is still light until after 10 p.m., so nobody goes to bed early.

Drop Cap t was grey, windy and scudding with rain as we left, heading back up the canal towards Falkirk. However, it soon cleared in the strong wind and it became a lovely sunny day, later.

Drop Cap e motored into Ratho at about 12:15, finally finding ourselves to be first in, best dressed. Apart from the hideous purple thing (appearing to be permanently moored - on a waterpoint! - on an overnight only mooring!) we were the only boat in. We had lunch and filled up with water, then decided to stay and have a veg afternoon, dinner at the Bridge Inn and get away early tomorrow. By the end of the afternoon, there were three boats in, one tied up between us and Hideous Purple and one actually tied up to Hideous Purple and one which turned around and moored on the other, non towpath side. It is wide enough, being a basin of sorts.

Drop Cap e had a great meal at the pub, meeting mine host, Ronnie Rusach MBE, a big man on the canal. (He's a big man, anywhere!) He was instrumental in getting the canal reopened, has two large restaurant barges and also helped start the Seagull Trust, which takes disabled people free for trips on the canal. A good bloke. We told him truthfully (since he specifically asked) our opinion of the canal and he urged us to write to the BW because he agreed with us. He said BW wouldn't listen to him.

They have probably spent all their money on the Falkirk Wheel, and while I accept that this is what brought us here, it is not the only part of the canal. They are trying to fill the needs of wildlife, joggers, cyclists and walkers at the expense of the only canal users who pay (quite expensively) for the privilege.

Drop Cap owever, I have enjoyed "Willow Grouse", the comfort of her bathroom and galley etc. I do think the double is not big enough for two large people, but it is very comfy for one.

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Thursday 23rd June, 2005

Union Canal photograph

On the Union Canal

Drop Cap e got away from Ratho about 08:00 and pottered on our way. We telephoned the Wheel to say we would be there tomorrow about 15:00. They said there were about six boats booked in between 15:00 to 18:00 so there will be a queue. Story of our life, really.

Drop Cap e stopped at Linlithgow to have lunch, and Geoff went to the chemist for some throat soothers and painkiller.

Drop Cap fter this we headed on, intending to stay the night in the so-called "Secret Harbour", which is a secluded basin just after the spectacular Avon Aqueduct. Looking down from the Aqueduct was amazing. There is a country park down there with huge trees. Spectacular!

Drop Cap hen we found the narrow opening to the basin, only to find another boat taking up the only mooring, with kids fishing from a small pontoon, which might, in a pinch, have fitted us. Cursing, we went out again, and moored at the side of the canal, in a place that has been cleared, surprisingly enough. We had no sooner tied up, and grounded, and come down again to the saloon, when we were passed by the boat which had been in the basin! They must have been getting ready to leave when we got there, it would not have been difficult to tell us just to hang on for five minutes! But it was too far to reverse back and not wide enough to turn. So we stay here. Damn!

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Friday 24th June, 2005

Drop Cap aining today, after last night's clear sky. I can't understand the weather in this country!

We idled up the canal, passing on the way the "Orange Weaver", the boat which passed us last night. She had moored at the side. Can't imagine why, she had a perfect mooring before.

Anyway, we got up to the Falkirk Tunnel with no drama and Geoff took us through. We just ignored the light system, which still wasn't working properly and made sure we could see through to the end. After this we moored at the Seagull Trust Boatshed for morning tea and were passed by "Orange Weaver" again! They must really have taken the tunnel too quickly.

Drop Cap oon after leaving the Boatshed we encountered a floating hulk! A large, rust-covered barge had broken its mooring and was sideways across the canal, taking up most of the width. We gave it a gentle nudge and it moved over to the side so we could pass. We reported it to the lock keeper at the top lock but he had already been notified and was in the process of reporting it himself.

Falkirk Wheel photograph

We head along the Falkirk Aqueduct

Drop Cap e had lunch at the top lock and then went down the two locks and joined a large tour boat which we followed through the tunnel and into the Wheel.
No dramas and we were through the whole system in an hour and a quarter. We will probably feature in quite a lot of home videos and photographs of the Falkirk Wheel in operation, judging by the interest as we motored out of the wheel. Down through the bottom lock and the swing bridge back onto the Forth and Clyde, which we took to the first lock, turned around in the big winding hole and brought the "Willow Grouse" home.

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