Thursday, 21 February 2013


Prior to the early 19th century people wanting to get from Loch Fyne or the Firth of Clyde to Oban and the West Coast and Isles by water were forced to wend their way around the considerable Kintyre Peninsula. It was with this in mind that work on the Crinan Canal was begun in 1793 and completed in 1817, thus saving passengers a journey of 120 miles. The canal, 9 miles long and crossing the northern part of the peninsula, became a favourite part of what came to be known as the Royal Route to Oban after Queen Victoria followed it in 1847. In those days the journey along the canal, made painfully slow by the 15 locks crammed into those 9 miles, ended with the passengers transferring to a waiting steamer at the small port of Crinan for the onward sailing to Oban. Cargo was transported via the canal by small steamers known as "Clyde Puffers".

I have been to Crinan a couple of times, and it is a delightful spot with, on the one hand, lovely views across to the islands of Jura and Scarba from the harbourside, and, on the other, the opportunity to take a walk along the canal, enjoying further wonderful views of the surrounding scenery. The first time we went there, we decided to go for a wander through the surrounding woods and found ourselves face to face with a deer - I'm not sure who was the more startled. The village itself is adjacent to a busy marina with a mixture of swanky yachts and fishing boats. In the summer there are seal and birdwatching trips available. One particular Clyde Puffer called the Vital Spark, with a skipper nicknamed Para Handy, was the subject of a series of stories by writer Neil Munro published in the early 20th century, and several television adaptations have been made, the most recent in 1994 with Para Handy played by Gregor Fisher (better known as Rab C Nesbitt). The vessel used in this series can be found in the boatyard at Crinan.

Map of the area.

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