Great Canal Journeys (2014) s06e03 Episode Script

The Crinan Canal

1 I'm Prunella Scales And I'm Timothy West.
Beautiful.
We've been husband-and-wife for over five decades.
There you go.
Cheers.
We’ve been wedded to stage and screen for even longer.
Great haircut.
But we share another passion - canals.
Cast-off, please.
Aye-aye, sir.
Canals wind through our lives, carrying our treasured memories .
.
of families going up .
.
our moments of wonder .
.
and hidden beauty.
Is this the most remote canal we've ever been on? I think it probably is, yes.
.
.
of love .
.
and laughter Sorry about that.
Things are a bit harder for me these days.
I'm not strong enough! But we get by.
We're at the summit.
Hooray! Pru has a slight condition.
It does mean it she has difficulty remembering things.
Oh, my darling.
I'm so sorry.
I didn't cast you off! One has to recognise that Pru's domestic life is getting a little narrower by the day.
Well, it can be a nuisance, but it doesn't stop me remembering how to open a lock gate or make the skipper a cup of tea.
OK? Cast-off, skipper.
We've embarked upon a personal odyssey, exploring the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
It's just a series of one breathtaking view after another.
I know.
And navigating two unique canals across only open countryside.
What a sight! It's a demanding voyage.
One that I've wanted to make for decades.
Help! Help! Help! We've already crossed the mountainous half of Scotland and traveled coast-to-coast on the Caledonian Canal.
We've reached the sea.
Hooray! Now we face open waters, as we set sail for the isles of the Hebrides.
I think it's ordinary.
On a hazardous voyage to a remote waterway Are we going to be all right? .
.
known as the world's most beautiful short cut - the Crinan Canal.
It will be an epic journey, one we’ve never tackled on our own, but its never too late to explore.
I still feel that sense of adventure and possibility and discovery.
We're about to begin the second leg of our Scottish adventure.
So far, we've traveled cross-country to Fort William and beyond.
This next section of our voyage starts the West Coast, the Isle of Mull.
From here, we'll set out for the Crinan Canal.
To pick up our new vessel, we've come to the small port of Tobermory.
It's very picturesque, isn't it? Yeah, it is.
It's only been like this since the end of the 18th century.
It was designed as a custom-built fishing village by, guess who? Go on, tell me.
Thomas Telford.
Oh, right! One of my engineering heroes.
For over a century, Tobermory was also a staging post for vessels traveling between the isles of the Hebrides and Scotland's major towns and cities.
Crews of trading vessels had to face the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean and so will we.
It's quite a voyage you're taking me on this time, isn't it? Island hopping our way through the Hebrides.
I wanted you to see it, though, because I always remember coming here, it must be about 40 years ago I think.
Uh-huh.
You were working and I was on my own and I just wanted to clear my mind and go somewhere which was completely away from anything that I was bothering about at all.
To escape the city and live life at a different rhythm.
Out here, there's no choice.
You take nature, sea, the weather as it comes.
So, now you want me to brave the Atlantic with you? Yes, please.
Come on.
Right.
OK.
Our boat is the traditional West Coast fishing vessel, Skarv.
Mine and Tim’s experience is and largely on inland canals, so I’m quite relieved were not taking her out on the open seas on our own.
' Hello! Hello.
Hello.
Hi.
How are you doing? I'm Ross.
Ross, is it? Pleased to meet you.
Helping us to navigate our way to the Crinan Canal are local boatmen Mike and Ross.
So, this is the boat.
She's an old herring fishing boat that used to work up the Clyde and Tarbet area.
So, when was she built? She was built in 1947, so just after the war.
So, yeah, she's almost 70.
Big birthday coming up.
Oh, a baby.
A baby.
Yeah, exactly.
So, come aboard.
Please.
Let's head out to sea.
OK, Mike, let's go.
So, we've got the helm here and this is just pretty much as it was in 1947.
So, we'll get underway.
Do you want to fire up? That's great.
It's a lovely sound.
We are following the same route taken by the old puffers.
Steam-powered supply vessels that traveled up and down this coast, carrying goods to and from Glasgow.
It's something I've wanted to do for many years and for Pru, a stimulating voyage is just what she needs.
And it's something we can share.
The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, merrily did we drop.
Below the kirk, below the hill, below the lighthouse top.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Of course, we have one of those on board today.
Anything I've got to watch out for? Whales.
Any buoys? Subs.
So, we're going to go round the point here by the lighthouse.
Yeah.
And then have a look at the weather and it's good, there's some blue sky up there.
Yeah, it's fine.
So, let's head for the blue sky.
Right.
Heading out from Mull, we're bound from the holy Isle of lona.
Passing through the straits of Corryvreckan and its notorious whirlpool, we will hug the coast of Jura, to visit its distillery, before heading across the sound to the wee port of Crinan and the start of the canal.
Transferring onto a Clyde puffer, we'll travel the length of the Crinan Canal, before crossing Loch Fyne, to the fishing port of Tarbet.
Well, that's the plan anyway.
So, what are we promised weather-wise? Well, it's going to be quite fresh.
You can see the winds just picking up now.
Oh, yeah.
So, once we get round this next point, it's more exposed to the Atlantic and wind.
It might be quite a bit serious, yeah.
And there is a hurricane out in the Atlantic at the moment, which is helping set this weather across.
So, we're going to get it for the next two or three days probably, are we? Yeah, you're right.
So, just a wee bit different from being on the canal, eh? Well, mind you, we have our moments.
Have you? Yeah.
It's 30 miles to lona and it looks like we could be in for a bumpy ride.
Oh, dear.
This point up here, Tim, that's Ardnamurchan Point, that's the most westerly part of the British Isles.
Right.
And as we're coming round the point now, you see that were picking up a bit more of this Atlantic swell.
Yeah.
Oh! It's getting very rough, isn't it? Are we going to be all right? Oh, yes.
Are we? Absolutely.
It will be a bit rolly, but you'll be fine.
I'll grab you.
Out here, you're at the mercy of the elements and today they’re not looking very merciful at all.
This is no gentle cruise down the Kennet and Avon.
The swell's got pretty big and the wind is picking up to six now.
We've still got another point to get round to get the full brunt.
I’m starting to feel more than a little queasy.
It's looking quite wild.
The swell's picked up.
And I think we're just going to have to turn round.
We'll go back in our tracks, back to Tobermory.
We have no choice but to head for home.
OK, hard around to port now.
OK.
Everyone hold on a wee bit there.
That's good.
Right, down to starboard.
Oh! Well done.
Argh! Just like in the canal locks, eh? When they open the sluice gate.
Yeah.
Right from the off, our plan to island hop down to the Crinan Canal has come unstuck.
Skarv and her crew are confined to port, storm-bound.
But with luck, Pru and I can still get lona today, if we get a move on.
Bye now.
Bye, Pru.
See you on lona.
Mike and Ross will catch us up, if there is a gap in the weather.
To get lona today, were going to need a bigger boat.
So, we head to the other end of Mull to catch the last ferry of the day.
All the other vessels of the island are confined to their moorings, but the ferry is still running.
Just.
Argh! From this end of Mull, it's only short hop to lona, but it's not going to be pleasant.
' It's quite rough, isn't it? Even on a ferry.
Argh! That's the holy Isle.
Famous as the island home of St Columba, lona is one of Britain's earliest sites of Christianity and is still the heart of a worldwide religious community.
A spiritual place since pagan times, there's been an abbey here for 1,500 years.
Well, I don't suppose it was a day like this when St Columba and his 12 companions arrived in coracles.
Not quite.
Ha! And formed a pilgrimage, which has lasted nearly 1,500 years.
Originally from Ireland, St Columba arrived on lona in 563 AD Using this island as his base, he set about converting the whole of pagan Scotland and northern England to Christianity.
Get thee to a nunnery.
Well, to the abbey anyway.
While we wait for our boat and crew to catch us up, we have time to explore the spiritual heart of the island.
This was built from about 800.
Oh, gosh.
And the oldest bit is just behind the cross there.
That little bit.
Yes, yes.
Which is the shrine.
It's an extraordinarily large and fine church to find only small island on the edge of the Atlantic.
To discover why St Columba chose this spot, were meeting me head of the lona community, Peter McDonald.
Good morning.
Good morning, Peter.
Welcome to lona Abbey.
As you will have experienced, coming to lona, you're coming to a remote place.
Back in the day of Columba, the main way of travel was by sea.
And so, lona was almost like a service station on a highway.
Right.
All the communication from north Africa up the coast of Spain, past Ireland, Scotland, up to Scandinavia, was down this seafaring route.
So, when Columba came to lona, he was choosing a strategic location for mission.
So from lona, St Columba and his monks set about converting dark age Britain.
And the course of history was changed.
In the centuries that followed Columba, the Abbey itself became a centre of pilgrimage and learning.
We know that this place was a hive of activity.
This is where the book of Kells was produced, another illuminated manuscript.
Yeah.
We know that there was all sorts of industry that happened here.
The Abbey survived numerous Viking raids, but after the Reformation, it was deserted and fell into ruin.
But in the 20th century, under the leadership of the Minister George MacLeod, the religious community and the Abbey were revived and rebuilt.
When the cloister was rebuilt, between 1930 and 1965, these more modern carvings were put into the pillars.
Tell us about these.
These are grave slabs, which were commissioned by clan chiefs and important figures.
Lovely Gaelic symbolism.
Yeah, beautiful animal and religious motifs interwoven.
So, we believe that these grave slabs would originally have been situated out in the graveyard, where Macbeth is reputed to be buried.
Macbeth?! So they say, along with other kings and nobility from Scotland's, from Ireland and from Scandinavia.
For more than 1,000 years, people have been making pilgrimage to this holy Isle, to worship, pray and reflect upon their lives.
One of the central aspects of the spirituality of the Columban church was knowing the human place within creation.
Yes.
And I think you had to accept that when the sun shone, you took that as a blessing and if there was a storm, you took that as a blessing.
There was nothing you could do about it.
So, we should count this rough weather as a blessing? Yes.
It may mean that you have to stay longer with us.
Oh, good.
Hooray.
This is what I came for, what I wanted Pru to experience.
To be out here on this remote island, the wind howling around you, you feel, well, more alive.
Yes, but it's also nice to be in the warm.
I'm quite glad we got stranded on this island.
I don't fancy braving those waves are there.
Mm.
What was it that George MacLeod, the chap who started the island community, said? "This is a thin place.
"A mere tissue divides the material world from the world of the spirit.
" And in your case, that spirit is a glass of whiskey.
Indeed it is, yes.
Cheers.
Cheers.
As evening falls, it looks like we could have a little more time to enjoy this beautiful island than we expected.
Well, it's not going to get any better, is it? I don't think so, no.
No sign of the buoys, I think we're stuck here.
Marooned on an island with the love of my life.
We're on a voyage through the Western Isles of Scotland, following the route of the old steamers that once supplied the Highlands and Islands.
Its a voyage I’ve wanted to make with Pru for decades.
Bound for the Crinan Canal, a summer storm has left us stranded on a remote Scottish island, but it's a new day and things are looking up.
That's our boat down there, new boat.
Right, yes.
We were due to continue our voyage aboard a traditional fishing vessel, but outside the shelter of this bay, it's still too rough.
So, to get off the Isle of lona, we've hired a modern ocean-going rib.
Hello.
Hello.
Sandy? Yes, hi.
How you doing? Good to see you.
And Pru.
Yes, hello.
Come on down and we'll get yous aboard.
Venture West.
Yeah.
Oh.
That's a good sign, I hope.
Bye-bye to lona.
Yeah.
You can see practically the whole of the island.
Yeah.
Leaving lona, we'll head for the Isle of Jura.
After braving the Corryvreckan whirlpool, we'll transfer back onto our original vessel.
Following the coast of Jura, we'll moor at Craighouse and sample the delights of its distillery.
We've left the shelter of lona behind as we cross the Firth of Lorn.
Out here, we're exposed to the full force of the Atlantic swell.
And I’m starting to wish Id missed breakfast.
It's quite rough, isn't it, Sandy? A wee bit, yeah.
We have a force four and we have a wee bit of a tide running against the wind and, so to say, chopping it up a wee bit, yeah.
Oh.
Were trying to reach the calmer seas that lie on the eastern side of Jura, but to get there, we have to navigate our way through the most notorious stretch of water in the British Isles.
We're going round the Corryvreckan whirlpool, which is a remarkable whirlpool.
A whirlpool? Yeah.
I don't like the sound of that.
It's all right, it's all right.
It's quite spectacular.
Will I be sick? No, I don't think so, you're normally quite good, aren't you? You're a good sailor.
According to Celtic legend, the whirlpool is created by the goddess of winter, whilst washing her tartan dress in a bucket.
And if she sets it on a fast spin cycle, ships get sucked under and their crews drown.
The Corryvreckan whirlpool, we're coming towards it now.
Oh, my God.
Will we get caught in it? It's the third largest whirlpool in the world.
And the Royal Navy called it the most dangerous piece of water in the UK.
Good Lord.
Hidden beneath the surface of the water is a 130ft pillar of rock, rising up from the seabed.
Dirty great waves here.
Wow.
Known as The Old Hag, Atlantic currents collide around it, creating a deadly maelstrom, withstanding waves of up to 30ft high.
It's quite scary, is it all right? Is it safe? Yes, it's very safe.
What? Very safe, dear.
Well, you could have fooled me.
Bloody hell.
We've escaped the clutches of The Old Hag, passing safely through the sound of Corryvreckan, we reach more tranquil waters, ones that are teeming with life.
You see the seals? Yes.
They're much more awkward on dry land than they are in water, aren't they? What are those birds? Are they cormorants? Are they cormorants? I can't see.
I think they are, yes.
Whirlpools and wild animals, the raw elements of life.
This is what we came for and why I had to bring Pru here.
Being out in the wilderness is good for her.
He's coming to talk to us.
Hello.
Hello, good morning.
Ah.
Thank you for letting us visit your home.
This is the north side of Jura, so this is where we should see Scarba in a minute.
In these calmer waters, we’ve arranged a rendezvous with the crew of our traditional fishing boat.
This was a lovely modern boat, wasn't it? Yeah.
But looking forward to getting back on something a bit more recognisable.
Bit more in our class.
Yes, less bump, bump, bump and a little more life at 4mph.
Hello.
Well done.
Nice to see you.
Thank you.
There you go.
Welcome aboard again.
Nice to see you.
Before we head south, are you up for a wee bit of lunch? Sure.
Most certainly.
I've got some nice, fresh lobsters for you.
Ohh.
Oh.
Oh.
How about that? Yeah.
Its great to be back with Mike and Ross again.
Its been an exhausting voyage so far.
See you later, Sandy.
Cheerio, bye.
Cheers, Sandy.
So, while the boys get lunch, were going to act our age, for a little bit, anyway.
We got up very early this morning to catch the tide, I think, Tim is feeling the effect now.
Well, cheers.
It's lovely to be on a boat like this, at peace, you know.
After bumping our way up here.
I like being on the canal again, really.
Tim, Pru, that's the lobsters ready.
Beautiful colour.
There we go.
Beautiful.
All we really need is a glass of champagne.
No problem.
Mike! Champagne, please.
Certainly, sir.
Hm, wonderful.
Perfect.
Wow.
Whey! Brilliant.
Cheers to this girl.
Cheers to this girl Yes, indeed and to yourselves.
Cheers.
Slainte mhaith.
You know when I talked about a different rhythm of life? Yes.
Well, this is what I meant.
Idyllic.
It's a hard life in the Highlands.
It is indeed.
We're following the coast of Jura as we head to Craighouse, it's only town.
Jura is one of the larger Hebridean islands, but the heavily forested interior and rocky hills mean that most of the island is remote wilderness.
Who lives on Jura now, Mike? I think there's about 200 people and about 6,000 here.
It's owned by four families.
I think it's one of the least populated bits of the British Isles.
Yes, it must be.
Not counting the deer.
There may be few people living on Jura, but one of its temporary residents had an enormous impact on modern culture.
So, that's Barnhill.
That's where George Orwell wrote 1984.
Yeah, extraordinary.
That's where he sat and penned the word.
Couldn't be much further from the world of 1984.
No, it's strange, isn't it? To manage to dream all that up in such a remote location.
As I did, George Orwell felt the need to escape the pressures of London life and between 1946 and '49, here on the Isle of Jura, he found the peace he needed.
Overlooking these waters, he wrote his dystopian masterpiece about an all-powerful totalitarian state.
The Ministry of Truth, Newspeak, Room 101, all created on this wild and isolated coast.
Apparently it's called 1984, because he finished the book in 1948 and he just switched the numbers around.
Oh, right.
Oh, right.
So, is Big Brother watching us? Big Brother is watching us from the north end of Jura.
Come quite a distance, yes.
And 6,000 deer.
Jura's other great contribution to culture comes in the form of whisky, the islanders have been distilling it here for centuries, back in the 1700s, it happened in illicit stills, hidden in caves and forests around the remote island.
Well, this is Craighouse and that is the Jura Distillery, a part of Scottish culture which we haven't officially explored.
The coming of steamboats and regular trade in the late 19th century, allowed a commercial and legal distillery to be established.
So, Tim and Pru, this is our stillhouse.
Graham, the distillery manager tells us Jura now produces 2.
2 million litres of the amber nectar every year.
Whisky has been distilled in mainland Scotland for many years, hasn't it? Yes.
But more recently, transporters have made it available to be manufactured in the islands? Indeed.
1870, the puffers started coming to Jura, through the Crinan and delivered three main raw materials which is barley, coal as well and casks and they all came by sea.
Yeah, yeah.
What are we looking at here now? Now, this is our number one wash still, they're the second tallest in Scotland.
Really? Now, this is what defines Jura's spirit, because the stills are so tall, they have so much copper in the neck, which is this part at the top here, only the lightest flavours and only the lightest vapours get to the top.
Make it to the top, yeah.
How does that affect the taste? Well, Pru, it makes it so much lighter that it allows all the fruity flavours to come through in the white spirit.
Now, you'll notice I don't call it whisky, it is white spirit at this stage.
I thought whisky was always amber or brown.
We get asked that a lot.
A lot of people think because we use brown, peaty water, it should be brown, but that magic is done in maturation and it's the casks that purely colours the spirit.
The casks? Yes.
So, you only call it whisky when you've had it distilled in a barrel? When it's been in an oak cask for three years and a haunted warehouse in Scotland, then it can be called whisky.
Right, OK.
A glass of cool white wine is my drink of choice, but Tim has been trying to turn me on to whisky for years.
Now is his chance as we've been invited to sample the local produce.
I'm going to start with our Jura ten-year-old and that's one that's very, very light, very delicate and it's unpeated as well.
I first started drinking whisky when I got to know Tim.
I loved wine with meals, but whisky was not part of my .
.
what do you call it? Life.
Very sharp.
It's really gentle, I think and one could drink quite a lot of it if one's not careful.
Quite dangerously easy to drink.
Yeah.
This is a lot more rich and full-bodied.
This is smoother.
Yes.
It's still not quite smooth enough for me.
She's not easy to please.
Let's try another one.
I think I’m getting the hang of this.
I do that, but I don't know what I'm looking for.
This is our most heavily-peated whisky.
I found that delicious.
Ah.
You like the peat? Maybe that's it.
We found your whisky, there we go.
After all these whiskies, I think we ought to spend the night here and set off in the morning.
That's a rather good idea.
Yes.
We'll stay on Jura, we've got a lot to get through after all.
Island-hopping through the Hebrides, we're following the route of the old Highlands' supply vessels, known as puffers.
Its a voyage I’ve wanted to make for decades and with the help of a local crew, were nearing the Crinan Canal, known as the world's most beautiful short cut.
So, Crinan is only how far across there? It's really just on the other side, Tim, that's the mainland over there.
Loch Crinan is about six miles away.
Yeah, right.
Before the canal was built, this would have been the route that any trade would've had to come up.
Crossing the Sound of Jura, we'll reach the start of the canal.
There we'll board an original puffer and chug our way along the Crinan to Bellanoch, before mooring up for the night at Cairnbaan.
Well, we've had a fair taste in the last few days of some not very friendly weather and it must have been quite tough for the little puffers Definitely going around all these islands? Absolutely, I mean, they very much became part of the folklore here.
They were pretty lively characters.
Yeah.
So it wasn't just goods they were taking from Glasgow, they'd also be taking goods from the islands back to the city.
Sure.
Tweed and whisky or whatever, yeah.
People must have been very pleased to see them, mustn't they? Well, yeah, for starters, they'd have had their food and drink aboard.
Sure, yeah.
That made them popular.
Yeah.
They'd have had all the news from the city.
Yes, yes.
And I can imagine that the puffer skippers had a tendency to arrive whenever there was a party at an island.
Ross and Mike have guided us to the western entrance of the Crinan Canal.
Here we'll board an original steam-powered puffer for the final leg of our epic voyage across Scotland.
Oh, here she is.
It's the last working survivor of a breed of boats that kept the west coast of Scotland supplied with the staples of life.
She's big for a canal boat, isn't she? Well, she has to be big and strong enough to face the seas of the Western Isles and at the same time just able to get onto a canal, just.
Our vessel is the VIC 32, built in 1943, she is one of only two ocean-going puffers left in the world.
Her cargo once included coal, lime, sheep and potatoes, and in wartime - ammunition.
But today, she carries only passengers.
Hello, Nick.
Hi, Tim, hi, Pru, welcome.
Lovely to be here.
Can we come aboard? Yes, very much so.
Nick and his wife, Rachel, rescued the VIC 32 in 1975, when they found her in Whitby, derelict.
Now she's run as a charity and we've been supporters for 30 years or more.
Ah, welcome back again.
After all these years.
What is it, ten years? It's a bit wobbly, that plank.
It's about ten years.
Brilliant.
Still looks much the same.
Do you think the old man will be all right on his own, or? I'm just managing on here.
Come with me, I'll show you to your quarters.
This was once the hold, with crew confined to the forward cabin.
Don't slip on the steps - that's lovely.
Today, it makes a rather welcoming saloon.
This is your cabin here.
Our berths are basic, but comfortable.
Oh! Home from home.
Look.
There it is.
Nick and Rachel run six-day cruises during the summer months and passengers are encouraged to join in with the crew to enjoy the full puffer experience.
Which means galley slave for me.
Women's work, eh? I do most of the cooking on our boat.
It's quite fun cooking on a boat, isn't it? You've got to be quite organised.
For me, the duties of a stoker.
This load will take you to the end and back, will it? Well, it's one shovelful a minute.
Three tonnes a week.
Before you started, that was a five-tonne pile, but because you've done half a tonne, it's now only a mere 4.
5.
We'll give you a cup of tea afterwards.
I'm often working on the galley in our own boat, but for Tim, who is used to being the skipper, this is a totally different canal-boating experience.
I think it will do him some good.
Oh, thanks, Tim.
Right.
Who'd have a coal-fired steamboat, eh? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
It'll never catch on.
No.
So this is what you had to do perhaps once or twice a day when puffers reigned supreme? Absolutely.
They used to go up to central Glasgow and they'd have big chutes, railway trains had brought them along, and you'd pull a big lever and they'd go whoosh.
But we have to do it by sack and wheelbarrow and stuff like that.
Er it's quite good for, er gelling people together, because you suffer.
That's right.
You suffer together.
It's good to suffer.
With coal bunkers now full, were ready to embark on our voyage down the Crinan.
This is an amazing canal, and it's quite different from what we think of as being the traditional sort of canal, and extraordinary to find it in this country.
Built to serve neither mine nor mill, the Crinan Canal is a nine-mile shortcut through a virtual wilderness.
Its purpose, to save boats heading from Glasgow to the Hebrides an 85-mile voyage through the treacherous waters around the Mull of Kintyre.
The Crinan was never a commercial success but its calm canal waters have saved many a ship from foundering at sea.
And for us, it's a welcome break from the Atlantic swell.
Beautiful sound, isn't it? Lovely.
That's the sound of steam - well-maintained steam.
Lovely.
Gentle, confident.
Yes.
When we're under way, you've not got much to do except occasionally put a bit of coal on the fire and look at the pressure gauge.
That's it.
The Crinan Canal is the only place where a puffer engineer can have a rest for a couple of hours.
It's really nice.
Listening to the sounds of a 1940s steam engine while gliding through the open countryside, one can't help slowing down the rhythm of one's life.
Tim, I know you're desperate to get hold of the wheel and steer this boat No, not round here, I'm not.
When we get out into Loch Fyne tomorrow, you can go round in figures of eight and circles and do whatever you like.
That's a relief! Steering a vessel with an 18.
5-foot beam down a canal that's only 20 feet wide is no mean feat.
Perhaps not the best time for a novice to take the helm.
It's quite tricky, isn't it, manoeuvring this large beast of a boat.
We're about to ram a rowan tree.
This is the problem on the Crinan Canal at this time of year.
You've got trees stretching over it.
The canal was built 210 years ago and they ran out of money at this end, and they didn't have dynamite, they just had gunpowder, er, so this section of the canal is really quite shallow.
Oh, the Crinan Canal for me I don't like the wild raging sea The big foaming breakers would give me the shakers The Crinan Canal for me From Ardrishaig to Crinan's the best trip I've been on The Crinan Canal for me.
We're nearing the end of our Highland adventure.
Having already traveled the breadth of Scotland on the Caledonian Canal We then navigated our way through the beautiful but sometimes treacherous waters of the Hebrides.
We are now on the final leg of our voyage, along Britain's most remote canal, the Crinan.
Can you hear that sound? The bilge pump, with its gentle rhythm.
It just goes on and on.
Very quiet and just That is the rhythm of life up here.
And I find it terrific.
We're on this very special ship, which is part of the landscape, and it's wonderful to be living on it because you're part of the family and they're a great crowd.
I came to the Highlands 40 or so years ago in search of another way of life, far from the chaos and concerns of the city.
And out here, I found it again.
Anybody for porridge? Oh, yes, please.
I'm enthusiastic about porridge.
One ladle or two? Two, come on! Two, yes.
Stick your ribs together.
I haven't eaten porridge for years.
From Cairnbaan, we detoured to visit Scotland's Stonehenge.
Back on the canal, we traveled the last few miles of the Crinan.
Crossing the open waters of Loch Fyne, we'll end our voyage at the fishing port of Tarbert.
The Crinan Canal wends its way through beautiful and unspoilt countryside, largely populated by sheep.
But it wasn't always that way.
1,500 years ago, this area was at the heart of Scottish power.
OK.
So we're walking towards Dunadd hillfort now, which was the centre of the kingdom of Dal Riata in the fifth to tenth centuries AD.
We've briefly left the puffer to explore this ancient landscape with archaeologist Dr Sharon Webb.
This was an incredibly important sea kingdom that stretched right the way from Mid Argyll, all the way through to Antrim in Northern Ireland.
So, was this where the Scottish kings were ceremonially crowned? Yeah.
Right at the top of the hill, there's a rock that's got a footprint carved into it, and the king would have put his foot into the footprint as part of the inauguration rituals.
Yeah.
In those days, kingship wasn't inherited so much as the king was kind of chosen from a group of nobles for his prowess in battle and, obviously, his political acumen as well.
Hence MacBeth, yes.
Yeah! Yeah.
It was quite a violent society, so the king would have been first in line to have his head chopped off.
Not the best job in the world to have, I don't think! Crossing over Kilmartin Glen, Sharon leads us back further in time and into a glen littered with monuments from prehistory.
So we can see all these lovely standing stones in a row.
Um And they're Bronze Age, so round about the same time as Stonehenge was being built, these stones were being erected.
So all around us is a ritual and burial landscape.
There's something mysterious about these stones.
No-one knows exactly what they're for.
Can you see these circles that have been pecked into the rock? Yes.
So these are cup marks, which were made in prehistory, and some of them have got rings around them, which are quite hard to see now.
Yes.
Kilmartin Glen particularly has got more cup and ring mark rocks than anywhere else in Britain, denoting that the landscape is really, really special.
Prehistoric rock art, basically, this is.
Yeah.
It's a strange feeling to touch something carved by a sculptor thousands of years ago.
At the heart of Kilmartin Glen lies Temple Wood.
This is extraordinary, isn't it? Yeah.
It's my favourite monument, Temple Wood.
And looking at the standing stones that are upright here, they were the first part of the monument that was built in the Neolithic period, and then later on, in the Bronze Age, other elements were added, like the cobbles, and it became a place of burial.
And you can actually see, just in the centre, there's a kind of stone-lined grave.
So, it's called Temple Wood? Yeah.
Well, was this a prehistoric temple of some sort? Well, the Victorians named it Temple Wood in the 19th century.
They were kind of thinking, you know, maybe it might have been a temple used by Druids.
Well, of course, they were much, much later.
But what took place at this site 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic period was probably lots of ceremonies, it was a place where people might have gathered to meet marriage partners and have fun, possibly.
Hen parties, sex, drugs, rock and roll? Whoo! Well, maybe! As long as it wasn't raining.
As we return to the puffer, this typical Scottish summer weather seems to have set in.
The cold and damp has got to Pru, so I've left her to warm a while beside the fire.
We're near the end of the canal now and a more familiar modern landscape is emerging.
Where are we now, Nick? Well, we've just crossed from the west side to the east side of the Kintyre peninsula, just coming up to Ardrishaig.
What happens here, apart from the canal? Well, Ardrishaig was a very small place before the canal was built 210 years ago.
So there's various industries.
But the main one used to be the distillery.
So here we are, coming up to the old distillery wharf, which is that little stone jetty there.
Oh, yeah.
And the puffers would have come in here, bringing empty barrels, maybe from Bourbon whisky.
They would have brought coal in, they would have brought peat in and they would have brought a grain in, and then they would have taken away the product, which was the whisky, to be sold in Glasgow.
Sadly, that whisky is lost in the mists of time, never to be tasted again.
You know what they say? They say it's "dreich".
And if it's really raining, it's "awful dreich".
Quite right.
Well, awful dreich it may be, but it's all hands on deck as we enter the last few locks of the Crinan Canal.
We're nearly at the end of the canal now.
Oh, right.
Just one more lock and then the sealock leading out into Loch Fyne.
The sealock opens and the way's clear to the Clyde.
The old puffer route would have been all the way to Glasgow, but we're just crossing Loch Fyne, heading for the old herring fishing port of Tarbert.
And skipper has invited us to join him up top.
Come in.
Hi, Pru.
Welcome to the wheelhouse.
Tim is taking the helm and guiding this 160-tonne vessel into harbour.
That's good, Tim.
OK.
Now turn the wheel a couple of spokes to port.
Now, you're doing very nicely.
You're steering in the right direction.
Oh, that's always useful, isn't it, darling? It always helps to steer in the right direction in life.
He's very good at it, actually.
Although a puffer is not the sort of vessel he's used to, it's at least five times the size of a narrow boat.
What's she like to handle? Oh, lovely.
A bit heavy, yeah.
Yes.
I always love coming into Tarbert Harbour.
There's something sort of exciting about it.
Here we go, safely moored in Tarbert.
Our last port of call on our epic voyage across Scotland.
We'd just like to raise our glasses to the people, the places, the ideas and the ships that have made this area so wonderful and have made us all so welcome, always.
So God bless you.
Cheers.
EVERYONE: Cheers! Cheers to you all.
And God bless the Highlands, islands and canals of Scotland.
Oh, my love is like a red, red rose that's newly sprung in June.
Oh, my love is like the melody that's sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonny lass, so deep in love am I.
And I will love thee still, my dear, till all the seas gang dry.
Till all the seas gang dry, my dear, and the rocks melt with the sun.
I will love thee still, my dear, while the sands of life shall run.