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cruising loch shiel feature article

Cruising Loch Shiel

For most, the stunning vistas of Loch Shiel are entertainment enough, but there's
also an equally captivating story here about a man and a boat.

BY TERRY WILLIAMS

"Welcome!"

I first met Jim Michie and his boat, the MV Sileas, in June 2010. They had been celebrating — the boat was 70 years old and her skipper was recovering from his own birthday party the previous evening. Despite this, Jim's smile echoed his greeting as I stepped aboard from the tiny pier in front of Glenfinnan House Hotel. I was looking forward to spending the day with Loch Shiel Cruises, voyaging from the mountains of Lochaber to the salty air of Acharacle, 17 miles away on the western seaboard. To my shame, it was the first time I'd stopped in Glenfinnan in over 25 years of travelling the road between Mallaig and Fort William. Jacobite monument, famous viaduct, steam trains, railway museum — surely all Glenfinnan's stories had been told? Wrong.

I discovered another — the story of a loch, a man, and his boat.

Loch Shiel is the offspring of a glacier, which carved itself a trench 11,500 years ago through high mountains to what eventually became the west coast of Scotland. Then it melted. The land, relieved of 2,000 vertical feet of ice, slowly rose and separated loch from sea with a two-mile crow flight of marshy ground. So was formed one of the country's longest, narrowest and wildest stretches of fresh water.

The full text of this article is available in the SUMMER 2011 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photos: © Terry Williams