Caledonian Canal Country Tracks


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Caledonian Canal

Series celebrating the British countryside. Joe Crowley travels the Caledonian Canal from Aonach Mor Mountain to the North Sea, where he goes dolphin spotting.


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Today I'm on a journey along the Great Glen of Scotland,

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following the Caledonian Canal as it weaves its way

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from the Atlantic in the west

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through to the North Sea in the east.

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I'll be travelling the length of the canal,

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starting from high above Fort William on Aonach Mor mountain

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through Neptune's Staircase, across Loch Oich and Loch Ness

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and up to Chanonry Point in the north-east.

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From there, I'll head out into the Moray Firth.

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Along the way, I'll be looking back at the very best

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of the BBC's rural archive from this part of the world.

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Welcome to Country Tracks.

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I'm starting my journey by heading to the top of Aonach Mor

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on this amazing gondola system to take in the breath-taking views

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of the Great Glen and the canal that runs through it.

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Think of a canal and you'll probably picture flat towpaths through gentle countryside,

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or murky strips of water running through our industrial cities.

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The Caledonian Canal, which runs for just over 60 miles

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along the Great Glen of Scotland, is only one third man made.

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The rest is provided by nature - Loch Lochy...

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Loch Oich...

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and Loch Ness.

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The gondola was originally built to lift skiers up to the slopes,

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but now it's widely used as a short cut

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for climbers and mountain bikers.

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The 80 cabins run on a continuous steel cable,

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which itself weighs 40 tons.

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I'm being supported by 18 pylons, two masts

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and two stations at either end, anchored in 200 tons of concrete.

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It's actually quite a serious hill, this one.

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In fact, it's the eighth highest peak in Scotland.

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I've just climbed over 2,000 feet, and I did it in about 14 minutes.

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Starting my journey up here is a great way to get my bearings.

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Can't quite see, but just round to my left is Ben Nevis.

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Then if you look across that loch on a good day, you can see the Inner Hebrides.

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But the most important bit, and very exciting too, is I can see the route I'm about to take.

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The Caledonian Canal winds its way through the start of the Great Glen here in front of me,

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and I can even catch a glimpse of Loch Lochy.

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The paths carved into the side of Aonach Mor

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are mountain bike tracks made for the crazy folk who get their

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pleasure from racing headlong down this steep and treacherous descent.

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Adam Henson took on the challenge in the forest beneath me.

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A few miles from the canal is Leanachan Forest.

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It's got four world-class championship courses,

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including cross-country and the heart-stopping downhill.

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To show me around is mountain biker and Forestry Commission officer, Sarah McClellan.

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Which part are we going to do today?

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We're going to do the cross-country course.

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It's about 8.5 kilometres and it'll take about an hour.

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The athletes do it in 22 minutes per lap and they do six laps, so...

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Crikey! Is it pretty tough for a novice like me?

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Yeah, it's a red grade so there's enough to get your teeth into.

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You'd want to do some other mountain biking if this was

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-going to be your first, you wouldn't dive straight into this.

-Let's get to it!

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Oh! Ha, ha!

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-That's so hard!

-Yes, pretty tough.

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So what's the technique?

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You've got to slide your bottom right forward on the saddle.

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It doesn't sound very comfortable and it isn't, but it's the only way to do it.

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I soon discovered muscles I didn't even know I had.

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Control the speed, it's not too scary.

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If you let it go, it can be.

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Sarah, that was quite a climb!

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A magnificent view making it all worthwhile.

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-Pretty spectacular.

-That looks fairly extreme, going down.

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This is our black section on the cross-country trails.

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What's the technique?

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Weight back off the saddle, level pedals, feathering the brakes gently so just squeezing gently.

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No grabbing of the brakes.

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-I'll follow you. I'll try not to scream too much!

-OK!

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Are you sure about this? Remember it's black.

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In for a penny, in for a pound.

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Woah!

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'If at first you don't succeed...'

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Ha-hey! THEY LAUGH

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My route downhill has been much more sedate. I've come down from

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the mountain to the beginning of the Caledonian Canal at Corpach basin

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to sail through Neptune's Staircase.

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This impressive feat of engineering is essentially a ladder of eight lochs

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which raises vessels travelling along the canal to a height of 70ft above sea level.

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Skipper Mike Lofts has invited me aboard.

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Obviously, the best way to see Neptune's Staircase is to travel up it

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so I'm joining this boat, aptly named The Caledonian.

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-Hi, Mike.

-Hi, Joe.

-You're our skipper for the day.

-I am.

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This looks quite exciting ahead of us. Are we approaching it now?

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-Yes, this is Neptune's Staircase.

-Wow.

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It's actually so close together, you can see all the levels going up.

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What's the importance of this?

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The importance is manifold really,

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it's to save ships going round the top of Scotland.

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It's the short cut through, which is a lot safer,

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and also for the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars.

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It helped the Navy to hide from the French so they could surprise them on attack.

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So they would just bring their ships inland and hide here, and then pop out when the French came along?

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-Yes, and attack.

-It sounds so simple.

-Yep, marvellous.

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Because these guys, these are hefty sea-going vessels, aren't they?

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Would they be doing what you said,

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doing a short cut instead of going all the way round Scotland?

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Yes, but also doing the Caledonian Canal as a tourist attraction.

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Was there another way of doing this? Because at some point,

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somebody stood at the bottom and said, "We should make the river go up that hill,"

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which must have seemed ambitious.

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Was this the only possible route to link up the lochs?

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It was Thomas Telford who designed it. He did his studies

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and reported back, and he had the all clear to build it.

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Now we've got this fine structure.

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It's incredible, it must have taken some time to build back then.

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Yes, he started in 1801 and finished in 1822.

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-Right.

-They thought they would do it in six years, but they were wrong!

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So 21 years later and three times the budget...

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-Ouch.

-But it's complete.

-The Millennium Dome of its day!

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That's the one!

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I suppose, I mean, it's such a beautiful setting,

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this must be one of the most picturesque lock networks ever.

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We're kind of in the shadow of Ben Nevis there, aren't we?

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Yes, Ben Nevis just in the distance there.

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Absolutely beautiful. A lot of people must come through just to do the route.

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Without a doubt, yes. It's part of Great Glen Way as well

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so cycleways, walkways, it's used by a lot of people.

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As we go up here, am I going to be able to have a go at opening some of the lochs?

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-Sure, course you are.

-Is that OK?

-Yes.

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That's good! And if I'm really good, you might let me drive the boat?

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Erm, yeah!

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You look nervous, suddenly sweating! Gosh!

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We've got two crew on board, a guy at the front, a guy at the back,

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both have got ropes, but are we being flanked by your heavies?

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No, these are the boat's crew.

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We have a guy to tend the bowline and a guy to tend the stern line

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so when we come into the locks, we can throw the lines ashore and bring the boat safely against the wall.

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Hi. Raymond?

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-Yes.

-Hi, I'm Joe.

-Hi, Joe.

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-I believe you're the lock keeper here?

-I am.

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What are you looking out for now?

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The sluices have been opened now and the water has levelled off.

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-When the disturbance stops there, I know we can open the gate.

-So the pressure is equal?

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Yes. The gates won't open unless they're equal.

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Got you. Is that what you're looking for? That looks still.

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That's calm so we can go and open it.

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-So this is the magic box of controls?

-Yes.

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-It looks quite simple.

-It is, yes.

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So what do you do next?

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First thing, power on.

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OK, now open the gates.

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This lever here, this lever here, up and your two gates open.

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-And they fully open?

-They will, yes.

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-Keep the levers up until it's fully open.

-So I can do that?

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-Yes.

-Here we go then.

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-The gate is opening.

-One going there.

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So the boats are all through.

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Yes, close the gate.

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-So this time...?

-The lever down and the gates will shut.

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There we go, getting the hang of this!

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So will they just stop when they come together?

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No, when they come together,

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you'll see them vibrate slightly and you'll know that they're shut then.

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-Very good.

-And switch off.

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-Just like that.

-Thanks, Raymond.

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-You're welcome.

-Probably leave the next five or six to you!

-OK.

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It looks like we've come to the end, is that correct?

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-Yes, this is the top of the staircase.

-Very good.

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A quick favour to ask, do you mind if I have a go on the old captain's wheel?

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-Sure, come on in.

-Excellent. So everyone is pulling away...

-Yes, you've got a back thruster.

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-Yes.

-You need to use it. It's nice and clear.

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The crew are clear, that's good news.

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The throttle on the right. One click to just engage the engine.

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-There we go.

-If you find you're going too fast,

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-pull it back into neutral.

-Got you.

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The back thrusters will only work when the engine is in neutral.

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Just to push away from the sides?

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Yes. As you can see, you're coming into the side now.

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Wind it round. Quick hard. That's it, you find it's responding,

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and then get back again on to the port.

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-There you go, that's fine.

-Very good.

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Step it up one.

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# When the weather is fine

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# Then you know it's a sign

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# For messing about on the river. #

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I think I'll leave the skippering to Mike,

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but if we keep going in this direction,

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we'll eventually get to Loch Lochy and then Loch Oich.

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This is Loch Oich in the Scottish Highlands.

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At four miles long,

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it's the smallest of three lochs found in the Great Glen.

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Its neighbours are Loch Lochy and the infamous Loch Ness.

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The Highland lochs are stunning at this time of year

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with their autumn colours, in spite of the weather.

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This area is renowned for its wildlife, much of which is rare or extinct elsewhere in Britain.

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Because the human population in the Highlands is so sparse,

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this ensures that the wildlife is allowed to thrive, making it a haven for lovers of nature.

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Tourists and locals alike flock to the area, attracted by its flora and fauna.

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Many stroll through the forests enjoying the peace, tranquillity

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and chance to take things at their own pace.

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But the local forest rangers

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have come up with an altogether more adventurous way

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of seeing their local wildlife.

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You can forget the conventional walks.

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The latest way of seeing the Scottish woodlands is from the water.

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Hi, Adele. You're the inspiration behind Woods From The Water tours.

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-How did you come up with that idea?

-It's during my time working

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for the Forestry Commission as a forester over the last seven years.

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I've learned to think not just about growing trees, but about the wider picture.

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I'm a very keen canoeist myself, and I'm lucky enough to live and work in the forest.

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It just seemed a natural way of linking the two.

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Does it mean that people who aren't all that keen on walking can just sit in a canoe?

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Yes, and it's still good for you.

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It's healthy, it's a good way to enjoy the environment.

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You get an excellent view of the forest from the water.

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You get into areas that are inaccessible any other way

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so you can see some good relics of ancient semi-natural woodland.

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You can also see wildlife,

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and just the beautiful remote forest we see around us.

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It's a good way of seeing the forest.

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For this wildlife trip, you can leave your hiking boots at home.

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You need your waterproofs and your life jacket.

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Great.

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My canoe partner is local wildlife ranger, Jeff Dymond.

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More used to life on dry land,

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Jeff has recently taken to the water to guide the tours.

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Is it a good way to see the forest and the wildlife from the canoe then?

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Yes, the beauty about going from the canoe is that

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wildlife doesn't associate danger from man coming from the loch.

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With a large group of people like we have here today,

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you can get quite close to animals that are very shy,

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like the otter.

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The wild deer tend to come to the loch side

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because of the richness of the silt

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that has been deposited over the years -

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it creates a very good vegetation.

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You can see deer in this area, like sika, red deer and roe deer.

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At this time of year,

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it's rutting season for the deer so they're very vocal.

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Jeff has his own unique way of attracting their attention.

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Everybody get ready because they can swim as well so...here we go.

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LENGTHY HIGH-PITCHED SQUEALING

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o far, no reply from the hills. Maybe I'll have more luck.

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SHORTER SQUEAL

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I think I've got a bit of a sore throat!

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I think there's a duck coming!

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And what is this up here?

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It's Invergarry Castle. It was a stronghold of the MacDonnells.

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They were a very fierce, warlike clan

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and they exploited the woodlands

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in their time here.

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I've been 29 years as a ranger in the wilderness

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and I'm seeing things

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that even I haven't seen before from the loch side.

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There's more to the tour than going in search of wildlife on the banks of Loch Oich.

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As well as highlighting the value of the Scottish woodland,

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the Forestry Commission also teaches people how to respect it.

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If people get into a place and they learn about it and they grow to love it, they'll look after it.

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More practically, we're doing things like teaching people to camp more sensitively.

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One thing we want to try to avoid is, for instance people camping,

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leaving behind fire sites, bottles, that type of thing.

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The idea is you go into a place, enjoy it,

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and then leave it exactly as you found it.

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The final part of the tour is a welcome, warming supper,

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cooked over a forest friendly camp fire.

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-Why did you want to come along on this trip?

-I think it was the fact

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that we had adventure and a chance to see some wildlife,

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led by experts that knew what they were talking about and could show us what to look for.

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What things have you seen from the water that you wouldn't otherwise

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had you been walking on land?

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We got quite close to a swan that came right up to the canoe.

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We saw other bits and bobs of wildlife,

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but it's just fine being on the water,

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looking at the forest from a different perspective.

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We haven't seen a huge amount, but you can't expect to see everything.

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No, that's the beauty of looking for wildlife.

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It's elusive, and if you saw it every day,

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you wouldn't enjoy what you did see.

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Look at this, just to finish the day off nicely,

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some thick Scottish broth! Who's got the whisky?

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Food and a camp fire sound pretty good to me,

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especially with the weather starting to turn.

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But for now, I have taken to two wheels to enjoy the shores of this breathtaking loch.

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I am heading north along the Caledonian Canal

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following the edge of Loch Oich towards Loch Ness.

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Loch Oich is just over four miles long, making it the shortest of the Great Glen Lochs.

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Not to be outdone, it is the highest of the three

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at just over 100ft above sea level.

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Well, Adam's adventure looked very nice, but I'm after something a little bit faster,

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something you wouldn't normally expect on a loch in Scotland.

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I'm going water-skiing.

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There's loads of activities you can do here on Loch Oich,

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but I've never tried water-skiing before

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so I'm all kitted up and ready to get stuck in.

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First up I need to get to grips with balancing on water

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so I'm starting off on what's called the boom.

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This feels fantastic! It feels surprisingly natural.

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I'm almost trying hard to concentrate

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because I'm just taken in by this incredible beauty all around.

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It's quite a surreal experience.

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It's almost relaxing. I didn't expect to say that,

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but you're kind of just sitting down on it.

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What did I say about sitting down on it?!

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You're pretty good,

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I think you're ready. Do you fancy a go on the short rope?

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Yes, graduating to the short rope!

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Go.

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I'm almost doing it properly!

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Well, that was absolutely fantastic. I'm still grinning from ear to ear.

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It was so much fun! To do it in such a beautiful location,

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I'm pretty sure I could stay here all day, but I can't.

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Onwards with the journey. Next up, Loch Ness.

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Loch Ness is one of the most famous lakes in the world,

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not just for its outstanding beauty.

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It's big, it's the largest lake in Scotland by volume

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and second only to Loch Lomond by area.

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But it's the depth of this vast expanse of water which astounds people

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and which provides a fertile setting for the myths and mysteries which surround this magical place.

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So there it is, the famous Loch Ness.

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It's one of these places you learn about as a kid at school. I can't believe I've never been before.

0:21:380:21:44

It's fantastic. I'm quite glad I'm seeing it now

0:21:440:21:46

because this light looks beautiful.

0:21:460:21:48

But there's also patches of mist and cloud.

0:21:480:21:51

It looks a bit eerie, mysterious,

0:21:510:21:53

which of course fits the reputation perfectly.

0:21:530:21:56

I'm certainly not disappointed.

0:21:560:21:58

So not only is it legendary, it's simply stunning.

0:21:580:22:03

What else can you say?

0:22:030:22:04

On a glorious autumn morning,

0:22:170:22:18

I'm taking a boat ride in a northerly direction towards Inverness.

0:22:180:22:22

My companion is a man who's spent many years studying the mysterious loch in all its moods.

0:22:220:22:29

We're sitting in the middle

0:22:310:22:32

of what I believe is Britain's most significant geographical feature -

0:22:320:22:36

the Great Glen of Scotland.

0:22:360:22:38

Divides Scotland in half.

0:22:380:22:40

At one end is Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, to the south

0:22:400:22:44

and here is Britain's greatest lake, Loch Ness.

0:22:440:22:47

And just how deep is it?

0:22:470:22:49

230 metres. A bit hard to visualise

0:22:490:22:51

but if you were sitting in the restaurant that used to be at the top of the Telecom Tower in London,

0:22:510:22:56

then that would be underneath us now.

0:22:560:22:58

The rest would be water. Talking of water,

0:22:580:23:02

it's actually in volume that Loch Ness is truly pre-eminent.

0:23:020:23:05

It's got more water in it than the whole of England and Wales put together.

0:23:050:23:10

This great volume causes what's called thermal inertia.

0:23:100:23:13

No summer can warm Loch Ness up significantly, no winter can freeze it.

0:23:130:23:17

In the wintertime, the water can be warmer than the air.

0:23:170:23:22

This causes mirage close to the surface on calm days

0:23:220:23:25

which tends to extend images of quite small things into quite tall things.

0:23:250:23:30

What might he be hinting at?

0:23:300:23:32

Ever since the first reports in the 1930s,

0:23:320:23:35

searching for Nessie has almost become a national obsession.

0:23:350:23:39

Special observation teams have been set up.

0:23:390:23:42

Over the years, sightings have been dismissed as fakes,

0:23:420:23:45

floating debris or bow waves from boats.

0:23:450:23:49

That hasn't stopped the excitement and intrigue,

0:23:490:23:53

and in the summer of 1967, a constant watch was kept on the loch

0:23:530:23:56

and every unusual object was filmed.

0:23:560:23:59

Still today, many people are convinced that they have seen something.

0:23:590:24:03

We were sailing up the middle of the loch.

0:24:050:24:08

We had gone just past this area

0:24:080:24:10

and we were going up towards Urquhart Castle.

0:24:100:24:13

All of a sudden, this black object rose up in the water.

0:24:130:24:17

It just broke the surface and it just went straight across

0:24:170:24:22

-the loch and disappeared.

-How long was it?

0:24:220:24:25

I would say it was about 25-30 foot.

0:24:250:24:28

You couldn't tell which end was which, it was just like a hump.

0:24:280:24:33

The one and only time that I'd seen it, whatever it was,

0:24:330:24:37

we'd got the camera and we missed it.

0:24:370:24:40

It's like a fatal attraction - once you know it's there,

0:24:400:24:42

you've got to keep going and looking again!

0:24:420:24:44

Christine dismisses the idea that what she saw was a bow wave.

0:24:440:24:48

Despite all the scepticism, everyone who sees the loch with their own eyes

0:24:480:24:53

must secretly wish that, from its deep, dark waters, something will suddenly emerge.

0:24:530:25:00

No joy for John that time.

0:25:010:25:03

Looks like Loch Ness won't be giving up its secrets any time soon.

0:25:030:25:07

I'm travelling along Scotland's Caledonian Canal.

0:25:070:25:11

I started out near Fort William,

0:25:110:25:13

negotiated the locks at Neptune's Staircase and cycled past Loch Oich.

0:25:130:25:17

Now I've reached Drumnadrochit on the shores of Loch Ness.

0:25:170:25:20

There are many people who live and work the land near Loch Ness,

0:25:210:25:24

but I'm heading to a farm to get a taste of real farm life.

0:25:240:25:28

Caroline and Ian Urquhart live in a typical farmhouse with some remarkable views.

0:25:310:25:36

They've signed up to the Farm Stay UK scheme which means they regularly

0:25:360:25:40

take visitors into their B&B who want to try their hand at the farming way of life.

0:25:400:25:46

This is where I come in.

0:25:460:25:48

Hi. Ian, Caroline, hi, I'm Joe.

0:25:480:25:51

Nice to meet you.

0:25:510:25:52

-Come in.

-Don't mind if I do! Thank you very much.

0:25:520:25:55

After dumping my bag, I'm straight out in the rain to meet Ian's pride and joy -

0:25:590:26:04

his herd of cattle stoically enduring the Highland weather.

0:26:040:26:08

Ready to roll.

0:26:080:26:10

Ian has gladly saved some work for me to do.

0:26:100:26:13

We are kitted out with fly spray for the cows to keep the bugs off in the warm summer months.

0:26:130:26:19

First, a little treat for one of his favourites.

0:26:190:26:21

We'll start with Taggart.

0:26:210:26:23

I'll introduce you to one of the more friendly animals on the farm.

0:26:230:26:27

-This is Taggart.

-Hello, Taggart.

-I'll just tie that on there.

0:26:270:26:32

What are we doing for Taggart today?

0:26:320:26:35

Taggart likes to be hand fed and hand groomed.

0:26:350:26:38

-Precious Taggart!

-It's a bit of grooming for Taggart at this time.

0:26:380:26:43

If you want to groom him anywhere, he's happy.

0:26:430:26:46

-Is he going to be happy with this?

-Oh, yes. ..That's a good boy.

0:26:460:26:50

-Well done, Taggart.

-There we go.

0:26:500:26:51

The art of good husbandry is...

0:26:530:26:56

healthy and happy animals so how content do you want?

0:26:560:27:00

Is this to make him content or is this actually for a specific reason?

0:27:000:27:04

If you were showing them, there would be a more specific reason,

0:27:040:27:08

-but it's just contentment that this is all about.

-Fantastic.

0:27:080:27:12

Tell me about your farm. It's not a normal farm, is it?

0:27:130:27:17

LAUGHTER

0:27:170:27:19

It's... It's a mix of livestock

0:27:190:27:23

and bed and breakfast which goes very well together

0:27:230:27:27

because the visitors are interested in the working farm,

0:27:270:27:31

and then they arrive here and find they've got the glorious scenery

0:27:310:27:36

and Loch Ness all thrown in.

0:27:360:27:39

It's a real bonus for them.

0:27:390:27:41

What sort of people come and stay?

0:27:410:27:44

Obviously, people who are interested in farm animals and how farms run?

0:27:440:27:48

People from all the UK, Europe, worldwide.

0:27:480:27:52

Quite a lot of farmers from abroad

0:27:520:27:55

because they're interested in how we go about farming in the UK.

0:27:550:27:59

Is that right? So when farmers take holidays, they go to other farms!

0:27:590:28:03

I know, busman's holiday.

0:28:030:28:04

It does happen. ..Good for you, Taggart.

0:28:040:28:08

A little bit of a parting.

0:28:080:28:10

Taggart was never this stylish! Maybe a little quiff...

0:28:100:28:14

-Perfect. Look at that.

-A bit like mine.

0:28:150:28:17

What could be better? Well done, Joe.

0:28:170:28:20

Such a bonny boy!

0:28:200:28:22

Taggart is now one very happy, very pampered cow.

0:28:240:28:28

Next up, warding off those flies.

0:28:280:28:30

OK, so this is Hamish. He is first up for treatment.

0:28:320:28:37

Basically, what you're doing is squeezing and moving at the same time.

0:28:370:28:42

You want to get an entire dose of the swish along the back.

0:28:420:28:47

-A nice, even coating?

-A nice, even coating.

0:28:470:28:49

-Then it spreads over the animal.

-Excellent.

0:28:490:28:52

What happens to Hamish? He comes out and we do the next one?

0:28:520:28:55

-Absolutely perfect.

-There, little swish of the tail to finish.

-Great.

0:28:560:29:01

-Now this is Hamish's mother.

-Hamish's mother?

-Come on, lass.

0:29:010:29:05

OK.

0:29:050:29:07

-Absolutely perfect.

-There we go.

0:29:140:29:16

-She doesn't have a name this one, is that right?

-No.

0:29:160:29:19

Since you're here, if you wish to name her...

0:29:190:29:23

Well, I think we'll call her Flora.

0:29:230:29:25

-Is that all right?

-That's perfect.

0:29:250:29:27

-We don't have a Flora on the farm at the moment.

-That's perfect.

0:29:270:29:30

-You had a Morag already, so she's going to be Flora.

-That's good.

0:29:300:29:33

-Come on, all the way.

-She wants company.

0:29:370:29:40

That's for sure.

0:29:400:29:42

I think we might have earned ourselves a cup of tea?

0:29:440:29:48

Well, also a wee dram of Ardbeg. LAUGHTER

0:29:480:29:52

-You're twisting my arm.

-It's traditional to

0:29:520:29:55

have a wee shot of whisky after working heavily all day.

0:29:550:29:59

In you come, Joe,

0:29:590:30:01

-and Caroline's prepared some scones and something else.

-Wow!

0:30:010:30:06

You must be a mind reader, this is exactly what I feel like.

0:30:060:30:10

-You'll be needing it after your journey?

-Yeah!

0:30:100:30:12

Just some scones I baked earlier on

0:30:120:30:14

with cream and jam and that's clootie dumpling,

0:30:140:30:17

-which is traditional up here served as a dessert.

-Right.

0:30:170:30:20

And then, the next day,

0:30:200:30:21

-you fry it with bacon and have it with breakfast.

-Fantastic.

0:30:210:30:24

-You're being subjected to all our traditions.

-Honoured, honoured.

0:30:240:30:29

-You need some cream with it.

-Do I? OK, great.

0:30:290:30:32

-You like cream, yes?

-Yes, go ahead.

0:30:320:30:34

This is a treat, it's fantastic. This is just what I feel like,

0:30:340:30:37

because I've been water-skiing, cycling and all sorts today.

0:30:370:30:40

So you will be needing calories?

0:30:400:30:42

Yes, calories in the cream and the scones are perfect.

0:30:420:30:46

That's a cloth pudding. That's steamed for three hours in a cloth

0:30:460:30:51

-in boiling water and it keeps for quite a long time.

-Here we go.

0:30:510:30:56

-Mmm! That's delicious, isn't it?

-Do you like it?

-Very nice.

0:31:000:31:03

-And this is the perfect location for doing what you do, isn't it?

-Yes.

0:31:030:31:08

Looking out of your window to see Loch Ness behind us, and it's stunning.

0:31:080:31:12

Well, people, I tend to have difficulty getting them out of the breakfast room in the morning.

0:31:120:31:17

They just want to sit in here and look for Nessie.

0:31:170:31:20

I've got to ask, have you ever seen Nessie?

0:31:200:31:23

I've not seen Nessie,

0:31:230:31:25

but my father, who was a great salmon fisher, saw it in the '50s.

0:31:250:31:29

He saw something like a malformed reptile

0:31:290:31:32

and he definitely did see it,

0:31:320:31:34

he wasn't the type of person to say he did.

0:31:340:31:37

He said it was about 30ft long. There was something there,

0:31:370:31:40

I don't know if it still is, but I am a firm believer in Nessie.

0:31:400:31:43

-A lot of people, they play it up, don't they?

-Yes.

0:31:430:31:46

But you believe that something...?

0:31:460:31:48

I do believe there was something there of some type.

0:31:480:31:51

I don't know if it still is. Lots of people come here,

0:31:510:31:54

and come for the scenery as well,

0:31:540:31:55

but at the back of their minds is a chance they might see Nessie.

0:31:550:31:59

Sometimes they sit here with binoculars, especially children.

0:31:590:32:02

At breakfast time, you can see them scoping it?

0:32:020:32:05

"What's that in the loch?!" And it's a boat.

0:32:050:32:07

But definitely, there certainly was something there.

0:32:070:32:11

I didn't expect you to say that.

0:32:110:32:13

'It's been great meeting Caroline and Ian and getting

0:32:130:32:16

'an insight into life here on the edge of Loch Ness.

0:32:160:32:20

'With a full stomach and a warm glow from the whisky, I'm continuing north towards Inverness.'

0:32:200:32:25

I'd expect to see Highland cattle and Aberdeen Angus in Scotland,

0:32:250:32:29

I didn't realise however that wild boar are becoming popular in some farmyards.

0:32:290:32:34

Adam Henson saw them first hand.

0:32:340:32:36

SNORTING AND SQUEALING

0:32:380:32:40

'Six years ago, Lucinder Spicer swapped the bright lights

0:32:400:32:44

'and expensive restaurants of the Square Mile to set up

0:32:440:32:47

'one of Britain's most northerly wild boar farms in the remote hills near Inverness.'

0:32:470:32:53

Why did you move out of central London to come to the Highlands?

0:32:530:32:56

We'd always promised ourselves we wouldn't stay

0:32:560:32:59

in London permanently and we got to the stage in our careers

0:32:590:33:03

when it was OK to do so. So we upped sticks and moved.

0:33:030:33:08

We wanted to do something that was economically in tune with where we were settling

0:33:080:33:12

and everyone does sheep and cattle and that kind of thing, and we wanted

0:33:120:33:16

to do something a bit different, wilder and alternative.

0:33:160:33:19

-Did your friends think you were nuts?

-They always have thought I was nuts!

0:33:190:33:25

'Wild boar in the UK disappeared 300 years ago,

0:33:250:33:28

'although farms like Lucinder's are helping bring them back.

0:33:280:33:32

'These boar came from stock originally from the harsh wilds of Siberia.

0:33:320:33:35

'They're a tough breed, as I was soon to find out.'

0:33:350:33:38

You can see some lovely little piglets in there?

0:33:380:33:41

Yeah, they are. There's 20 there with the four sows there.

0:33:410:33:45

They're obviously feeding peacefully, but you can see Anthony moving up round the corner

0:33:450:33:52

and he's coming in front to come between us and his family.

0:33:520:33:56

Oh, and... Now he's tearing up the ground

0:33:560:34:01

with his feet, so I think we need to...

0:34:010:34:04

We need to just retreat and leave him to it.

0:34:040:34:08

'Anthony, the father of these litters, quietly asserted himself to protect his family's space.

0:34:090:34:14

'Thankfully, it was all show and no action.'

0:34:160:34:19

How many wild boar have you got?

0:34:230:34:25

On the farm at the moment, we've got 200,

0:34:250:34:28

roughly 40 breeding stock and 160 which will go for meat this year.

0:34:280:34:33

And then we've got 35 little ones that have been born in the last couple of weeks.

0:34:330:34:38

-That's a lot of pigs, isn't it?

-It is, and then more will arrive,

0:34:380:34:43

so we could have up to 200 born this year, if we have successful farrowings.

0:34:430:34:48

If I keep them in good condition, they'll farrow again in the summer,

0:34:480:34:52

so they'll go twice through if the conditions are good.

0:34:520:34:55

And to keep wild boar, you need a wild animals licence?

0:34:550:34:58

You do. The councils in England, Wales and Scotland require you

0:34:580:35:02

to be licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.

0:35:020:35:05

And that's a statutory requirement.

0:35:050:35:09

I notice you've got electric fencing, is that part of the Wild Animals Act criteria?

0:35:090:35:14

It's one condition for keeping them secure and it keeps the animals from digging up fences.

0:35:140:35:20

Do they ever escape and get on to your neighbours' farms?

0:35:200:35:23

No, we're completely covered here by outside deer fencing,

0:35:230:35:28

which is 6ft high and they have low fencing to the enclosures.

0:35:280:35:33

In theory, they can jump over,

0:35:330:35:36

but they don't because they've got everything they need inside.

0:35:360:35:41

Amazing the change in the weather, isn't it?

0:35:490:35:51

One minute, beautiful sunshine, the next minute it's blizzarding.

0:35:510:35:55

Some people say pigs wreck the place?

0:35:550:35:58

LOUD SQUEALING Well, actually, they do.

0:35:580:36:00

These animals have been in here for three weeks and you can see they have

0:36:000:36:04

totally flattened the bracken and they've taken the gorse down.

0:36:040:36:08

You can see the way they are clipping the tops of the gorse to make nests

0:36:080:36:12

-and to make shelter.

-How many months before they're ready to be

0:36:120:36:17

made into meat and go for sausages?

0:36:170:36:19

We take them off between 12 and 18 months of age, so they get a pretty good life span.

0:36:190:36:25

They are mature by the time they go.

0:36:250:36:27

We don't, as a matter of policy, sell young animals, suckling pigs.

0:36:270:36:33

There is a demand for them on the Continent, they eat them at six months of age.

0:36:330:36:37

We don't feel they've had any kind of life by then.

0:36:370:36:41

-I understand your husband might have some sausages on the go?

-Um, we're hoping, we are hoping.

0:36:410:36:46

-I'm looking forward to tasting it, let's wander back up the hill.

-OK.

0:36:470:36:51

-MEAT SIZZLES

-Chef, you got the easy part of this

0:36:510:36:55

-rearing pigs, just the cooking?

-I think that's about right.

0:36:550:36:58

I do actually help out from time to time.

0:36:580:37:00

Let me give it a taste.

0:37:000:37:03

Wow, it's really lovely, very different to the domesticated pigs I rear at home.

0:37:030:37:09

It is far more like beef. It is a very high-protein meat and it is a dark meat.

0:37:090:37:14

Any regrets, Lucinder? Do you think you'd like to go back to the city?

0:37:140:37:18

Absolutely not, I would never go back.

0:37:180:37:21

I do really enjoy being out on the hill and dealing with

0:37:210:37:25

things that are real and important, it's very satisfying.

0:37:250:37:29

I think I'll stick with my Highland cows. Taggart was much friendlier.

0:37:340:37:38

More importantly, I've just reached the very northern tip of the Caledonian Canal,

0:37:380:37:42

where the waters finally flow out into the North Sea.

0:37:420:37:46

My journey has cut diagonally across Scotland,

0:37:460:37:48

taking me from Fort William, along three incredible lochs

0:37:480:37:51

and now finally to the coast at Inverness and beyond.

0:37:510:37:56

One of the most dramatic views Inverness has to offer is the view of the bridge over the Ness

0:37:560:38:02

and the fantastic panoramic of the city behind it.

0:38:020:38:05

Inverness is known as the capital of the Highlands, it became a city in the year 2000.

0:38:070:38:12

A real contrast to the rural areas I've explored so far.

0:38:120:38:16

To the north of the city, the Caledonian Canal finally reaches the open water as the landscape

0:38:160:38:22

changes to a coastal scene set off by the lighthouse at Chanonry Point.

0:38:220:38:28

The Moray Firth has some famous and well-loved residents.

0:38:280:38:32

Its own pod of bottle-nosed dolphins.

0:38:320:38:35

I've come down here to Chanonry Point, one of the best places in the UK to see dolphins from the shore.

0:38:350:38:41

And if you're lucky, you might also catch a glimpse of Charlie Phillips.

0:38:410:38:45

Charlie is a professional photographer who comes here most days

0:38:480:38:51

to observe and photograph the dolphins. He takes around 60,000 photos a year.

0:38:510:38:57

Hopefully we'll get a sighting today.

0:38:570:39:00

-Morning, Charlie, how are you?

-Lovely morning.

-Very good morning.

0:39:020:39:07

-Anything out there this morning?

-Four dolphins out here this morning.

0:39:070:39:11

-A couple of big males over there, see big Nevis, he's just poked his dorsal fin up.

-Yeah.

0:39:110:39:16

And we have Keslet and wee Charlie, our 18-month-old calf.

0:39:160:39:20

They are hunting just in the tidal current, they're only about 20ft off the beach.

0:39:200:39:24

I never thought they'd be so close, it's amazing.

0:39:240:39:26

Yes, the water around here is really deep.

0:39:260:39:29

-That's why this beach is excellent for land watching.

-Fantastic.

0:39:290:39:32

There you go, see? The seagull's right on top of the dolphin just now.

0:39:320:39:38

Hoping to get a bit of the fish.

0:39:380:39:40

You mentioned a load of names. Do you know these dolphins well?

0:39:400:39:43

Yes, when you're watching them and studying them for quite a while,

0:39:430:39:48

you begin to get the nick marks and scratches on the dorsal fin

0:39:480:39:52

almost imprinted in your brain.

0:39:520:39:54

We also have a catalogue of animals,

0:39:540:39:57

Aberdeen University for the past 20 years have been compiling, basically,

0:39:570:40:01

a Who's Who of Moray Firth dolphins.

0:40:010:40:04

Really? Using your photos?

0:40:040:40:06

Some of them are mine, some are from the lighthouse field station.

0:40:060:40:09

-You have been doing this for a long time now?

-Quite a while, yes.

-You're still learning new things?

0:40:090:40:14

Absolutely, bottle-nosed dolphins are very complex animals and they have a very complicated social structure.

0:40:140:40:20

And we're only beginning to just peel back the layers of the onion now

0:40:200:40:25

and it keeps me down here almost every day.

0:40:250:40:28

-I was going to say, are you here every morning?

-Almost, it depends on when the tide is running.

0:40:280:40:33

For land watching in this area, rising tides are very important,

0:40:330:40:38

-that's when the dolphins are coming in.

-Is that what we've got now?

0:40:380:40:41

Yes, if you imagine, this tidal current is almost like a conveyor belt.

0:40:410:40:46

-A supermarket conveyor belt of food coming towards the dolphins.

-OK.

0:40:460:40:50

They're at the end of the conveyor belt waiting for the fish to come, and the rising tide brings new,

0:40:500:40:55

especially at this time of year, migratory salmon coming in

0:40:550:40:58

and the dolphins are intercepting them without wasting too much energy.

0:40:580:41:03

It's a bit harsh on the salmon, almost, it's quite an obstacle course getting past these fellas?

0:41:030:41:07

-Yeah, and the thing is, these are big, big dolphins and they will take some big fish.

-OK.

0:41:070:41:13

We see them throwing around 15lb salmon.

0:41:130:41:16

-Some pretty big stuff.

-Wow! What about the photos?

0:41:160:41:21

I've gone whale-watching before and I've got a lot of pictures of water!

0:41:210:41:25

-Is that a big problem as they only pop up briefly?

-It can be, it depends on what they're doing.

0:41:250:41:30

If they're coming to the surface, as they are just now, they're foraging for food,

0:41:300:41:34

in fairly much the one place, so you have a reasonable chance of getting them with a camera.

0:41:340:41:39

But once they start rocketing around, maybe chasing fish,

0:41:390:41:43

that can be more difficult, because they're moving at 20mph plus

0:41:430:41:47

-and trying to film that or photograph that can be quite difficult.

-I bet.

0:41:470:41:51

'Charlie has brought along part of his identification catalogue with him today.

0:41:540:41:59

'And when identifying dolphins, it's all about the dorsal fins.'

0:41:590:42:02

So, big Nevis, who is out there just now.

0:42:050:42:08

-See the scratches on his dorsal fin?

-Incredible, what would make those?

0:42:080:42:12

Other dolphins' teeth. This is interaction with other animals.

0:42:120:42:16

You see the way the skin's bitten away at the back?

0:42:160:42:19

Males quite often have this, they're competing with each other for access to females.

0:42:190:42:25

-OK.

-It may be territory as well.

-I wouldn't be able to spot that from here.

0:42:250:42:29

No, you might need to be looking through binoculars or if the animals were really close in to the beach,

0:42:290:42:35

once your eye becomes accustomed to different dorsal fins...

0:42:350:42:38

-Which yours has?

-Yeah. I've been doing it for a while.

0:42:380:42:41

In conclusion, you need to keep doing this and keep going and getting more information.

0:42:410:42:46

Say one of these animals got into a fight with another dolphin

0:42:460:42:50

and that other dolphin took a bite out of the back of the dorsal fin.

0:42:500:42:53

-The likes of Rainbow has a very small nick there.

-Uh-huh.

0:42:530:42:56

She could quite easily pick up another and that'd change the whole look of her dorsal fin.

0:42:560:43:01

So that next photograph becomes your latest passport photo for that dolphin.

0:43:010:43:06

And the calf out there now, I believe is named after you.

0:43:060:43:10

Yeah, wee Charlie.

0:43:100:43:12

Keslet, his mother, who is around here somewhere,

0:43:120:43:15

she has been my favourite dolphin in this population

0:43:150:43:20

for a long, long time.

0:43:200:43:21

She had her own calf in 2007.

0:43:210:43:25

He's just like her when she was small, he's cheeky.

0:43:250:43:28

He's got a real attitude and he's wonderful to watch.

0:43:280:43:32

He'll be coming up to about 18 months old now.

0:43:320:43:35

-You have a duty to keep looking out for him?

-Absolutely. You've got to look after your namesake.

0:43:350:43:40

'It's no surprise these superb creatures are a huge draw for tourists and visitors.

0:43:410:43:47

'But the numbers of people wanting to see them brings with it challenges.'

0:43:470:43:50

Back in 1995, Jilly Parton reported on some of the issues facing this precious but fragile population.

0:43:540:44:02

If you really want to get close to nature, this is a fantastic way of doing it.

0:44:020:44:06

Wind in your hair, the faint smack of salt on your lips and masses to see.

0:44:060:44:12

'The waters of the Moray Firth are beautiful, deep and dark

0:44:120:44:16

'and they are home to around 150 bottle-nosed dolphins.

0:44:160:44:20

'Watching them is magical and the joy is,

0:44:220:44:25

'they're not just passing through, they're born and bred here.

0:44:250:44:29

'People are drawn to the dolphins, so much so, not even a good drenching

0:44:290:44:34

'on the wettest Scottish day in 10 years can put them off.

0:44:340:44:37

'It's misty out there, but no-one's complaining.'

0:44:370:44:41

We've driven about 30 miles to come on this trip.

0:44:410:44:44

Hopefully to see some dolphins in the wild.

0:44:440:44:47

You know they're here, so it's nice to be able to see them.

0:44:470:44:50

The dolphins'll come alongside the boat and then jump out

0:44:500:44:54

and turn and fall back and splash everyone on the boat.

0:44:540:44:57

We've had that happen quite a few times.

0:44:570:44:59

But to see them doing it, because they want to do it,

0:44:590:45:02

they're not being fed to do it, not being paid or looked after,

0:45:020:45:06

they're doing it cos they're free and want to do it. It's brilliant.

0:45:060:45:10

And it's big business.

0:45:100:45:12

September alone will see around 40,000 trippers in Inverness.

0:45:120:45:16

This shop will shift 1,000 T-shirts.

0:45:160:45:20

And there's always something for the mantelpiece.

0:45:200:45:23

So, the word has spread about the Moray Firth dolphins

0:45:250:45:29

and as it has done so, more and more people are turning up to enjoy them.

0:45:290:45:33

But the souvenirs and the T-shirts are one thing.

0:45:330:45:36

What's really causing concern, though, are some of the boat trips.

0:45:360:45:40

Let me put you in the picture.

0:45:400:45:42

This is the Moray Firth and the dolphins absolutely love it here.

0:45:420:45:45

Why? Because it's an excellent feeding ground.

0:45:450:45:48

There are really good strong currents, which the dolphins like,

0:45:480:45:51

and it's nice and sheltered. But some of them go further.

0:45:510:45:55

They swim all the way down here and under the bridge

0:45:550:45:58

and into Kessock Narrows or what's known locally as the Kessock Channel

0:45:580:46:02

and this is the problem area.

0:46:020:46:05

And here it is, the ribbon of water that flows from just out there beyond the bridge and into the narrows here.

0:46:050:46:12

At the moment, two boat operators ply this route and one of them is Moray Firth Cruises.

0:46:120:46:18

Between them, they make about 12 boat trips every day in the summer

0:46:180:46:21

taking sightseers out to watch for dolphins.

0:46:210:46:24

What's the problem? Well, Scottish Natural Heritage

0:46:240:46:27

and the Scottish Wildlife Trust want to limit the number of trips,

0:46:270:46:31

they say to protect the dolphins and the environment that they love from too much human interference.

0:46:310:46:37

'They've done it by introducing the Dolphin Space Programme,

0:46:370:46:41

'asking everyone to respect the dolphins' need for room.

0:46:410:46:44

'It includes a voluntary code of conduct for the six regular boat operators on the Firth to follow.

0:46:440:46:49

'Its key points are, maintain a slow, steady speed throughout the trip.

0:46:490:46:53

'Follow an agreed route without stopping or deviating.

0:46:530:46:56

'Slow down if dolphins appear directly ahead. So far, so good.

0:46:560:47:00

'The sticking point for the boatmen in the Narrows is this.'

0:47:000:47:04

We have asked in this particularly sensitive area, which is considered

0:47:040:47:07

the most sensitive area in the Moray Firth for the dolphins,

0:47:070:47:11

we've asked that trips

0:47:110:47:13

going round and about this particular area be limited to four overall a day.

0:47:130:47:18

And since there are two operators, it would be two each.

0:47:180:47:21

Science at the moment indicates that boating behaviour can have an effect on the dolphins.

0:47:210:47:27

And short term effects have been seen and they've also been seen here where the animals dive for longer,

0:47:270:47:33

they stop communicating with each other.

0:47:330:47:36

There are various different short-term studies which have been done.

0:47:360:47:40

In fact, it will be another 10 to 11 years before we know whether this population is remaining stable

0:47:400:47:46

or whether the numbers are increasing or decreasing.

0:47:460:47:49

What if you had to do 2 trips a day, then, what would that do to business?

0:47:490:47:53

We'd be bankrupt. The bank would have the boat, the boat would be sold,

0:47:530:47:57

which is annoying when Scottish National Heritage

0:47:570:48:00

knew last year before we invested in the boat that we'd be doing five, six and even seven trips a day.

0:48:000:48:05

But they never said anything about restricting trips.

0:48:050:48:08

We are not here to upset the dolphins at all, we've been born and brought up here.

0:48:080:48:12

We've seen them all our lives.

0:48:120:48:14

There has been a ferry boat service here, there's been 60 to 100 trawlers which used to fish in here.

0:48:140:48:20

So when they've been here for four or five years and say, "We think this is what'll happen,"

0:48:200:48:24

they've no evidence, no proof.

0:48:240:48:27

The proof we have is the dolphins play with the boat.

0:48:270:48:30

Every time we go out, the dolphins play with the boat, the calves come near the boat.

0:48:300:48:34

If they felt threatened, they wouldn't come near us at all.

0:48:340:48:38

The harbourmaster is confused, too. After all, there are 3,000 ship movements in the Channel every year.

0:48:380:48:44

The environmentalists can't stop that, but he says, why pick on the boatmen?

0:48:440:48:48

I do think the boatmen are being targeted unfairly,

0:48:480:48:51

because I see the main problem, in fact, as

0:48:510:48:54

the people involved in the leisure watersports sector.

0:48:540:48:57

Mainly the high-speed boats,

0:48:570:49:01

the run-arounds, the jet skiers, the water-skiers.

0:49:010:49:04

In fact, only a couple of weeks ago, we had a complaint from the coastguards

0:49:040:49:08

wanting to know if the lifeboat could be launched because it was the only boat fast enough

0:49:080:49:13

to try and get under control a powerboat that was in actual fact actively chasing the dolphins.

0:49:130:49:20

It must be said, the jet ski generation is on the hit list,

0:49:200:49:23

but limiting the boat trips takes priority for Holly Arnold, even if it means legislation.

0:49:230:49:29

In a number of other countries where there are whale and dolphin watching operations,

0:49:290:49:33

they have regulations, which are legal licensing systems, if you like,

0:49:330:49:39

to allow people to go and look at the dolphins from boats.

0:49:390:49:43

And it's that sort of thing we would then, let's say,

0:49:430:49:46

might be the next step if the voluntary and co-operative approach doesn't work.

0:49:460:49:50

14 years on, I'm interested to find out how the Dolphin Space Programme is going.

0:49:530:49:59

Deborah Benham has agreed to take me out on a trip to find out.

0:49:590:50:03

-You're the project officer for Dolphin Space Programme.

-Right.

0:50:040:50:08

How's it been going? Did you have to introduce legislation at any point?

0:50:080:50:12

No, we didn't. The Dolphin Space Programme has been very successful.

0:50:120:50:15

We've been going 14 years now.

0:50:150:50:17

Over those years, the scheme's expanded over a much broader area in the Moray Firth,

0:50:170:50:23

so we now have 12 members all the way from Portmahomack in the north,

0:50:230:50:26

all the way over to Aberdeenshire, Banff and Macduff.

0:50:260:50:29

It's really developed into a nice partnership.

0:50:290:50:32

Everyone comes together and we do a lot of collaborative work, so I think it's been a success.

0:50:320:50:36

Have you had to get really tough with anyone?

0:50:360:50:40

Nothing really tough.

0:50:400:50:41

We're asking operators to adhere to a voluntary code of conduct and sometimes that gets broken

0:50:410:50:46

when it's just too tempting to go to where the dolphins are hanging out or something like that.

0:50:460:50:51

But usually, just by talking with the tour operators

0:50:510:50:54

and reminding them how sensitive some of these areas are, like for feeding or resting,

0:50:540:50:59

that usually brings people back into line with the code of conduct.

0:50:590:51:02

Obviously, some tour operators were worried that this programme might end their livelihoods.

0:51:020:51:08

-Has that happened?

-I don't think so.

0:51:080:51:10

Several of the ones that joined back at the beginning are still in business and still going strong

0:51:100:51:14

and lots more operators have started in the last few years.

0:51:140:51:18

There's a perception that dolphins always want to spend time with us,

0:51:180:51:21

they're very social creatures.

0:51:210:51:23

They are quite sociable compared to, say, a lion or something,

0:51:230:51:26

but they do need their own time to feed and look after their young and to rest as well.

0:51:260:51:30

So the most important thing for recreational boat users to realise

0:51:300:51:34

is that they need to let the interactions be on the dolphins'

0:51:340:51:37

or the other animals' own terms.

0:51:370:51:39

So maybe approach to within 50 or 60 metres and then let the animals come to you the rest of the way.

0:51:390:51:45

If they leave, let them leave, cos they have something else to do.

0:51:450:51:49

-So reining in the human ego?

-Maybe.

0:51:490:51:52

It is exciting sometimes to be with the animals, but yes,

0:51:520:51:55

just letting them have their space

0:51:550:51:57

to do their own natural behaviours as well, that's really important.

0:51:570:52:01

I was very lucky this morning.

0:52:010:52:03

We went to a beach, we saw some dolphins. It was fantastic.

0:52:030:52:07

So I've shared in that excitement. What can we see out here?

0:52:070:52:11

We're coming a bit further out into the Moray Firth now.

0:52:110:52:13

As you get further out, you start to see species like common dolphins.

0:52:130:52:17

We get minke whales up here. There's lots of places along the coastline

0:52:170:52:21

to see fantastic bird colonies.

0:52:210:52:23

And there's lots of other wildlife. Harbour porpoises, killer whales.

0:52:230:52:28

We've had all sorts of wildlife.

0:52:280:52:30

It really is a very rich, fantastic area for wildlife watching.

0:52:300:52:33

-Wow, what a variety. You've got your binoculars to hand.

-I have.

-Feeling lucky?

-I hope so.

0:52:330:52:38

-It's a beautiful day for it.

-Let's keep our eyes peeled.

0:52:380:52:41

If you see any splashes or birds circling, then have a look through the binoculars.

0:52:450:52:49

The temptation is to quickly glance round, but you see nothing.

0:52:490:52:53

If you've got dolphins,

0:52:530:52:54

they can be down for a few seconds or even a couple of minutes,

0:52:540:52:57

so it's good to do a slow scan one way, back the other way, looking for any birds or anything like that.

0:52:570:53:04

-Oh, that's a guillemot or something flying there.

-Oh!

0:53:090:53:11

-You can see the short, staccato wing beats.

-They've got really short wings.

0:53:110:53:16

Yes, they look like little round penguins, so they have quite short wing beats.

0:53:160:53:20

'There doesn't seem to be a lot out there today,

0:53:230:53:26

'but the sun is shining and it's a great way to appreciate this fantastic coastline.'

0:53:260:53:32

Well, I've seen a seal and a handful of guillemots, which is pretty good going.

0:53:320:53:36

But looking out to the North Sea here makes you realise just how incredible the Caledonian Canal is.

0:53:360:53:41

I mean, here, we've got the north-east coast of Scotland,

0:53:410:53:44

but it's linked to the Atlantic way over there to the west,

0:53:440:53:48

despite the indomitable mountains that seem to stand in the way.

0:53:480:53:51

Three stunning, natural lochs, linked up by a man-made canal,

0:53:510:53:56

have allowed me to make this absolutely amazing journey.

0:53:560:54:00

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:54:120:54:15

E-mail [email protected]

0:54:150:54:17

Starting from high above Fort William on Aonach Mor Mountain, Joe Crowley travels the length of the Caledonian Canal. He sails through Neptune's Staircase, a ladder of eight locks, goes waterskiing on Loch Ness and finally arrives at the Moray Firth, where the canal runs into the North Sea - the perfect place for dolphin spotting.