Abandoned places are one of my obsessions but now I’ve discovered a new interest – abandoned boats!
Recently I stumbled upon a shipwreck on the shores of Loch Linnhe in Scotland’s Western Highlands.
I was surprised to see the massive hulk of a fishing boat stranded on the shoreline, undisturbed except by dog walkers and beachcombers.
It was a mysterious sight. But how did this vessel get stuck on the beach at Corpach?
The Wrecking Ball
Abandoned ships aren’t uncommon but there are very few which can be found ‘sitting up’ on a beach.
I discovered the Corpach shipwreck by accident. We were staying on a yacht moored up in the nearby harbour and took a walk along the loch side. Imagine our surprise when we saw the wreck of the fishing boat.
This area of Scotland is renowned for its unpredictable weather. Perhaps this is what had scuppered the abandoned boat?
We’d also been victims of the wild weather which had been windy and wet with strong south westerly gusts.
We’d been taking a boat journey along the Caledonian Canal – and Corpach was our last stop at its western end.
Coming into Corpach harbour had been a nightmare. Mooring up our boat had been a tricky experience with the wind trying to blow us off the quayside.
Eventually we managed to berth her successfully but we decided to hunker down until conditions improved before trying to go out to sea.
With time on my hands and the weather getting worse, we were stuck in the harbour for a couple of days. It seemed a good time to do a bit of research into the abandoned fishing boat.
‘The Corpach Wreck’
It turns out that the stranded boat on the beach was once called MV Dayspring. Today it’s better known as the ‘Corpach Wreck’, one of Scotland’s most ‘picturesque’ shipwrecks.
The boat was designed as a trawler and had been built in 1975 by J&G Forbes in Sandhaven. She was once called Golden Harvest and fished along the coast for herring and mackerel.
Later she was moored up at Kinlochleven Pier and there were even plans to turn her into a seafood restaurant. But the project never got off the ground.
Eventually she was taken to Camusnagaul Bay near Corpach where she was bought by Lukas Pomahač , a carpenter and boat builder, who also lived on the vessel.
Read the story of Lukas Pomahač and his life on board the Dayspring
The Big Storm
On 8 December 2011, a ferocious storm forced the Dayspring from her chains and moorings. She drifted onto the lee shore in difficult conditions and ran aground. What a sad end to the boat’s life, but at least nobody was injured.
She now rests on the shoreline in a scenic spot where Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain, dominates the landscape. It provides a picturesque backdrop which has made the boat attractive to photographers.
Today, the Dayspring is still classified as being ‘afloat’ because she sits below the high tide line. Bizarrely, she isn’t covered by the rules and regulations of the ‘Receiver of Wrecks’ because she is ‘sitting’ on the shore.
She has now been stuck on the beach for 10 years. There have been various plans to restore her, but these seem to have stalled for the moment.
Today the boat has become an iconic local landmark and a magnet for photographers. I’m told that sunrise and sunset are the best times to photograph her although misty days also provide a dramatic setting.
A little further along the shingle beach, not far from the Dayspring, I was surprised to discover a wrecked yacht.
Once again, the boat was lying on the shingle beach of Loch Linnhe, looking forlorn. You can still see the faint name ‘Argo’ etched on the back of the boat. Was this yacht the victim of another storm?
I felt sad that such a beautiful boat should be abandoned. It’s hard to find out any information about her fate and final days. Perhaps it was too expensive to save her?
Her last hours remain a mystery. But a boat with the same name was the subject of a dramatic incident dubbed ‘Mutiny on the Argo’ on the high seas. Could this be the same yacht which looks remarkably similar?
I wondered if there’s something about the conditions on Loch Linnhe which make it particularly difficult for boats in bad weather conditions.
The mouth of this huge sea loch leads out to Corran Narrows which is less than 200 metres wide. Apparently the narrow nature of the channel contributes to its strong tidal currents.
The local weather is some of the wildest in Britain and this may also have contributed to the area’s history of wrecks. There are at least 11 wrecked craft which lie scuppered on its seabed.
I’m pleased that I didn’t know this when finally the weather improved and my partner took our yacht out into the loch. Fortunately it was plain sailing on this occasion!
In Victorian times, Loch Linnhe was popular with paddle steamers which sailed up the loch into Corpach before taking the journey along the Caledonian Canal.
A number of ships have been lost over the years in treacherous weather but most lie at the bottom of the seabed. Some have dubbed this ‘the skeleton coast’.
Today, divers practice trying to locate the wrecks. A 10-metre dive to the bottom of Loch Linnhe takes them to an old wooden wreck called Calypso where only the bows remain intact.
Another ship called Margaret was lost in 1874 travelling from Glasgow to Fort William. The ship, which was carrying coal, was wrecked opposite Ballachulish with the loss of two lives.
The abandoned and scuppered vessels demonstrate the treacherous nature of the weather and the power of the tides on the west coast of Scotland.
Despite the human misery caused by these accidents, today’s abandoned boats are incredibly photogenic.
I think I’ll be sticking to snapping them with my camera on dry land rather than trying my luck in a boat out in the loch for now!
Take the car, train or bus to Corpach at the western end of the Caledonian Canal, one of Scotland’s greatest waterways. Park in the harbour car park near the railway station to start your walk to the wrecks.
If you are coming by train, walk over the railway crossing down to the harbour.
Alternatively, take the bus N47 from Fort William (approx 14 mins journey) and get off at the stop on the main road in Corpach from where it’s a short walk down to the old harbour.
Walk towards the canal’s sea lock and then cross over the footbridge to the opposite side of the harbour (see above photo).
Follow the path, known as the Great Glen Way, until you reach a gap in the trees. A path will take you down onto the shingle beach. Turn left and, after a short distance, you should be able to see the wreck of the Dayspring if you stay glued to the shoreline.
Note – It’s illegal to go on board the boat so please keep your distance. It’s easy to get a close up view and touch its hull but please don’t venture inside. Vandals have already done considerable damage.
Whilst You’re Here…
Why not extend your shoreline walk from Corpach along the cycle and footway to Fort William? The complete walk takes around 50-60 minutes one way. Don’t forget that you can catch the bus or train back to Corpach.
After seeing the abandoned boats, follow the shoreline path as far as the local shopping precinct, carry on for 200 metres and take a left through the housing estate to the main road. The route will eventually take you to the railway bridge beyond which is Inverlochy Castle. Then continue along the path into Fort William.
Recommended sightseeing trips:
There are numerous attractions around Corpach to explore after you’ve visited the abandoned boats.
Neptune’s Staircase – walk along the canal towpath for 15 minutes from Corpach and you’ll reach this impressive piece of engineering. This is the longest staircase lock in Scotland with a flight of 8 locks. *****
The West Highland Railway – the magnificent Jacobite steam railway route will take you on a journey through some of Scotland’s most dramatic landscapes. If you do nothing else, wait for the twice daily train to steam into Corpach station, a dramatic experience in its own right.
Ben Nevis – hardened walkers and climbers will enjoy tackling Scotland’s toughest mountain. Take appropriate kit and make sure you’re an experienced climber. ****
Fort William – although not my favourite Scottish town, it does have a ruined castle and a seafront. There isn’t much of the castle left so you’ll have to use your imagination! **
Inverlochy Castle – located not far from Corpach, this 13th Century fortress is worth a visit. Free admission. ***
Corpach’s Geology – Don’t miss the village’s ‘Stone Circle’ – a mini Stonehenge displaying the geology and rocks of The Highlands. Nearby you’ll find the Treasures of the Earth Museum ***
Loch Linnhe is the final leg of the challenging Three Peaks Yacht Race, a multi-sport competition featuring a mix of sailing, running and cycling. A kind of triathlon for sailors.