The amazing true story of the Caledonian Canal is being brought to life – in the great outdoors.
Fort Augustus, at the heart of the Great Glen, will become Scottish Canals’ latest outdoor pop-up theatre venue this summer.
Waters of Time, the new bespoke Canal Theatre play produced by The Walking Theatre Company, is set against the making of the majestic Caledonian Canal and uses the impressive Fort Augustus lock staircase as its stage.
The cast will bring the magic of the canal alive as they take visitors on a journey through time, exploring the canal’s history from the times of Napoleon through to the present day.
The new Canal Theatre programme celebrates the opening of Scottish Canals’ new Caledonian Canal Centre in Fort Augustus, a world-class visitor and destination hub which opened successfully in May. The centre offers new, all year round, facilities for visitors and locals, including information, a gift shop promoting relevant and locally sourced goods and a café serving homemade, Scottish produce. There is also a grab and go offer, boasting fresh coffee and local artisan ice cream from the Black Isle Dairy.
Visitor interpretation is incorporated throughout the centre, unlocking the wealth of local heritage and internationally renowned local features of the Caledonian Canal, Great Glen and Loch Ness. Seven holiday rooms are also available to let for guests who want to make Fort Augustus their base, bookable through Airbnb.
The new centre will attract and facilitate increasing visitor numbers, extending visitor dwell time in the village and promoting Fort Augustus as a long-stay, year-round destination. This will underpin local social and economic development, providing direct access to jobs and economic activity.
The centre has a small team in place, and more opportunities are now available, across a range of permanent and summer roles, full and part time.
The creation of the centre was supported by Visit Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, and was awarded £237,500 of Coastal Communities Funding. This contributed to the £1.2m redevelopment of existing vacant premises in Fort Augustus, bringing the redundant building back into a productive and sustainable use.
Mark Smith, head of destinations and tourism at Scottish Canals, said: ‘The new Caledonian Canal Centre is an exciting addition to the canal side at Fort Augustus. During the development of this project we have been working closely with the local community to develop the stories of the canal and bring our rich heritage to life, and we look forward to continuing this.
‘We’re delighted to welcome Canal Theatre to Fort Augustus to mark the opening of the new centre, and we’re sure that visitors and locals alike will enjoy meandering through the years with the play’s characters, as they share their tales of the Great Glen’s inland waterway, merging the past with the present.’
Chris Taylor, VisitScotland regional leadership director, added: ‘With breath-taking scenery and fascinating history, the Caledonian Canal is one of the greatest waterways in the world. This new theatre walk will allow visitors to learn all about the canal’s past and discover its natural beauty in a fun and interactive way.
‘Innovative ideas such as this are essential to ensuring Scotland remains a quality destination and I wish the Canal Theatre and the fantastic new Caledonian Canal Centre in Fort Augustus every success.’
Sarah Daly, funding officer at Coastal Communities Fund, Big Lottery Fund Scotland, said: ‘We are delighted that funding from the Coastal Communities Fund has been able to support the creation of the visitor and destination hub at Fort Augustus. The revitalised spaces are an excellent facility for visitors to the Caledonian Canal and fully support the Coastal Communities Fund’s aim of economic regeneration and growth.’
Lucy Casot, head of Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, said: ‘Thanks to National Lottery players HLF grants preserve fine examples of Britain’s industrial, maritime and transport genius that not only helped create the nation, bringing jobs and economic prosperity, but also influenced the world.
‘HLF is pleased to support the new Caledonian Canal Centre in Fort Augustus, which brings the rich heritage of the area alive for the local community and visitors alike. Canal Theatre: Waters of Time is a fitting celebration to mark the opening of the new centre, passing on experiences and achievements from our working past to future generations.’
Waters of Time builds on the success of last year’s first-ever Canal Theatre production, The Resurrection, which saw visitors explore the eerie depths of the Union Canal’s 200-year-old Falkirk Tunnel as they learned about the grisly deeds of ‘resurrection men’ William Burke and William Hare.
More than 750 people joined the pair on a trip through the nation’s last-surviving original canal tunnel. 100% of attendees surveyed stated that they would attend a Canal Theatre production again. More recently, The Falkirk Wheel provided the backdrop for two new retellings – Wiz Around Oz and Macbeth’s Way.
Sadie Dixon-Spain, playwright and artistic director at The Walking Theatre Company, said: ‘The industrialisation of the Highlands was a slow and steady process, changing communities, as its effects altered an ancient landscape. The Caledonian Canal significantly re-shaped lives and land in its forging and as a writer, I have been inspired by the journey through time, that the canal has taken me on. Momentous and epic are two words that spring to mind.’
Tickets for Waters of Time are available from the Caledonian Canal Centre, Fort Augustus, with performances held on 25–29 July and 1–5 August. Performance times: 11am, 12.15pm, 2pm, 3.15pm and, 4.30pm. Tickets £7 each, Under 5s free.
The Caledonian Canal Centre is open daily – grab and go and retail: 9am-5pm; café: 9am-4.30pm.
Find out more HERE.