“Britain’s Gentle Highway”... a canal adventure in England, Scotland and Wales
Started in the mid-1700s, they served as the internal transportation system for Great Britain’s “Industrial Revolution”. By the early 19th century, they crisscrossed Britain, covering more than 5,000 miles through major cities and rural hamlets. “They”, in this case, are the canals of England, Scotland and Wales. Abandoned by industry today, the canals have become a playground for holiday boaters, as well as “home” for many retirees who live year round on their floating homes.
In re-visiting and re-filming this unusual and colorful part of Britain, film producers Fran and Brooke Reidelberger hire an old-fashioned canal boat to travel in the wake of history, discover modern engineering marvels, and enjoy the timeless British countryside. Start at Beeston Castle Wharf in Northwest England at a canal boatyard built in 1775, a year before the birth of the United States.
Charles Hardern and family run a small fleet of rental boats and a substantial boat repair facility, both highly regarded;
Climb a flight of four locks at Hurlston, operating the locks yourself and learn about a major water supply for the canal system;
Meet Robert Brown, a retired school teacher who spends his retirement years painting canal scenes;
Visit the Cadbury Company in the Welsh town of Chirk to watch cocoa beans turned into chocolate delicacies;
Cross the Pontcysllte Aqueduct, 1,000 feet long and 126 feet above the Welsh River Dee;
Travel under lift bridges and through a one-lane tunnel, with no lights!
Attend the International Music Festival in Lllangollen, Wales;
Tour the ancient walled city of Chester with classic half-timbered buildings, Roman history, and modern shops;
Enjoy wildlife and wild flowers during a misty morning along the Shropshire Union Canal;
Ride and learn about the Anderton Lift, a mechanical monster first built by the Victorians to move boats 50 feet up and down between the Weaver River and the Trent and Mersey Canal. The lift was altered over time, abandoned in the late 20th Century, and only recently rebuilt and re-opened as an aide for recreational boaters;
Watch talented, modern day craftsmen at Stoke-on-Trent as they use Josiah Wedgwood’s priceless formulas to produce elegant pieces of pottery that we call “Wedgwood” today;
Discover a “secret” bunker near Nantwich. The 35,000 square foot underground facility was designed as a center for regional government in case of nuclear attack in the 1950s. It was recently declassified and opened to the public for tours;
Dine at the “Shroppie Fly”, a popular canal side pub at Audlem;Ride the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boatlift. Designed to replace 11 manually operated locks lifting and lowering boats 100 feet, the modern engineering marvel was opened in 2002. More than 5 million travelers have come to see “The Wheel” each year, making it one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions;
Travel the rebuilt and recently re-opened Union Canal from Falkirk to Edinburgh, 35 miles without a lock!
Take a whirlwind tour of beautiful Edinburgh including the ancient castle, the shops of Princes Street, watching the Penguin Parade, sampling haggis, strolling the Royal Mile, visiting Holyrood House, and attending the world famous Military Tattoo;
Sail the entire length of Scotland’s Caledonian Canal, right through the heart of the ruggedly beautiful Great Glen. You will travel only 60 miles, 22 miles of man-made canal plus Loch Oich, Loch Lochy, and Loch Ness;
Climb “Neptune’s Staircase”, a flight of eight locks near Ft. William, to begin the cruise;
Meet Ian Cameron, the hardest working bridge tender in Scotland, and watch as he opens and closes the canal’s only swing bridge, by hand!
Visit the Great Glen Waterpark with activities ranging from fishing to skiing;Tour a hydroelectric plant to hear and see how the harnessing of abundant water brought electricity to the Scottish Highlands;
Marvel at the amazing rope catching abilities of Tally, a Golden Retriever who “helps” boaters transit the locks near Ft. Augustus;
Learn the real story of the Loch Ness Monster at the Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Center;Attend a county fair to see the Highland Cattle and other livestock as well as meeting and admiring many different breeds of Scottish dogs at an informal dog show;
Tour Inverness, the northernmost town on the Caledonian Canal, home for whisky, games and Highland history;
and Enjoy “Britain’s Gentle Highway” at its pictorial best, cruising in a soft, late evening afterglow, a light the poets call heaven.
Filmed and produced by Fran and Brooke Reidelberger
Scripted and narrated by Fran Reidelberger