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Visiting Corpach Shipwreck – The Ultimate Guide

Hoping to visit the Corpach shipwreck? We got you covered. This guide covers how to find and photograph the famous wreck and why it is one of the most popular things to do near Fort William.

WHY YOU NEED TO VISIT THE CORPACH SHIPWRECK

  • Location: Whether you’re a photographer or pirate wannabe there’s something undoubtedly majestic about shipwrecks, but what makes Corpach shipwreck even more spectacular is the location. Perched on the stony shores of Loch Eil with the striking backdrop of Ben Nevis – the UK’s tallest peak – it is an unforgettable sight. 
  • Family Friendly: Another reason you need to visit, is that it is not particularly difficult to reach, making it an exciting adventure for all ages. It also won’t cost you a penny, which is music to any parent’s ears.
  • All Weathers: Our final reason is that although the sun rarely makes an appearance in the Highlands the Corpach shipwreck looks equally magnificent in the drizzling rain as it does in the dazzling sun. This means it’s an epic adventure all year round.
close up of old boat of caol shipwreck on sandy beach with grey sky

HISTORY OF THE CORPACH SHIPWRECK

We found the Corpach shipwreck history particularly fascinating as it’s relatively recent. Before this famous photo spot was known as the Corpach Shipwreck, it was an old fishing vessel called MV Dayspring.

Built in 1975, it was originally used in the North Sea before being renamed as Golden Harvest and then sold to a skipper in Ireland. She returned to Scotland in 2000, where she was moored in Kinlochleven pier until 2009, not in use.

The original plan was to turn Dayspring into a floating seafood restaurant, but in December 2011, a heavy storm caused the raiser chain which kept the vessel moored in Camusnagaul Bay to fail. 

The local coastguard then helped to control the landing of it on the beach, which lies between the villages of Corpach and Caol where she remains today. This is why the landmark is sometimes referred to as Corpach Shipwreck but also known as The Old Boat of Caol. 

bow of corpach shipwreck view through trees

HISTORY OF CORPACH

Corpach is a 10 minute drive from Fort William and is situated where the long sea loch of Loch Linnhe meets the smaller Loch Eil. The name Corpach actually translates to ‘field of corpses’ in Gaelic. This is because it is believed the village was used as a resting place for coffins of chieftains who were headed for the island of Iona.

Then in the mid 1800s, large steamers began to use the canal as it linked Inverness with Glasgow. This helped Corpach grow as a popular resort. Then when the railway opened in 1902, the popular route from Fort William to Mallaig included the station at Corpach.

Fast forward to today, Corpach is a great base for exploring Fort William as well as visiting other Highland favourites including Neptune’s staircase. As a tip, you will find better views of Ben Nevis from Corpach in comparison to Fort William, where the visibility is pretty much non-existent of the famous peak. 

HISTORY OF CAOL

The village of Caol (pronounced “Cool”) is situated on the northern shore of Loch Linnhe. The name translates to narrow in Gaelic and represents “Caol” is from the Gaelic for “narrow”, referencing the narrow water between Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil.

The Great Glen Way passes through the village and the Caledonian Canal passes by to the North West of Caol. It is possible to walk to Corpach along the beach, then you can return along the Canal path. This walk is particularly beautiful, with views of Ben Nevis and of course, the Old Boat of Caol.

Then in the mid 1800s, large steamers began to use the canal as it linked Inverness with Glasgow. This helped Corpach grow as a popular resort. Then when the railway opened in 1902, the popular route from Fort William to Mallaig included the station at Corpach.

Fast forward to today, Corpach is a great base for exploring Fort William as well as visiting other Highland favourites including Neptune’s staircase. As a tip, you will find better views of Ben Nevis from Corpach in comparison to Fort William, where the visibility is pretty much non-existent of the famous peak. 

WHERE IS THE CORPACH SHIPWRECK?

This is actually hotly debated with locals. Here’s why: Corpach marks the endpoint of the Caledonian Canal and is the closest village to the wreck.

As soon as you cross the canal, however, it’s seen as Caol shore, so locals refer to it as the Old Boat of Caol, not the Corpach shipwreck. We’ve heard people use the term interchangeably so thought we’d give you the heads up to avoid confusion.

Note, the wreck is known as The Old Boat of Caol on Google maps so it keep this in mind if you are trying to find a route on foot or on your Sat Nav. You can find the exact Google Maps location here

aerial view of shipwreck on beach with trees and hills

HOW TO GET TO CORPACH SHIPWRECK

It is possible to visit the Old Boat of Caol from both the village of Corpach and Caol. We’ve included directions for both.

From Corpach

If you are driving from Fort William, at the Ben Nevis Distillery, exit the roundabout onto the A830, heading to Corpach. Continue on this road, until Kilmalllie Community Centre where you will take a left.

Follow this road, heading over the train tracks via the level crossing. You will soon reach a carpark near the harbour. Parking here is free and it’s a short walk to the Corpach Shipwreck.

To access the beach, you will need to cross the canal via one of the footbridges. Once on the other side (beach side of the canal, not the car park side) follow along the path known as the Great Glen Way. You will soon see a gap in the trees and the famous Corpach Shipwreck will be visible.

While you could photograph the wreck from this point, it’s best to get up close. To do so however, you will need to cross another river as it blocks access to the wreck. Return to the path next to the canal until you cross another bridge (it runs parallel to the loch) 

Once you have crossed the bridge you can continue straight onto the beach to the Corpach Shipwreck. 

From Caol

If you have a little more time on your hands, we’d recommend the walk from Caol as it’s along the beach the whole way so is a more scenic option. 

You can either use on-street parking in Caol, or the nearest carpark to the beach is at Caol Shopping Centre carpark. It’s free and there is also a public toilet here if needed. Then it’s only a few minutes walk from the carpark down to the beach. 

Note, you can opt for the Great Glen Way (the path behind the beach) or walk along the actual beach. If you choose the latter, you will need to cross a small stream.  

shipwreck on beach with ben nevis hill in background

HOW TO VISIT CORPACH SHIPWRECK VIA PUBLIC TRANSPORT

If you don’t drive, don’t panic – it’s still easy to visit the Corpach shipwreck via public transport. Train is your best bet as it’s only a short walk from Corpach train station to the wreck. 

The train from Fort William to Corpach takes less than 15 minutes and costs £2.70. Check out the timetable and fares here. The Jacobite steam train also travels through Corpach station, so you may be able to catch a glimpse of it during your visit.

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FOR THE OLD BOAT OF CAOL

  • Time: We would recommend visiting at sunrise or sunset for the best lighting.
  • Ben Nevis Backdrop: While we prefer the moody, grey lighting of a drizzly day, if you want to capture the famous Ben Nevis backdrop you will need to visit on a clear day. If you have access to a telephoto lens, you will find the best framing of Ben Nevis and the wreck if you photograph it before crossing the river.
  • Tides: Visit in low tide so you can photograph the wreck from the seaward side and opposite side. In high tide water blocks one side of the wreck, limiting photo opportunities. You can find out the tide times here
view of corpach shipwreck with snowy peak of ben nevis in backdrop
  • Sturdy Shoes: Although it’s a beach, don’t expect golden sands and rock up in your flip flops. It’s best to wear grippy trainers or hiking boots as the rocks can be quite slippy. Sturdy shoes will ensure the best shot and keep you (and your equipment) safe. 
  • Do Not Climb Aboard: Although tempting, DO NOT climb the corpach shipwreck. It is a rotting vessel afterall, so it is not safe. 
  • More famous photos: While in the area, you may also be able to photograph a stranded sailing boat which is a little further up the beach as well as the famous Jacobite train as it passes through Corpach train station.
view of sandy beach with seaweed and hills in background

faramagan

When Darren the WordPress wizard & excel enthusiast met Lauren the storyteller and wannabe wanderluster, a grand adventure was bound to happen. Through Faramagan they document their tales (and fails) with a refreshing and unfiltered approach. By avoiding adulthood one adventure at a time, they hope to inspire others to do the same.

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