Thomas Telford – History, architecture and engineering in Inverness and the Highlands

2016 is the Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design, so we explore the work of Thomas Telford around Loch Ness and Inverness.

This year it’s VisitScotland’s “Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design” and one name in particular is associated with engineering and architecture in the Inverness and Loch Ness area – Thomas Telford.

Thomas Telford was a Scottish civil engineer and architect born in 1767 and is well known for building roads, bridges and canals all over the UK.

In our area, Thomas Telford’s biggest project was of course the Caledonian Canal. The Caledonian Canal is a 60-mile waterway that connects Inverness to Fort William using the natural lochs of the Great Glen - Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The canal was opened in 1822 and is an amazing feat of engineering that allows ships to travel from the North Sea to the Atlantic without having to brave the dangers of the waters around Orkney.

Today mostly yachts and pleasure boats use the Caledonian Canal, but you can also see fishing boats, survey vessels, barges and all sorts of other craft making use of the waterway.

Apart from the Caledonian Canal Thomas Telford was also involved in building numerous bridges, roads, churches and harbours all over the Highlands and Scotland.

Not all of these are huge projects - you can see one of Telford’s smaller projects in Invermoriston, where he built a bridge over the River Moriston.

To fully appreciate the scale on Telford’s Caledonian Canal, you can travel the full length of the Canal by boat – either on a cabin cruiser holiday with Caley Cruisers or a barge holiday if you don’t fancy driving a boat yourself. Or if you’re really “hands on”, have you considered the Great Glen Canoe Trail?

If you’re not keen on a water-based holiday, you can also follow the Great Glen on foot or by bike on the Great Glen Way. Accommodation is available all along the route, but do book in advance, as hotels, guesthouses and even campsites can book up very quickly.

We couldn’t think of a better way to appreciate Thomas Telford’s work than spending time on or along the Caledonian Canal, where you can appreciate not just an amazing feat of engineering, but also the natural beauty of the Highland landscape all around you. See you soon!

Caledonian Canal