The Caledonian Canal

Boats moored on the canal

Cutting clean through Scotland’s Great Glen and connecting Inverness to Fort William the Caledonian Canal is one of the great waterways of the world, offering visitors spectacular scenery, and many exciting opportunities to experience this unique waterway on foot, on bikes or in a boat.

The mountain scenery of the Scottish Highlands may be a surprising setting for a canal, but the Great Glen an ancient fault line through which the Caledonian Canal runs almost directly from South West to North East. You could with tongue in cheek claim that all land north west of the Caledonian canal is an island!

Canal Opened 1822 - Thomas Telford

Lock gated at Fort AugustusStretching from Fort William to Inverness, the Caledonian Canal is 60 miles long. 22 miles of which are man-made to connect the natural lochs, of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, the famous Loch Ness and Loch Dochfour. The canal is, even by today’s standards an amazing feat of engineering first opened in 1822 it was constructed to help commercial shipping avoid the treacherous journey around the west coast. Unfortunately by the time the canal was completed many boats under sail (for which the canal was designed for) had been replaced by steam ships which were much better able to negotiate the west coast waters than their predecessors, so traffic through the canal never really paid for itself.

Not so today the canal today is positively buzzing with vessels, many of them private pleasure boats from all over the world who come to make the voyage through the legendary lochs through which the canal passes. The most famous section of water that forms part of the Caledonian canal is Loch Ness where you can find several cruise companies offering a variety of boat trips and boating holidays to choose from if you feel tempted to take to the water. You could combine boating with walking sections of the Great Glen Way which follows roughly the same route.