Fort Augustus, Gateway to Loch Ness

Fort Augustus, although small, has a lot going on! This is perhaps due to its geography, situated on the shore at the extreme southwestern end of Loch Ness. With a population between six and seven hundred, the village is compact, picturesque and sometimes bustling with activity – especially so with tourists during the high summer period, though it’s never congested. Boats travel north and south along the Caledonian Canal which cuts through the centre of the village as does the road from Fort William to Inverness via a swing bridge. A lovely tourist (and local) pastime is to sit outside a Fort Augustus bar or restaurant with a drink or meal spending a lazy hour or two watching the boats of all shapes and sizes passing through the series of locks on the canal.

The History of Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus village takes its name from a fort built after the defeat of the 1715 Jacobite uprising. Today, almost nothing remains of the original structure – although some parts were incorporated into the Benedictine Abbey, which dates back to 1876. Today Fort Augustus Abbey is no longer an abbey but converted into luxury apartments which are exclusively situated on the shore of Loch Ness.

Much more apparent is the Caledonian Canal, which effectively cuts the village in two. To the north, the canal joins Loch Ness and an impressive flight of locks that cleverly assist the water traffic from one vertical level to another.
Originally designed by the famous civil engineer Thomas Telford and opened in 1822, the lock system is part of the 60-mile Caledonian Canal that links Inverness to Fort William. The canal was originally built to provide a shortcut for merchant skippers between the east and west coasts of Scotland, who welcomed the chance to cut down their journey times and avoid unwelcome approaches from French pirates on the open sea. Today, the canal is still in use – and Fort Augustus is an ideal spot to watch the yachts and cruisers drift by.

In 2002, the Great Glen Way was born and more recently the Great Glen Canoe Trail was opened. a 73-mile route connecting Fort William to Inverness. Fort Augustus is always a popular resting point for weary walkers and cyclists hoping to take a well-earned breather, relax and enjoy the view.

The village itself offers an impressive selection of visitor attractions. You can find out all about the Caledonian Canal at the Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre while The Clansman Centre allows you to experience a slice of Highland life as it was 500 years ago. A trip to the Rare Breeds Croft just outside the village will give you a chance to see some unusual farm animals and birds.

While you’re in the area, a visit to the pretty village of Invermoriston and lovely Glenmoriston is always worth the short journey of around 7 miles. Steeped in Jacobite history, Invermoriston, with its white harled cottages, is a popular resting place for walkers tackling the Great Glen Way.

Moriston is Gaelic for ‘river of the waterfalls’ and the dramatic Moriston Falls are spectacular in spate – especially from the Old Bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1813 during the construction of the Caledonian Canal. Look out too for St Columba’s Well and the spectacular gorge at the entrance to the Glenmoriston Road to the Isles.

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