The Caledonian Canal is a spectacular waterway running northeast across the Great Glen of northern Scotland that connects the North Atlantic with the North Sea. Starting near Fort William in Loch Lynnhe it climbs “Neptune’s Stairway” under the shadow of Ben Nevis to cross Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness before entering the Moray Firth at Inverness. Now used primarily for leisure, the scenery is dramatic as you pass glens, castles and historic villages.
The Caledonian Canal has its southwestern entrance at Corpach, near Fort William on Loch Linnhe and then its first flight of eight locks, known as Neptune’s staircase, rising 72ft in only 500 yards. This section to Banavie is dominated by Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. The canal then passes over several aqueducts before entering Loch Lochy through two locks, near Gairlochy, It then runs north-eastwards across the loch where it enters the canal through another lock at Laggan, where there is a stunning vista of lochs, mountains and glens. The Laggan Avenue section of the canal enters the smaller Loch Oich under the Laggan Bridge. Invergarry Castle stands in ruins on the loch shore. The route exits the loch through four locks at Fort Augustus, named after the fort built here following the 1715 Jacobite uprising.
At Fort Augustus the canal route enters Loch Ness, the largest and best known of the lochs. It is 24 miles long, 1.5 miles wide and deeper than the North Sea – a perfect place for monsters. Along its shores you will find Glen Urquhart and Glen Moriston, the villages of Dores and Drunadrochit, with its two Monster Exhibitions, and the Clan Grant stronghold of Urquhart Castle. At Dochgarroch the lock gates transfer you to Loch Dochfour and onward to the Moray Firth at Inverness and the North Sea.
Starting from the Kyle of Lochalsh or Oban many cruises on the canal may include cruising on the Sounds of Sleat and Mull and visits to some of the western offshore Isles of Mull, Skye and Rum
WHEN TO CRUISE?
Cruising extends from April to the end of October. The best times to cruise are generally the spring and summer months (average 12°C to 15°C) because the days are longer and the temperatures are comfortable.
The summer (average 15°C to 18°C) is nice because you don’t get very hot spells but the weather can change at any minute and it can be sunny and dry one second and then heavy rain the next although it’s generally wetter during the winter.