The Caledonian Canal
The canal system is about 60 miles in length and our base in Inverness is both your pick up and return point (one-way cruises are sadly not possible). It takes around 3 days to cruise form one end to the other, it is therefore the ideal place to spend a week cruising. 22 miles of the waterway are man-made and the remaining 38 miles are made up of Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy.There are 12 locks and 6 bridges along the cruising route, all of which are operated by bridge and lock keepers. Your limit of cruising is the top of Neptune's Staircase in Banavie, just outside Fort William.
You can find out more about this fascinating waterway with its amazing history on these video clips of BBC Coast, Channel 4's Great Canal Journeys and Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE):
Opened in 1822, the Caledonian Canal is one of the most fascinating waterways in Europe. It was built to provide a short cut between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, avoiding the hazardous Pentland Firth on the north coast of the Scottish mainland. The canal is one of the most recent to be developed for holidays afloat and has retained its unspoiled character.
As canals are artificial waterways they have to be provided with a water supply, normally by means of reservoirs and feeder channels, but the Caledonian is unusual because the lochs that are its reservoir also form part of the waterway itself with weirs and sluices controlling the water levels.
The highest point of the canal is 106 feet above sea level, at Loch Oich, and water flows from here towards the sea in both directions while the sets of locks raise or lower boats according to the direction of travel.
The Caledonian Canal was engineered by the famous Scotsman, Thomas Telford, and completed in 1822 after 19 years of work. It was built at the time of the 'Highland Clearances' to create employment.
Today's canal traffic is mostly cruisers, but you'll also see ocean going yachts, fishing boats and the odd naval vessel. For over thirty years, the canal locks have been mechanised, making it even easier to negotiate the 'staircases' along the way. At every lock and bridge you will be assisted by a friendly keeper.