Caledonian Canal history and activities | Loch Ness 360°

Stretching from Fort William in the west to Inverness on Scotland’s east coast, the Caledonian Canal welcomes visitors all year round. It travels along some of the most dramatic and beautiful landscapes in the country. Constructed in the 1800s by famed engineer Thomas Telford, the canal is 60 miles long. It offers a bountiful display of wildlife, heritage and history to everyone who enjoys it. So by foot, bike or boat, make sure you stop by the canal on your next visit to the Scottish Highlands. 

Fort Augustus and The Caledonian Canal

History of the canal

The idea of the canal was to improve communication and trade lines in Scotland. The government wanted to set up new trading stations with baltic countries. Also, they wanted better means of transport for goods and people across Scotland. It would also mean ships could avoid the dangerous waters around the north of Scotland, and instead travel inland from coast to coast. Talks first began in 1773, with the area surveyed by James Watt, the famed engineer known for his steam engine.

So, in 1803 under the watch of Thomas Telford, building began. It was initially thought it would take 7 years to build, but like most large-scale engineering projects, it took longer. However the canal was finally completed in 1822 at a cost of £910,000 (around £116,000,000 in today’s money). 

It has stood through the years as a testament to Scottish hard work. 22 miles of canal were built, with the rest of the journey along lochs – Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness. The canal has been popular throughout this time, and remains a hub of activity for tourists and locals alike. 

A loch on The Caledonian Canal

Enjoying the canal

If you want to walk along the Caledonain Canal, you are in for a treat. With excellent towpaths, forest excursions and stunning views, it’s a walk to remember. You can walk the entire length of the canal should you wish. 

For those just visiting Inverness and Loch Ness, then Section 1 of the trail takes you along the canal from Inverness to Loch Ness. This was one of the first sections to have been built. Walking the Caledonian Canal can be done in sections. The whole route takes in parts of the Great Glen Way and South Loch Ness Trail – stunning areas to spend time in. 

The Caledonian Canal

Caledonian Canal boat hire

To fully experience a canal, it’s often best to get on a boat and drift down it. This way you can experience the sights and sounds on the water. It’s a taste of how life was hundreds of years ago to the men and women who worked along the canal. 

There are plenty of boats, cruises and yachts available for hire to suit your taste. Be sure to book in advance, especially in the summer months when cruises can become very busy. 

Caledonian Canal holidays have always been a popular option for a break. If you’re looking for somewhere calm to take a break, or somewhere full of activities (or maybe a bit of both?) then a holiday by this canal would suit you perfectly. 

So take a trip down to the Caledonian Canal and explore this extraordinary landscape on your next visit.