Caledonian Canal, Scottish Highlands

(Above image is a capture of the Caledonian Canal connecting with Loch Ness.)

This evening, I am focusing on the Caledonian Canal which follows the line of Scotland’s Great Glen using the natural waterways of Lochs Dochfour, Ness, Oich and Lochy. Many visitors to the Highlands connect with this canal but probably fail to understand its history and significance.

Locks at Fort Augustus


The canal was essentially a project to employ Highlanders in the early 19th century in order to arrest population decline in the area due to the Highland Clearances and emigration. Ancillary purpose was to provide safe passage for ships by avoiding the stormy waters of N.W. Scotland but failed to achieve commercial success due to changing design and size of ships during the early 19th century. Unusually for the time, the project was funded by Government. Summary statistics:
  • Runs 62 miles (100KM) on a NE-SW line between Fort William and Inverness.
  • Built by leading 19th c engineer, Thomas Telford over a period of 19 years.
  • Opened 1822, deepened and repaired 1847 and mechanised 1964-9.
  • Approx 3000 local people used in construction.
  • Built mainly by human muscle power.
  • Incorporates two major flight of locks: Neptune's Staircase (Fort William) and Fort Augustus.
The canal is now mainly used by pleasure craft. It affords a wonderful experience, quietly traversing the Highland scenery away from the heavy road traffic.

Video clip of Neptune's Staircase near Fort William.


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