About Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal

Hear the call of Scottish lairds on the majestic Caledonian Canal

The Scottish Highlands create a backdrop of incredible beauty on Caledonian canal cruises! Much of your time will be spent on lakes (lochs) embraced in the rugged valleys along the Great Glen, a geologic fault line that shaped the landscape of the region. The Highlands are a unique place in the world, replete with hilltop castles, quiet waterside towns, lake resorts, friendly pubs and mournful bagpipes!

 

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Map showing where the Caledonian Canal boating region is in Scotland

The perfect boating region for...

Map of Caledonian Canal

 = Le Boat Base           = Canal           = Navigable river           = No navigation beyond this point

The perfect boating region for...

Nature Lovers

Highland cow

Nature trails around the lochs inspire you to go trekking amidst the pines. You might observe crossbill, redstart, tree pipit, golden eagles, peregrines and songbirds. Red deer and fox also live along the Caledonian Canal. To get off your sore feet, go horseback riding at Drumnadrochit!

Fishing

Father and son fishing

Picture yourself amidst Loch Ness surrounded with majestic mountains as you fish for the elusive salmon, or perhaps for the fighting Ferrox trout! Pike, charr and other fish lurk beneath the waters of the Caledonian Canal. Break out the rod on angling vacations in Scotland!

History & Heritage

Bagpipe player in a kilt

Perched atop craggy cliffs, Urquhart Castle in Drumnadrochit is a must-see! In Fort Augustus, spend time in the Caledonian Canal Visitor Centre museum learning about the history and heritage of the canal, and then pop over to the Clansman Centre for Scottish lore!

Golf

Golfer taking a swing

Golf originated in Scotland during the Middle Ages, and it's not surprising that Caledonian Canal golf breaks are popular! The Castle Stuart Golf Links, Loch Ness Golf Course and the Inverness Golf Club are in Inverness, and the Fort Augustus Golf Club is on the canal.

Please note that the cruising season in Scotland lasts from 1st April - 31st October 2020, and then from 1st April - 29th October 2021.

Useful information

Download our region guide

Check out our region guideWe've produced a handy PDF guide for this region to give you an overview of all the stops and things to do along the waterway.

Download our region guide

A quick look at a Caledonian Canal map shows that the waterway connects the North Atlantic with the North Sea. The 100-kilometre (62-mile) passage runs from Loch Linnhe to Moray Firth, and only about 37 kilometres (23 miles) of it is manmade canals with locks to raise and lower boats. The rest follows the main lochs of Lochy, Oich and Ness. The lochs are spectacularly beautiful with crystal-clear water that runs deep. Loch Ness, home to Nessie the monster, has a depth of 230 metres (775 feet). The loch is 39 kilometres (24 miles) long.

Heading northeast from our base at Laggan on Caledonian canal cruises, you’ll soon reach Loch Oich, the highest point on the passage at 32 metres (106 feet) above sea level. That’s not very high, and yet Mount Ben Nevis at Fort William rises 1,344 metres (4,409 feet), indicating the heights that surround you. At Oich, the waters flow to the sea from both directions.

The waters of Pentland Firth, a channel between Scotland and the Orkney Islands, are very rough, requiring perilous voyages to get from the North Sea to the Atlantic. In 1803, work began on the Caledonian Canal to create a shortcut, and it continued for 19 years! The waterway opened in 1822, but it wasn’t a commercial success. A visit from Queen Victoria in 1873 kicked off the interest amongst tourists. Today, more than 500,000 people visit the canal every year.

The Caledonian Canal offers you variety and ease of navigation. Exercise caution on lochs if the wind kicks up.

Take a look at our waterway and lock closures page to find out if there are any scheduled cruising restrictions that will affect your vacation plans.

Lock keepers operate the 29 locks on the short canal sections. There are only about 10 locks on most cruising itineraries. Lifejackets must be worn in the locks.

 

Opening hours: During the busy summer season locks are open 08:00-18:00 (6:00 p.m.). Locks are closed for one hour for lunch between the hours of 12:00 and 14:00 (2:00 p.m.).

 

Public holidays: Locks are closed on some public holidays.

Sheltered moorings are always nearby on the large stretches of open water of Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. Moorings are plentiful on the canal. There is a charge of $13 per day for the use of all waterside facilities and moorings along the Caledonian Canal, which we are required to collect in advance of your cruise.This will be added, as a cost, onto your booking.

To find out how to get to our base in this boating region, as well as what facilities and amenities are available there or nearby, click on the base below:

  • Rental of the boat and its onboard equipment
  • A fully equipped kitchen
  • Towels and linen for all passengers
  • A boat handling demontration prior to departure
  • Technical support
  • On-board maps and visitor information
  • Passage through locks
  • A compulsory moorings fee has been included in the price quoted. See compulsory costs for more details
  • Optional vacation extras
  • Boat damage waiver
  • Running costs (diesel, gas, engine wear and tear) - charged by the engine hour (by the litre in Scotland).
  • Travel to and from the base(s)
  • Waterside services if you use them (i.e. moorings where a charge is applicable, pump-out if needed, water, etc)
  • Cancellation plan & any travel/personal insurance
  • Food and drink

Interactive map of Caledonian Canal

Le Boat base  = Le Boat base  Point of interest = Point of interest

 

Great to see...

Must see
Inverness Castle in Inverness
Inverness is a compact and historic city, which is easy to explore. Enjoy beautiful views from the castle and riverbank and indulge in a spot of retail therapy in the old town or at the new Eastgate complex.
Must see
UrquhartCastle in Drumnadrochit
Drumnadrochit is known for its world famous monster Nessi, who is is fabled to reside in Loch Ness. Stroll around this quiet village to see the old Castles ruins along the banks and be sure to keep an eye on the water - maybe you will be the next to see him...
Deep in the magnificient and misty athmosphere of the Loch Ness, breathe in the clean air and have a walk along the beautiful walking paths along the canal banks.
Must see
Caledonian Canal in Fort Augustus
Situated on the shores of the world famous Loch Ness, Fort Augustus is nestled right in the centre of the stunning scenery of the Great Glen, which stretches from the east to the west coast of Scotland. The fort, and and the village, were named after King George II's younger son, Prince William Augustus.
Invermoriston is a sweet place. Here, you'll appreciate having an amble along the countryside walking paths aside the hamlet.
Invergarry is a small where you can discover the remains of the old Castle of Invergarry. A beautiful place to have a walk.
Have a stop in quiet Laggan, a small and peaceful village, and relax in the local pub and restaurant.
Moor in this lovely place to discover beautiful views of Ben Nevis and the Grey Collies mountains. A good place to have a walk.
Must see
Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct with Jacobite Steam Train
Banavie is home to the longest staircase lock in the UK, Neptune's Staircase, with it's set of eight locks and lift of sixty-four feet! Meanwhile,Harry Potter fans will love the Jacobite Steam train, the train used as the Hogwarts express in the film series. It runs along the West Highlands Railway, taking in breathtaking scenery on a 135km round trip.
Must see
Fort William and Ben Nevis
The outdoor capital of the UK, Fort William is a mecca for adventure activities. Hike, bike and high-wire your way through spectacular scenery, including the tallest mountain in the UK - Ben Nevis! If the thought of walking to the top is too daunting (recommended for experienced walkers only) there is a gondola to the summit as well.

Itinerary suggestions

To help you get an idea of how far you can travel in the time you have, here's a selection of routes to and from our bases in this region. You dont have to stop at all the places listed or follow the route exactly. So long as you return your boat to your end base by the date you've booked - you're free to enjoy your cruise however you like. For a comfortable pace, allowing you time to regularly stop and explore, we'd recommend an average of 2 - 4 hours cruising each day.

 = Click the arrow icon on each route suggestion, to flip the 'card' and reveal more details.

Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness

The Highland Fling Short Break

Laggan
Gairlochy
Banavie
Invergarry
Fort-Augustus
Laggan

13 hr(s) of cruising

65km 12 locks 3 nights

The Highland Fling Short Break

Laggan RETURN via Banavie & Fort Augustus

Laggan RETURN via Banavie & Fort Augustus

Scroll down using the grey bar to the right

Overview

The views of Loch Lochy and Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain at over 4,000 feet, take your breath away on the gondola ride up Aonach Mor, marking a highlight of your Caledonian canal boating vacation! Then you head north up to Loch Oich to pretty Fort Augustus to dine on a platter of haggis, stopping to cycle and fish along the way.

Example itinerary:

The following is only an example, you can explore this area in whichever order you want, so long as your boat is back at the end base at the end of your vacation:

  • Laggan: Have a stop in quiet Laggan, a small and peaceful village, and relax in the local pub and restaurant.
  • Gairlochy: Moor in this lovely place to discover beautiful views of Ben Nevis and the Grey Collie mountains. A good place to have a walk.
  • Benavie: Banavie is home to the longest staircase lock in the UK, Neptune's Staircase, with it's set of eight locks and lift of sixty-four feet! Meanwhile, Harry Potter fans will love the Jacobite Steam train, the train used as the Hogwarts Express in the film series. It runs along the West Highlands Railway, taking in breathtaking scenery on a 135km round trip.
  • Invergarry: Invergarry is a small village where you can discover the remains of the old Castle of Invergarry. A beautiful place to have a walk.
  • Fort Augustus: Situated on the shores of the world famous Loch Ness, Fort Augustus is nestled right in the centre of the stunning scenery of the Great Glen, which stretches from the east to the west coast of Scotland. The fort, and the village, were named after King George II's younger son, Prince William Augustus.

 

13 hr(s) of cruising

65km 12 locks 3 nights
Cruising on the Caledonian canal

The Grand Highland Fling Cruise

Laggan
Gairlochy
Banavie
Fort William
Invergarry
Fort-Augustus
Invermoriston
Foyers
Drumnadrochit
Inverness
Laggan

25 hr(s) of cruising

193km 24 locks 7 nights

The Grand Highland Fling Cruise

Laggan RETURN via Inverness & Banavie

Laggan RETURN via Inverness & Banavie

Scroll down using the grey bor to the right

Overview

You scout magnificent Loch Ness for Nessie, taking in the mountains and blue waters from your sundeck and feeling a world away on your Caledonian Canal boating vacation. Soon you pull into a laid-back resort to relax with watersports, and later you head north to Inverness to sightsee. You can almost hear distant bagpipes whispering in the cool crisp air!

Example itinerary:

The following is only an example, you can explore this area in whichever order you want, so long as your boat is back at the end base at the end of your vacation:

  • Laggan: Have a stop in quiet Laggan, a small and peaceful village, and relax in the local pub and restaurant.
  • Gairlochy: Moor in this lovely place to discover beautiful views of Ben Nevis and the Grey Collie mountains. A good place to have a walk.
  • Benavie: Banavie is home to the longest staircase lock in the UK, Neptune's Staircase, with its set of eight locks and lift of sixty-four feet! Meanwhile, Harry Potter fans will love the Jacobite Steam train, the train used as the Hogwarts express in the film series. It runs along the West Highlands Railway, taking in breathtaking scenery on a 135 km round trip.
  • Fort William: The outdoor capital of the UK, Fort William is a mecca for adventure activities. Hike, bike and high-wire your way through spectacular scenery, including the tallest mountain in the UK - Ben Nevis! If the thought of walking to the top is too daunting (recommended for experienced walkers only) there is a gondola to the summit as well.
  • Invergarry: Invergarry is a small village where you can discover the remains of the old Castle of Invergarry. A beautiful place to have a walk.
  • Fort Augustus: Situated on the shores of the world famous Loch Ness, Fort Augustus is nestled right in the centre of the stunning scenery of the Great Glen, which stretches from the east to the west coast of Scotland. The fort, and the village, were named after King George II's younger son, Prince William Augustus.
  • Invermoriston: Invermoriston is a sweet place. Here, you'll appreciate having an amble along the countryside walking paths aside the hamlet.
  • Foyers: Deep in the magnificent and misty athmosphere of the Loch Ness, breathe in the clean air and have a walk along the beautiful walking paths along the canal banks.
  • Drumnadrochit: Drumnadrochit is known for its world famous monster Nessie, who is fabled to reside in Loch Ness. Stroll around this quiet village to see the old Castles ruins along the banks and be sure to keep an eye on the water - maybe you will be the next to see it...
  • Inverness: Inverness is a compact and historic city, which is easy to explore. Enjoy beautiful views from the castle and riverbank and indulge in a spot of retail therapy in the old town or at the new Eastgate complex.

 

25 hr(s) of cruising

193km 24 locks 7 nights

Our Feefo reviews

Feefo is an independent and impartial review service that requests reviews directly from those who have been on a Le Boat vacation. Below you can read what our past customers think about their Le Boat experience, and trust that what you read is unfiltered, unedited and uncensored.

Added on 25 October 2019

Craig Ward said

The overall experience was excellent. Boat handover and initial training was great. Did have a problem with the heating but it had just had a new heating motor fitted and was problematic. Would love to do again in warmer weather. Had problem with first night, after booking was told that we could get through first lock heading to Fort William but this was impossible. Did affect our dinner arrangements.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Magnifique
Added on 27 September 2019

Carol Brotherton said

Efficient booking system, great welcome from Anne in Loch Laggan, lovely boat! Dry week of sailing with fabulous scenery in Scotland!
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 21 September 2019

Caroline Gumbrell said

Very friendly staff, boat was well prepared and ready for us. Excellent handover as well. Bit of a delay for the boat handover, but that was not the yards fault, about 6 groups turned up together! This is a stunning area to cruise, the whole experience was wonderful. An excellent base for cruising the Caledonian canal, small and personal, very friendly staff.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 16 September 2019

Linda Verbiest said

Excellent service from start to finish. The staff at Spean Bridge went above and beyond to make our holiday with them exceptional. The staff were super friendly. The boat was amazing. Sailing along the Caledonian canals and Lochs of Scotland was spectacular.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Elegance
Added on 14 September 2019

Ted Weihe said

Very good customer service. Had th take boat through lock with 70 miles per hour gusts on initial night. The crew did an excellent job so we had a quiet night. However on returning the boat, there was a slapping sound all night that kept us await Excellent staff. They saw that I knew boat handling.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Horizon 1
Added on 11 September 2019

Steve Pollock said

Yes I would recommend Le Boat to my boating friends. Great staff in a great location
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Clipper
Added on 09 September 2019

Ken Mcmurtrie said

Good communication leading up to the hire. Boat was ready when we arrived. Good induction in the boat systems. Good boat. Beautiful scenery.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Consul
Added on 19 August 2019

Paul Parkin said

Service was friendly and minor problems were sorted out immediately. We were given thorough instructions about how to manage the boat and staying safe on the water! There is obvious good communication between Le Boat and lock keepers who were all very helpful too. Good storage facilities on the boat, plus kitchen equipment, cooker and sink. The cooker wasn't working, but we didn't need it fortunately. The stretch of canal we went on is beautiful - some of the maps could do with a little more information e.g The Pines hotel at Gairlochy doesn't serve food to non-residents at lunch time (!) and the floating restaurant's opening times need more advertising. Otherwise, the maps were very detailed and indicate all the buoys, exactly where to moor, what was nearby etc...
READ MORE
Hi Paul, Thank you for the positive feedback. It's great to hear that you were well looked after by our teams, from start to finish and that you felt well informed after your induction. We hope that we can welcome you on board again soon. All the best, The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Crusader
Added on 12 August 2019

Leonie Baldwin said

The staff were helpful and friendly and the information provided was informative. The holiday was amazing. The scenery along the Caledonian Canal was breathtaking.
READ MORE
Hello and thank you for the positive feedback! It's great to hear that our teams looked after you from start to finish, making your experience a special one. We hope to welcome you on board again soon! All the best, The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 10 August 2019

Joseph Rosen said

The staff are kind, helpful and very efficient. we got the boat vary rapidly and the checkout process was very fast. Amazing nature!!! fascinating mix of lakes, mountains and small pictorial villages.
READ MORE
Hi Joseph, Thank you or the feedback and the lovely photo. It's great to hear that you had a fantastic holiday and that you were well looked after by our teams. We hope that we can welcome you on board again soon. All the best, The Le Boat Team.
Laggan - Laggan
Elegance