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...

Nature Lovers

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

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

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

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.

Useful information

A bit of background

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.

 

Check our navigation page to see if there are any current cruising restrictions

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

Download our region guide

We'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

Interactive map of Caledonian Canal

Base pin  = Le Boat base     Point of interest pin  = 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...
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.
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.
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.
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.

Route 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.

Laggan RETURN via Banavie & Fort Augustus

Laggan
Gairlochy
Banavie
Invergarry
Fort-Augustus
Laggan

13 hr(s) of cruising

65km 12 locks 3 nights

Laggan RETURN via Banavie & Fort Augustus

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.

13 hr(s) of cruising

65km 12 locks 3 nights

Laggan RETURN via Inverness & Banavie

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

25 hr(s) of cruising

193km 24 locks 7 nights

Laggan RETURN via Inverness & Banavie

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!

25 hr(s) of cruising

193km 24 locks 7 nights
Added on 20 July 2018

Cheryl Brown said

Amazing service! Lovely welcome and great boat instruction Beautiful destination and lovely weather - just stunning
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Laggan - Laggan
Elegance
Added on 16 July 2018

Trevor Hackman said

we loved life on the boat, especially in scotland with the locks and canals. the boat was beautidul and all worked well. the only suggestion i would give is to spend a little more time on instructions for parking. we only had a short lesson, so we basically had to learn as we went, which added stress to our trip. we notived another boating company had instructors stay on the baot through the first lock with the guests. That would have been helpful. We didn't know what to do when we got to our first lock, which was right at the pickup location. All turned out fine, but a little more practice on parking would have made the trip excellent! The countryside was just breathtaking. Not to be missed. The pace of life on the canals was relaxing and the people were so friendly. The ease of cooking on the boat or going into town also made the trip very easy.
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Laggan - Laggan
Magnifique
Added on 09 July 2018

Richard Merrill said

The six adults on this trip have traveled several times together and all of us agreed this was our favorite trip so far. Every member of the staff at West Highland Sailed that was interacted with was professional, courteous, helpfully and friendly.
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Laggan - Laggan
Magnifique
Added on 25 June 2018

Kim Milano said

This was our second time using Le Boat and it was great once again. All of the staff from booking the boat to the staff at the docks are all very nice and helpful. The Caledonian canal was wonderful and all of the people we met along the way
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Laggan - Laggan
Magnifique
Added on 18 June 2018

Angeles Mills Raboso said

El personal muy amable. Si hablasen español sería estupendo. Muy bien y el barco muy bien equipado. Quizas faltaría un tostador y algunos detalles que arreglar. También sería recomendable mejorar los baños y servicios de Laggan Locks. Por último, también sería buenos tener mas amarres para atracar con el barco a lo largo del canal.
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Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 16 June 2018

Allan Dunlop said

Everything went well from booking to the end of our holiday. Yes I would recommend Le Boat at Laggan and I would cruise with you again. Beyond my expectations and dreams.
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Good Afternoon,
Thank you for your five star review. Our customers' comments are very important to us and we thank you for taking the time to share your feedback.
We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.
The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Crusader
Added on 11 May 2018

Angus Shaw said

Fantastic base to start a stunning canal journey, look forward to going back next year. This was our 6th time on the Caledonian Canal and always start our journey at Laggan, fantastic base and everyone is very friendly. Looking forward to getting booked up again for next year.
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Dear Mr ShawMany thanks for sharing your comments. We are happy to learn you had a great cruise. Our customers are very important to us. We hope to welcome you back on board with Le Boat soon. Best wishes, The Le Boat team
Laggan - Laggan
Crusader
Added on 14 October 2017

David High said

Made welcome when we arrived, taken through boat and weather warning. Excellent value for money just had t bring food.
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Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 16 September 2017

Karl Bellve said

Really had a fun time. My advice, relax about piloting the boat. You won't be perfect and the boats are well padded and protected from minor hits to docks and walls of the locks. It really is a nice and slow relaxing vacation with plenty of time to stop at local towns to enjoy a meal. We loved Fort Augustus as well as Inverness. Kudos to Andy at Laggan who was extremely helpful and understanding. Everything was awesome from the boat to the personal at Laggan!
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Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 09 September 2017

Denise Tilley said

The booking went very smoothly and staff very helpful. Very good value and a lovely trip
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Laggan - Laggan
Elegance