Explore the Great Glen Canoe Trail
Stretching over a distance of sixty miles between Fort William and Inverness, the Great Glen Canoe Trail is the first of its kind in Scotland. Winding its way through natural lochs and manmade canals, the trail offers canoeists the opportunity to view some of the most spectacular scenery in the Scottish Highlands from a different angle. The trip generally takes five days to complete and is best done from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east – the direction of the prevailing wind.
The Great Glen Canoe Trail starts on the sheltered water of the Caledonian Canal, just outside Fort William, with canoeists passing the first lock gate of the route before entering Loch Lochy. The first night of the adventure is spent camping on the north side of Loch Lochy, sheltered by trees. From Loch Lochy, the trail continues along the canal, before reaching and canoeing across Loch Oich. After spending the night on the shore of Loch Oich, canoeists will travel up the canal to Fort Augustus and portage past a series of six locks before reaching the magnificent Loch Ness. The third night is spent in the woodland near Invermoriston.
The final day of canoeing is on the waters of Loch Ness – the home of the legendary Nessie. Extending approximately twenty-three miles, Loch Ness is Scotland’s second largest loch, measured by surface area, with Loch Lomond being the largest. However, because of its depth, Loch Ness is the largest loch by volume and the largest on the Great Glen Fault – a geological fault line resulting from glacial erosion aeons ago.
Connecting the lochs along the trail, the Caledonian Canal was designed by Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford and completed in 1822. The canal features twenty-nine locks, four aqueducts and ten bridges. Having suffered severe economic and social setbacks during the notorious Highland Clearances, the project of building the canal brought employment opportunities to the Highland region of Scotland and provided a safer passage than Cape Wrath or the Pentland Firth for sailing ships making their way from the north east to the southwest of Scotland. The canal was, and still is, considered to be an engineering masterpiece, requiring an enormous amount of sheer manpower and perseverance to construct. Caledonian Canal is listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, attracting more than a half a million visitors annually.
Places to visit in the vicinity of the Great Glen Canoe Trail include the Caledonian Canal Visitor Centre at Fort Augustus; the Loch Ness Centre and Urquhart Castle at Drumnadrochit; and the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre at Inverness.