About Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal

Boating on the Caledonian Canal is a unique way to see Scotland's wilderness

The Highlands provide a backdrop of incredible beauty for your boating holidays in Scotland. During your Caledonian canal cruise, much of your time will be spent on lakes (lochs) nestled in the rugged valleys along the Great Glen, a geologic fault line that shaped the landscape of the region. Hilltop castles, quiet waterside towns, lake resorts, cosy pubs and rich, melodic bagpipes... The Highlands are an ideal destination to hire a boat in Scotland!

 

 

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Map showing where the Caledonian Canal boating region is in Scotland

Find your bearings...

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 reveal an abundance of wildlife. Amidst the pines you might observe crossbill, redstart, tree pipit, golden eagles, peregrines and songbirds. Keep an eye out for red deer and fox which also live along the Caledonian Canal. Saddle up for some horseback riding at Drumnadrochit.

Fishing

Father and son fishing

Picture yourself gliding along Loch Ness surrounded by majestic mountains as you fish for the elusive salmon, or perhaps the fighting Ferrox trout. Pike, charr and other fish lurk beneath the waters of the Caledonian Canal. Break out the rod on angling holidays 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 some time in the Caledonian Canal Visitor Centre museum learning about the history and heritage of the canal, then why not pop over to the Clansman Centre for Scottish lore!

Golf

Golfer taking a swing

Golf lovers will be interested to know that the sport originated in Scotland during the Middle Ages, so it’s not surprising that Caledonian Canal golf breaks are extremely 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.

2021 season for this region
Starts on 26th April and ends on 31st October 2021. More detail and restrictions

2022 season for this region
Starts on 1st April and ends on 31st October 2022.

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 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, only about 37 kilometres (23 miles) of it is manmade and these canals have locks to raise and lower boats. The rest follows the main lochs of Lochy, Oich and Ness. The lochs are spectacularly beautiful with deep, crystal-clear water. 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 holiday 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. Locks are closed for one hour for lunch between the hours of 12:00 and 14:00.

Public holidays: Locks are always open.

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 £10 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 at each base or nearby, click on the base below:

  • Hire of the boat and its onboard equipment
  • A fully equipped kitchen
  • Towels and linen for all passengers
  • A boat handling demonstration 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 holiday extras
  • Boat damage waiver
  • Running costs (diesel, gas, engine wear and tear) - charged by the engine hour.
  • 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 the 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 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 him…

Deep in the magnificent and misty atmosphere 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 village 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.

Cruising on the Caledonian canal

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 lock(s) 7 nights

Laggan RETURN via Inverness & Banavie

Laggan RETURN via Inverness & Banavie

Scroll down using the grey bar to the right

Overview

You scout magnificent Loch Ness for Nessie, taking in the mountains and blue waters from your sundeck and feel a world away on your Caledonian Canal boat trip. 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!

Top highlights:

  • Views of Ben Nevis and the Grey Collies mountains from Gairlochy
  • Sight of the Jacobite Steam train (Hogwarts Express) in Banavie
  • The sight of Fort Augustus from the shores of Loch Ness
  • Inverness Castle

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 holiday:

  • 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.
  • Banavie: 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 135km 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 atmosphere 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 Castle 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 lock(s) 7 nights
Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness

Laggan RETURN via Banavie & Fort Augustus

Laggan
Gairlochy
Banavie
Invergarry
Fort-Augustus
Laggan

13 hr(s) of cruising

65km 12 lock(s) 3 nights

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 holiday! 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.

Top highlights:

  • Views of Ben Nevis and the Grey Collies mountains from Gairlochy
  • Sight of the Jacobite Steam train (Hogwarts Express) in Banavie
  • The sight of Fort Augustus from the shores of Loch Ness

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 holiday:

  • 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.
  • BenavieBanavie 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 lock(s) 3 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 17 July 2021

Isabel Page-Jones said

Everything went well from the moment we booked until we gave the boat back. The staff is very friendly, helpful and able to adapt to different circumstances (e.g. when we arrived very late on day 1 duo to a car accident on the main road leading to the boat yard, they made all necessary arrangements, so that we could still arrive on that day and stay at the boat, instead of looking for alternative accommodation). The boat was in good condition and as we expected. Any queries were answered promptly and effectively. We would do it again and would certainly recommend it to everyone. Nothing beats the scenery of the Scottish Highlands. The boat was great with everything we needed.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Braemore WHS
Added on 3 July 2021

Graham Brinkhurst said

Booking process was seamless, after sales and pre arrival all dealt with efficiently. Arrival and collection went smoothly. Instruction on boat operation was perfect, we felt very relaxed by the time we left the boatyard. Boat was clean and very well equipped for everything we needed for a weeks holiday. Boatyard were available and helpful with one very small enquiry during our trip. Couldn't have enjoyed it more
READ MORE
Good Afternoon Graham, Thank you for taking the time to provide a five star review of your boating holiday on the Caledonian Canal. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are delighted to hear that you received just that from the team in Laggan. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon. The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Horizon 1
Added on 28 June 2021

Francesca James said

Fabulous boat in the most beautiful location. Staff all very friendly& helpful. Excellent
READ MORE
Hi Francesca, Thank you for taking the time to provide a five star review of your boating holiday on the Caledonian Canal. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are delighted to hear that you received just that from the team in Laggan. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon. The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Royal Star WHS
Added on 14 June 2021

Julian Clegg said

Excellent service throughout including delay of 1 year due to covid. Good team at the Laggan base. Boat was very clean and an excellent handover. Excellent
READ MORE
Hi Julian, Thank you for taking the time to provide a five star review of your boating holiday on the Caledonian Canal. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are delighted to hear that you received just that from the team in Laggan. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Royal Star WHS
Added on 29 May 2021

Fred Robinson said

The base is a little basic but this is made up for by the staff who were extremely friendly and efficient. The boat was well presented and worked well, we were lucky in having a week of bright sunny weather which showed the canal and lochs at their best.
READ MORE
Good Morning Fred, Thank you for taking the time to provide a review of your boating holiday on the Caledonian Canal.We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are delighted to hear that you received just that from the team in Laggan. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Elegance
Added on 10 May 2021

Margo Macpherson said

The service at Le Boat, from booking to end of holiday was all perfect. The staff were extremely helpful and polite. Nothing was too much trouble. Lovely staff, easy to find, although the windy road was challenging. The base had excellent parking spaces and facilities. The staff were always happy to help
READ MORE
Good Morning Margo, Thank you for taking the time to provide a five star review of your boating holiday. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are delighted to hear that you received a warm welcome from all of our teams. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Magnifique
Added on 7 May 2021

Julie Birchall said

Great week on the Caledonian canal . Everything that was required was on board. Staff were lovely and everyone on the canal ( especially the lock keepers) were very helpful to two very novice sailors Excellent
READ MORE
Good Morning Julie, Thank you for taking the time to provide a five star review of your boating holiday. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are delighted to hear that you received a warm welcome from everyone on the Caledonian Canal. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Consul
Added on 27 October 2020

A trusted customer said

Rain rain rain... Yet I still had one of the best holidays that I have had in Scotland or the UK in general I guess. From the minute we arrived on site to the moment we left we had the best time. Amazing staff, great pre holiday information, fab handover lovely boat and a beautiful part of the world. I love an abroad holiday but this was just as good. Great thing to do during a pandemic. Thanks team. Just amazing. Not much more that I can say. Thanks again team.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Elegance
Added on 19 October 2020

A trusted customer said

Good handover and training, great facilities and spacious boat. Great location, and fun, relaxing holiday. Lovely scenery, helpful staff at Le Boat and on the locks.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 12 October 2020

A trusted customer said

Plenty of information at each stage and a good introduction to using the boat and equipment. A family of four with 2 dogs, The 6 berth boat was an ideal size for our requirements.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice