Caledonian Canal Tours
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Pleasure boats float along Caledonian Canal, a scenic 60-mile (97-kilometer) waterway that runs through Scotland's Great Glen, connecting Fort William in the southwest to Inverness in the northeast. The canal, which links Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, Loch Dochfour, and Loch Ness, is popular with walkers and cyclists, who follow towpath trails.
Though the long-distance Great Glen Way, which follows the path of the canal, attracts hikers and cyclists to the water’s edge, most visitors to Scotland encounter the Caledonian Canal during sightseeing cruises. The most-visited part of the canal is the area around Loch Ness, a vast and scenic lake, and the supposed home of a mysterious aquatic monster. Organized tours departing from Edinburgh and Inverness often include a visit to the canal, as well as trips to other area Highland highlights, such as Urquhart Castle, the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition, and Glencoe.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Caledonian Canal is a must-see for scenery-seekers and active travelers.
- Swimming is not allowed in the waterway.
- Wi-Fi hotspots are available (for a fee) at various spots along the canal.
- Some parts of the Great Glen Way are wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
If you’re coming from Fort William, Neptune’s Staircase, 4 miles (6 kilometers) north of the city in the village of Banavie, are the nearest and most spectacular set of lochs on the canal. To get there, ride the Mallaig-bound train from Fort William to Banavie. If you’re based in Inverness, take a stroll along the Canal Road, which connects to the Great Glen Way.
When to Get There
The best time to visit the canal is in summer. At this time, the weather is generally warmer, days are longer, and sightseers can take advantage of cruise vessels’ outdoor decks. The canal is perhaps at its most scenic during sunrise and sunset, when the golden glow reflects off the water’s surface.
The History of the Caledonian Canal
Built in the late 18th and early 19th century, the Caledonian Canal was meant to serve as a safe route for commercial freight who wanted to avoid the hazardous west coast of Scotland. Unfortunately, by the time it actually opened in 1822, larger steam ships were becoming more commonplace, and were too large to use the canal. Nowadays, the canal is largely used for recreational purposes.
Address: Inverness, Scotland
4 Tours and Activities to Experience Caledonian Canal
Nature and Wildlife
This biking tour around Inverness takes you to more places than you'd see on foot and to places that buses and cars cannot reach. The Waterways Tour rides along the River Ness and The Caledonian Canal, making many stops along the way to learn about the area from your guide who has lived in Inverness all their life.
Explore Loch Ness at your own pace on this independent 1-day cycle tour from Inverness. Hop on your bike in Bellfield Park and — with your map and directions to hand — head into rural Scotland toward Loch Ness. Head along winding country roads at your leisure and enjoy fine views over the countryside scenery. Spin through the peaceful village of Dores to the banks of Loch Ness, then perhaps enjoy lunch in a local café before strolling along the shoreline. Bike hire, map and directions are included on this tour.
Check out the Isle of Skye on a day trip from Inverness. With a Scottish local in a kilt as your driver-guide, you’ll discover the history behind the island plus some famous landmarks along the way. Pass Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, then cross Skye Bridge to spend time on the island itself. Visit the town of Portree, travel through the Cuillin mountains, and discover beguiling natural sights such as the Old Man of Storr. Numbers are limited to just eight people for a small-group experience.
Enjoy a day trip exploring Isle of Skye in a comfortable, air-conditioned bus that seats up to 6 people. Relax as your professional, Scottish, kilted tour guide takes you on a journey through Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Eilean Donan Castle, Old Portree and much more. Eat a 1-hour lunch in Portree (own expense). Take home precious memories on this small-group tour that is limited to 6 people for a more personalized experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What's the best way to experience Caledonian Canal?
The best ways to experience Caledonian Canal are:
- Inverness Bike Tour a 2 hours guided bike tour around the Waterways of Inverness
- Cycle To Loch Ness - Self Guided
- Isle of Skye Full Day 8-Seater Bus Tour from Inverness
- Isle of Skye 6 Seater Private Tour from Inverness
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