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!

 

Save 40% on July and August cruises of 7 nights or more. Book by 31 July 2019. Plus, save 30% on short breaks.

Book early for 2020 and save up to 20%.

 

Is this your ideal destination?                   BOOK NOW           

Want to see our route suggestions?   EXPLORE 

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

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

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

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

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.

Please note that the cruising season in Scotland lasts from 1st April-31st October 2019, and then from 1st April-31st October 2020. 

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, 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 keep up to date with the cruising conditions across all of our regions.

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 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 (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 the Caledonian Canal

  = Le Boat base       = 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.

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 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 Collies 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 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 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 22 June 2019

Athene Urquart said

Excellent all round, both the administrative part of booking the trip as well as at the base when checking in. Great helpful staff at the base and the trip on the canals and lakes were beautiful.
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Thank you for your feedback. We're so glad that you had a great holiday and we look forward to welcoming you back on board another cruise soon.
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 03 June 2019

Lorraine Dryden said

Straight forward booking. Good and thorough information provided. Fantastic scenery. Airy, clean and comfortable boat - Mountain Star Marina staff very helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.
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Hi Lorraine, Thank you for the positive feedback. We are so glad that you enjoyed your cruise in Scotland. We would love to welcome you on board again soon All the best The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Mountain Star
Added on 25 May 2019

Lawrence Pasetti said

Fantastic team at the Laggan location. This was the first time my family and I have ever done a boating vacation. We very much enjoyed our trip. But it was the staff that made the holiday so enjoyable. I thought being on a boat in the middle of no where might be a challenge for my children to keep interest. This defiantly was a different kind of vacation. But the kids enjoyed driving the boat and working the locks. Their interest was kept with the challenges of the weather and the beautiful sights – even thought they never found Nessie.
READ MORE
Laggan - Laggan
Crusader
Added on 25 May 2019

Meinir Gooch said

We had a fabulous holiday on the Caledonian Canal. It was great from the booking process all the way through. Clear information in advance and great induction to the boat and area on arrival. Great cruising area from Fort William to Inverness. Staff friendly at base in Laggan. Great places to stop on the canal from the city life of Inverness to the peace of Gairlochy. Fabulous holiday for a group of family and friends.
READ MORE
Dear Meinir, We're so glad to hear that you had lovely holiday in Scotland and that our team looked after you from start to finish. We would love to welcome you on board again soon. All the best The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Magnifique
Added on 24 May 2019

David Mott said

The boat and the service were excellent throughout the process. I will certainly use them again and recommend them to my friends. Very friendly and helpful staff.
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Hello Mr M, Thanks for the positive . Its great to hear that you had a lovely holiday and that you were well looked after by our lovely teams too. We would love to welcome you on board again soon! All the best The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 17 May 2019

Stephen Nordholt said

Service at the base station could not have been better. Easy check in and thorough briefing by staff about locks, swing bridges, etc. This was our 6th le boat experience and it was spectacular. We took the train from Glasgow to Spean Bridge, from where it was about a 15 minute drive (arranged from the agency recommended on the base station page). On the way we picked up provisions from the SPAR store in Spean Bridge, and we were all set for our short break. The boat "Elegance" was on of the best we've used --- and we loved the Thrusters. There were two couples, so the third bedroom we used to store our luggage. Perfect. A moderate sized upper deck, with a nice sized lower area and kitchen. Overall, another great experience that's highly recommended.
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Laggan - Laggan
Elegance
Added on 13 May 2019

Afsane Anand said

Everyone was lovely. Andy, Sheila and Anne Not easy to find but once there its lovely.
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Hello and thank you for the feedback! It's great to hear that you had such a lovely holiday. We would love to welcome you on board again soon! All the best, The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Clipper
Added on 26 April 2019

Peter Bryson said

The team at Laggan were fantastic. Friendly, helpful and keen for us to have a good time. Fantastic holiday, I would fully recommend
READ MORE
Dear Peter, It's fantabulous to hear that you enjoyed Scotland in all its beauty and that you were taken care of by the team!! We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon. All the best The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Classique
Added on 20 April 2019

Bruce Cameron said

Good comms; easy to deal with. Good facility with friendly professional staff.
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Thank you for taking the time to share your positive feedback and we're very glad that you had a good cruising experience with us. Best regards, the Le Boat team.
Laggan - Laggan
Horizon 1
Added on 28 September 2018

Ryan Smith said

Staff at the boat yard were excellent. Boat in good condition and comfy. Perfect week cruising along the Caledonian Canal. Amazing places to visit, stunning views.
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Laggan - Laggan
Elegance