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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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.

2020 season for this region
In light of the current Coronavirus pandemic, please check the latest opening information for each of our regions, or search for a holiday below. The 2020 season ends on 31st October 2020.

2021 season for this region
Starts on 1st April and ends on 31st October 2021.

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 (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.
  • 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

The Grand Highland Fling Cruise

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

25 hr(s) of cruising

193km 24 lock(s) 7 nights

The Grand Highland Fling Cruise

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 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!

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 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 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 135 km 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 athmosphere 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

The Highland Fling Short Break

Laggan
Gairlochy
Banavie
Invergarry
Fort-Augustus
Laggan

13 hr(s) of cruising

65km 12 lock(s) 3 nights

The Highland Fling Short Break

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.

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 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 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 10 October 2020

Scott Ralston said

10/10 Would certainly love to go again maybe Ireland on the horizon 5. Would definitely recommend it to anyone kids loved it. Great Service 5 Star Service
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Laggan - Laggan
Horizon 1
Added on 9 October 2020

Lindsey Ostrowski said

From booking to being on holiday the communication was great! Easy to book, and the staff at Laggan were so helpful on arrival giving us all the information and advice we needed to cruise the Caledonian Canal. The boat was just right for us, and even the weather wasn't too bad. Would definitely recommend using Le Boat to cruise the Caledonian Canal. The boat was great, and the whole experience was loved by the whole family. Will definitely do it again, this time for longer.
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Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 5 October 2020

Lorna Paterson said

Very friendly and helpful Beautiful lochs and towns - despite having to make changes to our holiday due to Covid-19, we were still able to enjoy this amazing part of Scotland.
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Good Afternoon. Thank you for taking the time to write a review - we are delighted to hear that you enjoyed your first boating holiday experience. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are pleased to hear you received a warm welcome from the team in Laggan. We look forward to welcoming you onboard again soon. The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Royal Star WHS
Added on 3 October 2020

Susan Foulkes said

The office staff were friendly and welcoming throughout the booking process. The boat companies web site was excellent and the staff at Laggan really helpfull. The boat itself was in their budget range and was showing its age hence the excellent price. Having said that had everything you need for an enjojyable holiday.
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Laggan - Laggan
Cygnet WHS
Added on 3 October 2020

Anthony Race said

We had a great holiday on the Caledonian Canal in early October.2020. Apart from a few sharp showers, the weather was good and the colours in the trees and hills was magnificent. The support from the Laggan Base was first rate. The boat was ready for us and all that we needed to know was explained. We were given a 'test drive' and some useful advice as well as help through our first lock - ideal for novices - and we were all set to go. The lock keepers and swingbridge operators were also very friendly and supportive. A good time was had by all! Thank you. We travelled up the Caledonian Canal from Laggan Locks to Inverness and back again - stopping along the way. We were also able to combine this with a journey on the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig and back again. Additionally, we rode up Aonach Mor on the Nevis Mountain Range Gondola.
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Laggan - Laggan
Kingfisher WHS
Added on 28 September 2020

Glyn Davies said

Excellent service from staff Attentive & friendly made sure we were happy with our boat Very good handover of the boat & demonstration of handling before departure Although we had a couple of minor issues they were very quickly sorted with the minimum of fuss Again on return we were attended to with excellent service I can't praise the staff enough Would highly recommend & will return again Very easy access to boat & staff very helpful
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Dear Glyn, Thank you for taking the time to write a five star review. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are delighted to hear you received just that from our team in Laggan. We look forward to welcoming you onboard again soon.The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Elegance
Added on 15 August 2020

Michael Holmes said

Service was excellent and very friendly. Outstanding holiday and something I never would have considered if it hadn't been for Covid. Scotland is stunning and the Caledonian Canal was a great way to take in the beauty of the country and the tranquility of the waterways. Loch Ness was awesome to cruise over and it has definitely down the seeds for more boat trips.
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Dear Michael, Thank you for taking the time to write a five star review. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service and we are delighted to hear you received just that from our team in Laggan. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon. The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 22 July 2020

Norman Leishman said

Excellent service form the team. Good COVID protocol given we were the first customers of the season. We hope to do the canal du Midi next year! Excellent trip, all as we wanted
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Good Afternoon, Thank you for taking the time to provide a 5 star review of your boating holiday in Scotland. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer services and we are delighted to hear that our team provided you with a warm welcome. We look forward to welcoming you onboard again soon. Kind regards, The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Caprice
Added on 25 October 2019

Craig Ward said

The overall experience was excellent. Boat handover and initial training was great. Did have a problem with the heating but it had just had a new heating motor fitted and was problematic. Would love to do again in warmer weather. Had problem with first night, after booking was told that we could get through first lock heading to Fort William but this was impossible. Did affect our dinner arrangements.
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Hi Craig, Thank you for the positive feedback. I'm glad to hear that you had an excellent experience and that you found the handover and boat induction informative. We hope that we can welcome you on board again soon. All the best, The Le Boat Team
Laggan - Laggan
Magnifique
Added on 27 September 2019

Carol Brotherton said

Efficient booking system, great welcome from Anne in Loch Laggan, lovely boat! Dry week of sailing with fabulous scenery in Scotland!
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Laggan - Laggan
Caprice