The Caledonian Canal

Feels like a bit of a milestone to reach here, out UK & Ireland travels are almost complete!  As is the 2016 sailing season.  Pretty pumped to do Loch Ness over the next few days also – being such a well know place, also a niggle of apprehension mixed in with the excitement about getting through all these locks – the down side of a red hull is that it is so easily marked and if marked very very visible.

Entering the Caledonian Canal at the Western Corpach Sea Lock

Anyway only one way to do this and that is to get on with the adventure, lets start with some facts about the Caledonian Canal …

  • 19 years to build and a cost of 1 million pounds (actually good for the day and age, especially as the Fort Augustus locks were repaired from 1995-1997 at a cost of 3 million pounds)
  • Maiden voyage was 23-24th October 1822 (travelling East to West)
  • 96 kilometres long (60 miles) Inverness to Fort William
  • 61 kilometres of natural lochs/lakes (38 miles)
  • 35 kilometres of man man canal cutting (22 miles)
  • 29 locks
  • 8 swing road bridges
  • 2 swing rail bridges

Day 1.
11 locks & 2 swing bridges
Berthed at  Banavie Top Basin.
Entered Corpach Sealock and registered for canal, brought an 8 day transit licence.  Completed sea lock and next two locks at Corpach before pulling up below rail and car swing bridge just before Neptune’s staircase (8 locks) for a couple of hours to await our call to enter at out prearranged time of 13:00.  It took 2 hours to complete the 8 locks (climbing up).

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Day 2.
4 locks & 2 swing bridges
Berthed at Laggan (top)

Canal motoring to Moy Swing Bridge then Gairlochy consisted of lock, swing bridge then lock before opening into Loch Lochy (8.6 nautical miles) this is buoyed at each end due to depths.  Finally two more locks at Laggan Locks to take us out of Loch Lochy before we berthed for the night Laggan opposite the Eagle Barge pub and restaurant.   Locks prior to this were climbing up – now at the highest point in the canal and locks here after are descending.

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Day 3 & 4.
2 locks & 2 swinging bridges
Berthed at Fort Augustus (top basin before locks)
Very easy day with only two bridges and two locks and a transit through Loch Oich (3.5 nautical miles) buoyed all the way due to depth.   Stopped at Cullochy lock for a couple of hours (during the keepers lunch break) and walked back to the Historical Bridge of Oich, which was quite a visual treat. Transited the last two locks at Cullochy and Kytra before stopping for the night at the top of the Fort Augustas staircase.  We stayed 2 nights here (night 3 and 4).  Enjoyed a couple of longer hikes around Loch Ness on our full day here, one walk to the top of the Northern hill through pine (fur) plantations, and a second walk along Loch Ness – both enjoyable.  Fort Augustus is a bigger town with pubs and a few gift shops being the major centre for Loch Ness.

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Day 5.
5 locks & 1 Swing Bridge
Berthed at Loch Dochgarroch Top Pontoon
Down the 5 locks at Fort Augustus following the large Lord of the Glens cruise ship which we had previously seen at Canna a few months ago. They berthed for the night with us at the top of Fort Augustus.  They filled the entire lock and hardly needed to put lines out each time as they really didn’t have room to drift around.  We followed them down (they double locked us) with one other smaller yacht behind us and three bump boats on the other side so 5 of us in the lock together, despite my initial nerves about the bump boats bumping us it worked well no issues.  Phil was onboard and I was walking the lines/boat along the top of the locks.
Then we were in the Loch Ness  WOW!!  20 nautical miles, sailed ½ of it but was having to tack and jibe from one side to the other due to the wind angle, but nice to say we sailed it.  I must say the actual views were not anywhere near as nice as other  parts of the canal as it is surrounded by pine plantations.

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Day 6
1 lock & 1 Swing Bridge
Berthed at Muirtown Top of Locks
Short transit through the Dochgarroch lock and then Tomnahurich swing bridge before arriving at Muirtown, which is the start of the end locks out into Inverness.  Having paid for an 8 day licence and still having 2 nights left we stopped at the top of Muirtown (didn’t enter the locks) and berthed for the night on the wall (I don’t think this is normally allowed as there is the sea port marina (pontoons) on the other side of the locks but being very quiet they let us.



Day 7 & 8
4 locks & 1 Swing Bridge
Berthed at Seaport Inverness Marina (2 nights)
Used our last night as part of our transit licence in Seaport Marina (1 night here included in the licence).  A normal functioning marina with toilets, showers and laundry, loads of pontoons, power, water etc and we also purchased fuel.  Walking distance into Inverness with it’s lovely parks and gardens around the river.  We actually stayed a second night due to weather conditions and tides not enabling us to exit into Inverness Bay with the correct tide and wind etc (as it was the weekend the office was closed so the extra night was free).

Lock Keeper & Maree at the last loch of the Caledonian Canal, back into the North Sea we go

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