In this section
Great Glen Kayak
Grid references and GPS for Great Glen Kayak
Banavie - Start - 0km! From Fort William follow signs for Caol and Banavie. Turn Up hill 100mtrs after crossing the canal (obvious junction!) Follow the road up for approx 500mtrs and look out for a tarmac right turning in between two houses. The road has a dashed junction marked on it which previous smaller turnoffs are missing and the canal can be seen from the main road. There is a largish car parking area right beside the canal.
Loy Aquaduct - 8km Loy Aqueduct, the largest of four aqueducts on this first stretch of canal and one of the reasons that Telford’s Caledonian Canal is such a masterpiece of engineering for its time
Moy swing bridge - 166829 - 10km This is the last remaining of the original swing bridges installed when the canal was built. Note that it splits in the middle and each half is opened by a hand operated capstan on the relevant side of the canal. This means that the bridge-keeper must open one side of the bridge and then jump in his dinghy (with outboard!) to get across the canal, climb out and open the far side.
Gairlochy Locks - 178842 - 12km Gairlochy Locks. For most folk, this is the first opportunity to work out a swift and efficient system for portaging (carrying) your canoe and all your kit around lock gates. It really is worth spending a bit of time to get a good system going as it can save you a lot of time and energy later on. Best to portage up the left hand side of these locks to an easy launch ramp in the sheltered bay. Don't be put off by the locked chain across the track near the put-in - it is slack enough that a canoe on a portage trolley fits underneath it.
Loch Lochy Loch Lochy. At 15km long, Loch Lochy is the second biggest exposed stretch of water in the Great Glen
Bunarkaig Bay - 191876 - 12.5km Bunarkaig bay. This is the ancestral home of Lochiel, Chief of the Clan Cameron, and a ten-minute walk inland towards Achnacarry Castle will take you to the Clan Cameron museum if it is of interest.
Clunes - 205885 - 17km Clunes is a lovely wee spot to stop at for a picnic, or even for small groups to semi-wild camp, either early or late in the season. Unfortunately, over the years this area has become a popular destination for the lager-swilling car camping brigade from the cities and is frequently ruined by litter and inappropriate toileting during July and August despite the best efforts of the Forestry Commission. Note that although Clunes is marked on OS maps as a FC car park, there are no toilet facilities.
Glas- dhoire - 254933 - 24km Glas- dhoire
Laggan Locks - 286963 - 29km Laggan Locks coming into view. Take out at one of the pontoons either side of the spit of land guarding the left entrance to the lock. If you reach here late in the day then the open grassy area with a few pine trees on the South side of the approach to the locks makes a nice camp spot within easy reach of the BW toilet and shower block. Just above the second lock at Laggan you will find the enigma that is the ‘Eagle’ – a fully licensed pub and restaurant based on an old barge moored just above the loch gates. Adjacent, and also run by Jan & Paul Betts, is the floating bunkhouse ‘Lady Andorina’
Parking at Laggan Locks - 287963 Cliff can park here and then walk 6km to Glas-dhoire for overnight
Laggan Swing Bridge - 300983 - 31km Laggan swing bridge marks the end of normal canal once again
Well of the Seven Heads - 304991 - 31km waterside food stores en route at the Well of the Seven Heads, (immediately after the FC car park)
Invergarry Castle - 314006 - 35km Invergarry (Glengarry) Castle
Loch Oich Loch Oich. The shallowest and arguably the most scenic of the four lochs in the Great Glen, Loch Oich marks the highest point of the Caledonian Canal on its journey from coast to coast (33m above sea level). Poi
Aberchalder Swing Bridge - 338034 - 38km Aberchalder Swing Bridge
Leitirfearn - Wild Camping Spot - 327014 - 35km a popular ‘wild’ camping spot suitable for bigger groups at Leitirfearn on the south side
Kytra Locks - 352068 - 42km Kytra is another lovely quiet camp spot in the evenings and British Waterways are happy for you to camp under the trees on the opposite side of the canal from the nice grassy area. No toilet facilities here, though.
Fort Augustus - 46km Fort Augustus is different things to different people. A decent hotel bed. A beast of a portage around 6 lock gates and a road bridge. A lovely highland village where in summer you can sup beer or coffee in pavement cafés and spend hours watching canal traffic move up and down the flight of locks. A chance to replenish supplies. An intriguing centre of industrial, religious, Jacobite and natural heritage. A relative metropolis to escape from as quickly as possible. The one attraction in Fort Augustus which no paddler of the Great Glen should miss is a quick visit to the Caledonian Canal Visitor Centre, based in an easy-to-miss little cottage half way down the left bank of the flight of locks. The centre is open 9.30 to 5.30, seven days a week, Easter to October and can be contacted on 01320 366493. Entry is free. You will appreciate the route you are travelling so much more if you take time out to visit here.
Cumberland Campsite - PH32 4BG Scottish Canals now prevent folk from camping at the popular spot beside the toilet block at the top of the lock gates, so the only real option for camping in Fort Augustus is now the formal Cumberland Campsite on the outskirts of town on the single track South Loch Ness road. Nice campsite and bunkhouse with good facilities. £8 per person per night to camp. £17-£22 in bunkhouse. A sneaky wee tip for minimising portage the next morning is to launch into the river Tarff, just to the right of the campsite entrance rather than heading left into town.
Old Pier - 388100 - 47km the ruins of the old pier where the steam trains from Glasgow once met up with the paddle steamers on the loch.
Loch Ness The daunting prospect of 37km of Loch Ness in front of you. The loch is up to 230m deep and contains more water than all of the freshwater lakes in England and Wales put together. The big question, of course, is does it contain more than just water and fish? Because of its length, and the fact that the landscape funnels the prevailing south-westerly winds straight up the loch, Loch Ness can be a very dangerous place to be in an open canoe and frequently experiences waves of over a metre in height. Sensible advice is to stick close to one of the shores and avoid crossing over the middle of the loch if you can help it. Because of this advice the next section is split into following the North shore and following the South shore.
Inchnacardoch Bay Keep going round the corner and you quickly come to the delightful Inchnacardoch Bay, one of the main leisure craft anchorages for the area and one of the few reasonable access/egress points onto the loch. At one end of the open mouth of the bay is Cherry Island – the one and only island to be found anywhere on Loch Ness. This little lump of stones has a fascinating history behind it and is actually the remains of a crannog (defensive homestead built out in the water on stilts, over two thousand years ago).
Rubha Ban - 424150 - 53km Be warned that the caravan and camping park at Rubha Bàn has gone up-market and no longer accepts tents, despite the OS map indicating they are welcome. The only nearby alternative if you get caught out is a stretch of shingle beach about 500m south along the shore which will take quite a few tents but is immediately below the main road. A handily sited lay-by here makes the last useful access/egress point until Allt Sigh.
River Moriston - 54km The outflow of the River Moriston is well worth a wee explore. If you have the time then land your boat on the north shore of the river as far up as you can paddle and take a wander along the path towards the village to check out the very picturesque series of waterfalls.
Alt Sigh - 458190 - 59km Allt Sigh Youth Hostel (also known as Loch Ness Youth Hostel in SYHA marketing blurb) is a popular stop-off for walkers, cyclists and paddlers in the Great Glen and is one of the very few accommodation options right on the shore of Loch Ness.
Urquhart Castle - 531285 - 70km The remains of Urquhart Castle are reached at Strone Point, just as the shoreline bends left into the shelter of Urquhart Bay. Past the castle and round the corner is a small jetty where you can tie up your boats and access the grounds. The Castle is owned and maintained by Historic Scotland. If you just want to quickly stretch your legs then that’s fine, but if you want to send any time in the grounds or pop into the excellent visitor centre then please ascend the path to the car park entrance and purchase a ticket.
Drumnadrochit - 508297 Drumnadrochit, a village always closely associated with Loch Ness. It is here that you will find the two big competing Loch Ness monster exhibition centres as well as some great cafés and restaurants. Unfortunately access to the village from the loch is exceedingly difficult. Due to the frequently flooded river delta there is no reliable direct path to the village centre. If you are keen to visit Drum itself then you have two options: Land on the edge of a field on the south side of the bay at grid ref 524292. Walk diagonally up and right across the field to reach the roadside across from Borlum Farm. There is a campsite with basic facilities beside the riding school here (c.850m from the shore) and a pavement alongside the busy A82 all the way into the village (2.5km walk from the shore). On the north side of Urquhart Bay at grid ref 527300 lies the modern concrete construction of Loch Ness Harbour. Public access to this pier is allowed from the loch if you just want a sheltere
Jetty - 524292 Land on the edge of a field on the south side of the bay at grid ref 524292. Walk diagonally up and right across the field to reach the roadside across from Borlum Farm. There is a campsite with basic facilities beside the riding school here (c.850m from the shore) and a pavement alongside the busy A82 all the way into the village (2.5km walk from the shore)
Loch Ness Pier - 527300 - 71km Urquhart Bay at grid ref 527300 lies the modern concrete construction of Loch Ness Harbour. Public access to this pier is allowed from the loch if you just want a sheltered spot for lunch or to leave the boats for a quick walk into Drumnadrochit (2km along the A82). If you wish to leave boats here overnight while you stay in a hotel in the village then you will be asked for berthing/launching fees by the company that operates and maintains the harbour.
Clansman Hotel - 562330 - 76km The next feasible landing spot after Loch Ness Harbour is by the Clansman Hotel at grid ref 562330. Rather than stop at the private jetty here where Jacobite Cruises ships regularly enter and leave, you are advised to pull up on the shore 200m before the jetty. There is easy access here to a roadside lay-by for egress to a vehicle. To access the hotel for lunch, a pint or a bed simply walk along the shore to just beside the harbour, where an underpass forms an easy and safe way to cross the busy A82 road.
Glendoe Hydro Electric - 402100 - 47km As you leave Fort Augustus and cut across the bay to the south shore the workings of the Glendoe hydro electric project will be evident. Completed in late 2008, this was the largest civil engineering project in Europe at the time and involved damming the Allt Doe way up in the hills, tunneling through 3km of bed rock and building a massive underground power station close to the lochside. It hopefully goes without saying that the well-marked outflow from the power station is not a place to get inquisitive in a canoe, and can turn from tranquil loch to raging torrent in seconds.
Horseshoe Craig - 418121 - 50km The great scar of Horseshoe Craig appears on the cliff. This place looks intriguing on the map but actually turns out to be a little disappointing on the ground.
Knockie Boat House - 438146 - 54km Knockie Boat House marks one of the very few opportunities of finding somewhere for groups to camp along this steep and forbidding south shore along to Foyers. It is located almost exactly across the loch from the very visible caravan/chalet park at Rubha Bàn. Knockie Estate has erected a big sign close to the boathouse stating “Private. Strictly No Camping or Fires”. Although the estate have a right of access down the track to the shore and they do own the boathouse, all of the surrounding land is actually owned by the Forestry Commission. The FC have a very open attitude to access and you are welcome to camp in this area as long as you follow the guidance in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and do not cause any damage or disturbance. Negotiations are taking place to have the sign removed. The best spot for a group campsite is found on a heathery flat knoll around 150m up the track. On reaching the second left-hand hairpin cut through the bracken on your right to find it.
Foyers - 495210 - 62km You know you are approaching Foyers when you start to see a motley collection of old boathouses appear along the shore. Foyers is a nice village spread over a steep hillside, though the waterfront area is a bit neglected. Here you will find two significant large buildings. The nice old stone-built factory building is the site of an old aluminium smelter whose claim to fame was having the first ever commercial–scale hydro electricity plant in 1895. The modern monstrosity of a building further along the shore which is sorely visible from most of Loch Ness is a 300MW hydro power station. The only facility that may be of interest to paddlers in Lower Foyers is a medical centre. The shop, café and public toilets all lie a steep (but beautiful) walk of 150m ascent up hill in Upper Foyers. If you venture up here do check out the Falls – just off the path – they are pretty impressive.
Inverfarigaig - 518238 - 66km The terrain immediately around Inverfarigaig is very dramatic and well worth admiring as you paddle past. Unless you wish to explore the lovely network of forest trails, though, there is nothing to attract you to stop here.
Potential Wild Camping Spot - 552285 - 71km The 13km of shoreline north of Inverfarigaig does include several potential wild camping sites. The string of picnic sites marked on OS maps is rather misleading, however. These simply mark lay-bys along the roadside that have decent views of the loch. Only the lay-by directly across from Urquhart Bay has picnic tables and mown grass, and makes a good campsite, albeit right beside the Dores-Foyers single track road.
Torr Point - 592353 - 80km The village of Dores near the top end of Loch Ness is a popular last night stop for Great Glen paddlers. This admittedly is mainly because of the fantastic loch-side Dores Inn, but the village also has a collection of good B&Bs and awesome views back down the full length of Loch Ness from the pebble beach next to the pub. Chilling out on the raised beach, watching the sun set over the western mountains as you nurse a pint of real ale and reflect in the glow of paddling the 37km of Loch Ness under your own steam is a memory that will stay with you for years. If you decide to camp around Dores, please heed the following advice. The only flat grassy area near the Inn is the kiddies’ play park. Please don’t camp here as it rightly annoys the local inhabitants. Much better to head into the woods of Tor Point along at the far end of the pebble beach. Do not light camp fires in these woods – there is loads of drift wood for fires on the shore, the view is much better and you will not da
Lochend - 596378 - 83km Lochend is not a good place to intend to finish your trip through the Great Glen or your sponsored paddle up Loch Ness. It is a tiny one-street hamlet jam packed with houses. There is no car park and you will have a nightmare getting turned if you venture off the main A82 road with a canoe trailer. The only really feasible option is to carry on at least to Dochgarroch.
Loch Dochfour - 607388 - 84km Loch Dochfour. Stay towards the right-hand side of Loch Dochfour to avoid the busy road on your left and to admire the fantastic oakwoods which make a great picnic spot on your right.
River Ness - No Go - 85km paddlers inexperienced on fast water and not equipped with suitable rescue gear should not be tempted by the thought of a fast finish into town on the river.
Dochgarroch Lock - 86km Continue on past the long low wall of the weir and you soon come to the start of a long line of pontoons and moored boats which herald arrival at Dochgarroch Lock. Here you will find the first British Waterways toilet and shower block since Fort Augustus and very easy road access to the canal for vehicles and trailers. If you are carrying on to Inverness you can quickly portage the two lock gates on the left and hop back in your boat. Note that the campsite still marked on most maps here at Dochgarroch closed several years ago but Scottish Canals do allow informal camping gear and have provided a BBQ pit and picnic tables. On leaving Dochgarroch the scenery noticeably changes from the steep-sided rugged mountain valley that you have become used to into coastal plain agricultural land for the final 5km push along to Inverness.
Tomnahurich Swing Bridge - 91km - IV3 5TD The increasing number of folk walking, jogging and cycling along the canal towpath will hint that you are entering the urban fringe. The first building that you come to as you enter Inverness proper is the rowing club, with their distinctive water-level pontoons, on your left. Soon after, round a sweeping left-hand bend you come across the base for Jacobite Cruises and then the Tomnahurich Swing Bridge. Paddle under the bridge (you will need to duck!) and carry on
Muirtown Locks - 93km When you come to the top of Muirtown Locks, take out at the pontoon on your right and portage down the right hand side of the locks to the car park.
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