Great Glen Canoe Trail

  • Portage at Banavie
  • Portage at Cullochy Lock
  • Hauling out at Glas-dhoire
  • Loch Lochy
  • Approaching Moy Bridge
Distance (km) Ascent (metres) Number of days
96 35 3 - 5
Start: Corpach (Fort WIlliam) Finish: Clachnaharry (Inverness)
Linked to other Scotland’s Great Trail(s):
Great Glen Way

Route type and direction

Linear. The recommended direction is from Fort William to Inverness so as to have the prevailing south-westerly wind at your back.

Overview

The Great Glen Canoe Trail is for canoeists and kayakers following the Caledonian Canal and the lochs of the Great Glen.  All paddlers are asked to register their trip in advance, to receive an information pack including safety notes and advice of any closures.

The trail is Scotland’s first dedicated long distance canoe trail. It was launched in 2012 with dedicated facilities such as low-level pontoons, Trailblazer rest sites and a website and guidebook. The route includes 29 locks which must be portaged around, and takes most paddlers about 3 days in a kayak or about 5 days in a Canadian canoe. The Caledonian Canal is shared with boats of all sizes, ranging from small dinghies to large passenger vessels. The Great Glen Way runs beside the Great Glen Canoe Trail for long sections, so visitors to the Great Glen can combine boat, boot and bike.

Highlights

  • a unique opportunity to paddle from the Atlantic to the North Sea
  • water-level perspective on very beautiful Highland scenery
  • wild camping opportunities on the shores of the lochs
  • ideal for small Duke of Edinburgh expeditions
  • access to all of the canal’s toilets, showers and laundry facilities for only £10 per person

Be aware

  • paddlers need open water experience to cope with the lochs (but organised expeditions are available for novices)
  • portaging required around all 29 locks and some bridges
  • limited canalside camping spots

The challenge

A challenging multi-day route which comprises 22 miles of man-made canal and 38 miles of open water on the lochs, the Great Glen Canoe Trail is best suited to independent paddlers with good levels of open water experience or to less experienced paddlers who join an organised trip.

The canal sections have 29 lock chambers which canoes and kayaks must be carried around – low-level pontoons have been installed to make access to and from the water a little easier.  Loch Lochy and Loch Ness are both designated as Class C waters, which means they’re similar to being at sea: the water is very cold (typically 4°C) and in adverse conditions waves can be up to 6.5ft/2m in height. Paddlers should have had appropriate training in righting capsized boats and self-rescue before embarking on this route. Novice paddlers are strongly advised to book on one of the frequent organised expedition trips.

Accommodation

There is a range of accommodation options in the settlements along the route for paddlers, walkers and cyclists. You can find out more about these here or by using the VisitScotland website.

Support services

A couple of providers offer support ranging from baggage transfer and kit hire to fully guided expeditions for the Great Glen Canoe Trail. They are listed here.

Public transport

There are good public transport links to the start and end of the route in Fort William and Inverness. There is also a regular bus service between the two towns. For details, visit Traveline Scotland, or, for the entire UK, Traveline. For travel from anywhere to anywhere, try Rome2Rio.

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