Go coast to coast across the Scottish Highlands by paddle-power, and see the it all properly (not stuck in a bus!)
Paddling coast to coast across the country through the Great Glen is one of the country’s great adventure challenges and an amazing way to experience journey. The Great Glen Canoe Trail runs from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east along the Great Glen fault which marks the boundary between the Northwest Highlands and the Grampian mountains and splits the country in two.
The trip is a national classic and an absolute must for any paddler, or anyone who just want to have an amazing adventure!
In the middle of the trail sits the famous Loch Ness, containing more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined, giving plenty of places for the mysterious monster Nessie to high away from the hunters.
The canoe trail works its way along the Caledonian Canal which when it opened in 1822 was a marvel of engineering at the time. It runs for 60 miles, with 20 miles of manmade canals and the remaining 40 miles made up of open Lochs. From end to end the canal features an amazing 29 locks, four aqueducts, ten bridges and 4 Lochs. In 1990 after falling into disrepair the canal was saved and renovated, and now forms one of Scotland’s major attractions for visitors.
Once we pass over the high point of the canal and the rivers start to flow to the East there are points where, when water levels and group abilities permit, we may have the choice leave the canal and venture down the rivers themselves to ride some whitewater rapids.
Fort William – Loch Lochy
The journey starts under the shadow of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest Mountain, just outside Fort William at Neptunes Staircase. This rise of 8 locks lifts the canal up from sea level as it starts its way east. The focus of the first day along this short section of the canal is to develop the paddle and safety techniques that we’ll need to make the trip ahead as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Loch Lochy – Loch Oich
Today we enter the first of 4 sections of open water on the trip, through Loch Lochy and Loch Oich. Being out on the open water we’ll start to get a feel for the journey; away from the manmade canal and into the wild shores and hills that soar above the water. Between the lochs, we re-enter the canal for a short 2 mile section while passing Laggan before the water opens up again as we head on to our campsite.
Loch Oich – Fort Augustus
From here on in it’s all downhill! Loch Oich is the high point of the canal, so now that the water is starting to flow in the direction we want to go we should now have wind and water on our side. If conditions allow we may be able to detour from the canal and head down the River Oich that runs alongside the canal. The river features rapids up to grade 2, so with our guidance, we can lead you down for a dose of white water after the past few days of flat water. Fort Augustus is one of the tourist hubs on the Great Glen fault line and has a range of shops, cafes and pubs where you can stock up on a few treats for the rest of the trip. The village also has a spectacular set of canal locks that run right through the middle of it. After Fort Augustus, we will make a start on the 37km of Loch Ness that lies ahead of us before making camp on the lochside.
Fort Augustus – River Ness
We won’t lie; Loch Ness is long… And the day will be spent working our way along it, but with a favourable wind behind us, we should be able to sail along in style to help us on our way. As the miles pass by and Fort Augustus disappears into the distance, it’ll remind you just how far you’ve come, from the other side of the country remember, and just what an inspired idea to build the canal has let you do; crossing the country through amazing landscapes. Once we reach the north end of the loch, we’ll set up camp for the last time, and maybe have a wee dram to celebrate what we’ve achieved over the past few days.
River Ness – Inverness
The final day of the trip again presents an option to break away from the canal and get a bit of white water paddling on the river alongside the canal. Sticking to the canal leads us to the original end of the Caledonian Canal where it enters the Beauly Firth as a fitting end to a trip made possible by the canal builders all those years ago. Alternativity for the more adventurous going by the river leads us straight through the middle of the city via the Ness Island rapids, a grade 1-2 set of weirs that guard the entrance to the final kilometres to the end of our trip underneath the castle.
To ensure you get the most out of your activity, we ask that participants meet some minimum abilities.
- Some canoe experience will help you to get the most out of the trip. If you think you might need a bit more experience before your trip, then we can provide short canoe skills courses.
- Fitness for 5 days of paddling.
If you have any questions, please get in touch. We are usually able to accommodate a diverse range of special requirements.
For introductory activities, we provide all the activity and safety equipment you need. With more advanced courses you may be expected to have some of your own personal equipment; see the Kit List for information. Whether it’s the latest gear, great instruction or comfy accommodation, we aim to provide you with the best we can.
- Canoes & Paddles
- Buoyancy Aids & Waterproof Cags
- Day Drybags
- All Safety Equipment
- Storage Barrels / Large Drybags
- Boat Trolleys
- 2-3 Person Tents
- Sleeping Mats
- Stove & Pans (Trangias)
As well as the activity equipment, you can rest assured that our experienced instructors carry all the necessary group safety equipment, and are covered by a comprehensive insurance policy.
Here is a quick guide to what you need to bring with you for the activity. A full kit list is included with your information pack provided after booking.
- Trainers For Getting Wet (Lace Up Type)
- Warm Layers (3 Sets)
- Warm Outer Layers (For Evenings)
- 2-3 Season Sleeping Bag (We can Provide These For You At Cost Price)
- Snacks & Drinks
- Personal Overnight Supplies
If you are struggling with any specialist equipment, then please get in touch, and we may be able to assist.