Beginning to End – the Whole Route (with photos)

Day One – Corpach – South Laggan

The drive up to Fort William starting at 2-30am went without a hitch and we made good progress meaning we arrived in fort William for 8am and heading straight to McDonald’s for breakfast and then headed off to the Corpach sea loch office for us to collect key for facilities along the way.
The guy in the office asked where we were headed and was surprised when we said south laggan. He replied with good luck and it doesn’t get dark until 10pm – and he wasn’t far off the mark.



















John headed off to the South Laggan Youth Hostel to drop the car off with the intention of hitching back. The hitch didn’t work but John got the local bus back (£8).We hit the water in glorious sunshine by 11am and headed along the canal for 6 miles which had head winds in places. But nothing like what was to come.
















Lunch was taken at Gairlochy locks which were actually closed due to a Lock gate collapsing requiring severe engineering works.

























Then we headed off across Loch Lochy for 12 miles (therefore classed as open water) into relentless, strong headwinds causing rollers down the loch which REALLY slowed progress.

I must say I nearly abandoned with 4 miles to go but was talked around and headed on.

We eventually exited the loch via Ceann Loch.









































We then paddled on the canal for a mile before arriving at the place on the canal where we got out at 8pm and it was a John Bell moment – dragging the boats up a steep overgrown hill and down the other side and over a barbed wire fence before disturbing some sheep before eventually arriving at the Great Glenn hostel and our abode for the night.
Showers done, pizza in (cheers Carl) and beers started, it wasn’t long before we were noddy dogs and ready for an early night.

Day one in conclusion:
I hate headwinds, I should’ve done more than one hours trying in the past 25 yrs, I have a very sore shoulder
Carl, for a beginner did really well with only a couple of moments to cause concern and an impromptu support stroke.
John, as we know is a proficient paddler but he always has a mad moment and his came at the end of the day
– Nigel

Day Two – South Laggan – (2 miles north of) Glenmoriston

After a sleep disturbed night due to a very sore right shoulder I’m giving today a miss although the boys are going to continue albeit rejigging their route to account for the wind direction.
After setting Carl and John away and reverting to plan a for the route due to lack if winds)I’ve returned to the hostel for free wifi and another cuppa. I headed down to the canal to video them paddling past.
I’ll hopefully be heading across to the black isle later to try and see the dolphins but today in essence is going to be a lazy day for me 😦

Some snaps I took whilst driving around in the car:

– Nigel

























Fort Augustus snaps













John’s version of day two

After a wonderful nights rest at the Great Glenn hostel, south laggan we woke refreshed and we made our way down to the start which was a get in opposite the floating pub, the Eagle inn at South Laggan lochs. We travelled up the canal which would lead us to loch Oich. We marvelled at the wildlife which turned out to be Nigel hiding in the trees throwing stones in the river – well, one of us was easily fooled (me).

Loch Oich was like a millpond which was an absolute pleasure and the sun burning through fog. We made good progress down loch Oich aiming to take te easy route down the river Oich which was Carl’s first river trip which would take us to fort Augustus. The river Oich is a white water river with 2 grade 2 sections. We made excellent progress and Carl demonstrated some of his newly acquired skills including recovery of upstream pin on a  rock!!

We passed some pleasant fisherman and headed to fort Augustus where we met Nigel for lunch.



































During lunch we noticed the wind increasing on Loch Ness showing some white tops. Nigel came up with a brilliant idea when he asked if we’d like to be dropped off up the loch instead and paddle back down to Fort Augustus which would mean we’d have the wind on our back – we jumped at the chance.

We loaded up the canoes and headed down the loch to a suitable drop off point which meant an abseil down the bank side to reach the loch.
Paddling with the wind behind us with the 2 foot swell wasn’t as easy as we’d thought and it was demanding and demoralising. We covered the 1st mile in 30 mins. We did try and rig a sail at one point. We cracked on and improved our speed to 3.2 miles/hr. Carl fell asleep on one of the rest stops!!

Eventually we made it back to Fort Augustus to meet Nigel at the car.
10.1 miles on the loch done!!
– John

Some views from our Loch Ness Youth Hostel

Day Three – Inverness – (2 miles north of) Glenmoriston

I was back on it so we were back to the famous 3.
Due to the prevailing northerly winds we adjusted the route so we headed to Muirtown locks to do the final day in reverse. John dropped Carl and I off and went back to what would be our finish point to drop car off and hopefully hitch back. Luckily John got a lift from a very entertaining truck driver – who was another keen outdoorsy type – thanks for the lift.
We started in pleasant conditions but would be hit with hail showers during the day.

We headed along the canal to Dochgarroch which was going to be our overnight camping spot.

We also took lunch there as there are no berthing opportunities on Loch Ness.









We continued after lunch to cross Loch Dochfour which would eventually open up to the expanse of Loch Ness which is where we realised the magnitude of the forecasted winds. We’d enjoyed the tailwinds in the morning but it was a different story on loch ness where the waves were huge (for canoes) which would push you down a roller then spin you sideways and therefore be in the precarious position of being side on to the wind and the waves.
This turned into a war of attrition calling for support strokes galore. We headed up towards the Clannsman Hotel where Carl, our inexperienced paddler decided he’d had enough of the dangerous conditions and decided to bail and walk/run back to the car awaiting our return.
I must say he deserves all the plaudits for completing 52 miles out of 60 in very testing conditions which in my opinion would test even experienced paddlers.
So then it was down to 2, so off we set, next stop the finish and the car passing Urqhart Castle on the way which seemed to make the swell huge and testing in most ways. I almost went over and managed to pull off a very deep support stroke – I knew I’d not forget the skills I’d learned 25+years ago.

We plodded on and eventually reached our arranged get out and finish (for John).
Well done John, a great achievement !


























Car loaded up we headed back to the Clannsman to pick Carl’s boat up.

Then there was a Nigel epic as I wanted to view the dolphins on the black isle. So off we headed to Chanonry Point, Fortrose all the while saying they weren’t guaranteed. We arrived for the turn of the tide and it was bitterly cold so John got to use his survival tent in anger as we sat on the beach waiting for the dolphins who unfortunately didn’t show 😦 don’t know if I’ll ever hear the end of this.

So back to the informal composite at Dochgarroch lochs and whilst Carl and I pitched the tent John returned to Inverness to pickup takeaway pizza.
Caledonian Canal Done 🙂
– Nigel


1 thought on “Beginning to End – the Whole Route (with photos)

  1. Pingback: Last post | An attempt to paddle the Caledonian Canal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s