Scottish Canoe Routes
The Great Glen Route
Photo © Dan Warren 2013
This great classic cross-Scotland route has recently been elevated to the status of the country’s first formal Canoe Trail. The 60 mile route follows the Caledonian Canal which links Fort William on the west with Inverness in the east by way of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness. The journey can take from two to five days (or more) depending on the wind conditions. It is usually paddled from west to east to take advantage of the prevailing winds. Suitable places to wild camp are reasonably numerous, with some notable gaps, but it is also possible to do the trip staying overnight in hotels and B&Bs. River and canal options are available on some sections. A (free) licence is required, which can be obtained from the sea locks at either end of the route. There is a good bus service between Inverness and Fort William for retrieving your car.
The elevation in rank of this route to a Canoe Trail, with the attendant flurry of guides and information, can give the impression that the route is as predictable and secure as a way-marked path. It isn't. Loch Ness, in particular, is known for wind and big waves, and needs respectful handling. The eastern side of Loch Ness is more remote and offers potentially more adventure. The trip has an unusual feel on account of the sudden changes between remoteness and solitude one minute and crowds of tourists and ice cream vans the next.
This route has not become so popular by accident. The feeling of achievement when rolling into Inverness, having crossed the entire country (and having survived Loch Ness) is truly unforgettable.