The Great Glen Canoe Trail follows the 60 miles of the Caledonian Canal from Corpach (Fort William) in the West to Clachnaharry (Inverness) in the East. We strongly recommend you take to the waters in open canadian canoes or sea kayaks as with these craft you will have capacity to carry all the clothes, food and equipment necessary for your adventure. We do not recommend that inexperienced paddlers attempt the open waters of the Trail in inflatables or 'sit on tops'.
In an open canoe the Canoe Trail can comfortably be covered in around five days. If you are paddling a sea kayak, you are likely to be able to complete the Trail in three to four days. There are many factors to consider when planning your visit which will affect how many miles you cover each day. Experience, craft choice, group size, weather conditions and fitness will all need to be added to the equation.
You will be paddling on man-made canals, the open waters of Loch Lochy and Loch Ness, the slightly more sheltered waters of Loch Oich and Loch Dochfour and you may even decide, if suitably skilled and experienced, to take on the River Oich, River Ness or the River Lochy to further your adventure and reduce your portaging around the canal lock gates.
When on the canal you will have to plan in time to portage the lock gates. See portage If your unpowered boats are too big to portage, you will need to buy a canal licence on arrival at one of the Sea Locks. You will also need to bring ropes long enough to pull your boats through the lock chambers.
Wind direction will also be very important to consider as you plan your journey. The prevailing South Westerly wind means that most paddlers plan to start in the West and paddle East towards Inverness. There have been recordings of waves in excess of 3 metres in height just off Dores Beach so some days on the open waters of Loch Lochy and Loch Ness, you may not even be able to go onto the water. This isn't necessarily a bad thing however as there is also plenty to see and do in the Great Glen and you may find you require a day off the water to rest. More information on the weather forecasts can be found here. Don't forget to build in a little extra time to your schedule to allow for unexpected delays. Don't worry if the weather doesn't let you complete the Trail as you can always come back and finish your adventure another day!
Once you know your plan, remember to register with Scottish Canals. See paddle registration.
A Trail Guide Map including information on breaking down the journey over five days is available by clicking on the Trail Map icon on the right hand side of every webpage. You can also download a copy and print it. A waterproof copy of the Trail Guide Map can be collected by registered paddlers when they pop in to either Sea Lock office at the start of their adventure. This map is designed to be used in conjunction with the relevant OS maps.