Our Canals
paddler on loch

A safe and enjoyable paddle

Your safety on and off the water should be your most important consideration. Take some time to read our important safety information when planning your trip.

Important Safety Advice for Paddlers
What do you use the canal for?

Paddling on the Caledonian Canal

Don't forget to read our Important Safety Advice for Paddlers!

Long-distance or day paddling

Whether you are looking for a long-distance canoeing challenge or a relaxed day-paddle, the Caledonian Canal offers fabulous options for paddlers of all abilities.

Over 4000 paddlers visit the waters of the Caledonian Canal each year. Some undertake the challenging 3-5 day long distance expedition, whilst others enjoy a day out on the canal.

Watch this short inspirational video below of the Great Glen Canoe Trail and you will persuaded!

See more of the Great Glen Canoe Trail DVD.

We recommend that paddlers are experienced in long distance or open water canoeing because of the challenges that you may face on the lochs. Remember to plan your journey carefully. If you are new to canoeing or kayaking, you should seek the guidance of more experienced paddlers or specialist instructors. Much of the route involves paddling on open water rather than on the canal. Download the Great Glen Canoe Trail Guide Map for some useful information, and view the Canoe Hire listings for details of Canoe Hire and Instructors.

The Great Glen Canoe Trail has been developed to enable paddlers to make the most of what the canal and surrounding rivers have to offer. Check out the Great Glen Canoe Trail website.

Free registration

We recommend that all paddlers visiting the canal register with us in advance so we can keep them up to date with information which may impact on their trip or regular usage.  This system also ensures that everyone understands the safety requirements for what is a less-than-ordinary waterway.

Please register for free before using the canal - you can register for up to a  10 day period.  If you prefer, you can register at Seaport Marina or at either of the sea locks, where you can also purchase access to our facilities along the way. Along with your registration, why not download a Skipper's Guide.

Information for Paddlers

  • Remember to register before your trip
  • Registration can be valid for a period of up to 10 days
  • Call in at one of the sea locks or speak to one of the lock keepers before 'hitting the water'
  • Portage round the locks, and check enough headroom before passing under the bridges
  • Please remember to call your emergency contact ashore before you launch onto Lochs Lochy and Ness, and again when you come off the water each day – this is so that someone knows that your party is safe when you’ve been out on the large bodies of water.
  • Take a few minutes to look at the advice leaflets from the RNLI and the Coastguard (see the Useful Downloads, to the right)
  • Give way to other craft on the canal
  • Swimming in the canal is dangerous
  • Limited parking is available at Corpach and Seaport Marina, please check with local staff before leaving your vehicle
  • If the party has 10 or more canoes please download our Application to Hold Paddle Event form (see the Useful Downloads section to the right)
Don't forget to read our Important Safety Advice for Paddlers!

To help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable paddle on the Scottish Canals, please take a look at some important safety advice.

Don't forget to register your paddle!

For groups of 10 or more canoes, kayaks or row boats, please also complete our online Event Application Form.

Top tips

  • Do I need a permit?
    Yes. You can complete and submit the Paddle Registration Form online. Have a look in the Related Information section above.
  • Other water users
    Paddle on the right hand side of the canal and be aware of other water users. Give way to motorised craft and watch out for wake caused by passing boats. Let the lock keepers know you’re on the water so they can warn boaters you are there.
  • Can I paddle through locks and tunnels?
    For safety reasons paddlers should not use the locks or canal tunnels. Pack a stowable trolley to help portage round locks and lock flights, or through the tunnels on the Union Canal. Use authorised access and egress points.
  • Do I need a buoyancy aid when I'm on the canal?
    Always wear appropriate buoyancy aids when paddling on the canals.
  • Can I wild camp?
    Wild camping is not allowed on Scotland’s Canals. All our canals are Scheduled Ancient Monuments and are exempt from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. However, some areas have been designated for informal overnight camping. Contact the local canal office for details.
  • Can I bring a group to the canal?
    A group is a party of 10 or more canoes/kayaks. Group organisers should contact the local canal office in advance of the trip. This helps with co-ordination between your group, other water users and our staff.
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