Our Skipper’s Guide is your complete reference guide to boating on the Scottish Canals – including safety information and details or moorings and facilities. Download your free copy of the Skippers’ Guide .
Transit & Short Term Visitor Licences
All powered craft using the Scottish canals require a licence, and we have a variety of visitor licences available . Licences are available to purchase online or at the Sea Locks. Download the Transit & Short Term Visitor Licences for Leisure Craft to find out more.
Locks & Bridges
There are 29 locks and 11 swing bridges along the waterway, all of which are operated for your convenience by trained staff.
- LOA 45.72m (150ft). Length overall including fenders, bowsprits, davits, tenders, rudders and any other extension fore and/or aft of the boat. This can be reduced by retracting bowsprits.
- Draught 4.11m* (13ft 6in) – vessels with a draught over 3m (9ft 8in) should contact the Canal Office before arrival. Boat depth below the waterline. Remember to adjust your draught for freshwater by adding 0.1m per metre of your draught.
- Beam 10.67m (35ft). Width of the boat including fenders. Vessels with beam over 8m should contact the Canal Office before arrival.
*Due to a high spot at Gairlochy Top Lock, skippers of vessels with fresh water drafts of 3.3m or more should contact the Caledonian Canal office on 01463 725500 in advance of arrival to check transit arrangements.
Important Guidance for Overseas Vessels Visiting Scotland’s Canals
Post-Brexit Customs and Immigration Requirements
Overseas vessels wishing to make first UK landfall at the Caledonian, Crinan or Forth and Clyde Canals must now follow carefully these two entry procedures, from UK Border Force, in advance of arrival:
- Customs reporting procedure
- Fly the yellow Q flag on entering UK Territorial waters (the 12-mile limit).
- Complete Part 2 of the HMRC C1331 form (available on Gov.UK)
- Call the HMRC National Yachtline +44 (0)300 123 2012 on arrival.
- Declare any excess goods on the C1331 form and pay the duty/tax using the Online Service for Passengers via Gov.UK
- Immigration reporting procedure
- Before disembarking your vessel, you must contact the local Border Force office to request permission to enter. In all cases for vessels visiting one of Scotland’s canals, this would be +44(0) 300 106 5725 (Border Force North, 24/7)
Scottish Government Covid-19 International Travel and Entry Restrictions
Update 1.11.21 – In recognition of the further easing of international travel to and from Scotland for leisure purposes, and the simplification of the Red, Amber and Green travel lists, the following criteria will apply to leisure vessels wishing to access the Scottish Canal network until notified otherwise:
- The canal cannot be the first port of entry. Vessels with crew who are not fully vaccinated can only enter the canal on completion of their 10 days self-isolation and evidence of a negative PCR test after day 2 and day 8. Vessels with fully vaccinated crew can enter the canal after 3 days in the UK when evidencing a negative lateral flow / antigen test after the first 2 days and proof of vaccination
- Arrivals from Common Travel Area (UK and Ireland including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands): vessels will be permitted normal entry into the canals
Detailed guidance, including links to passenger locator forms and how to order your day 2 lateral flow test, can be found on the government website https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-international-travel-quarantine/pages/red-amber-and-green-list-countries/
For more information relating to Covid-19 and how it may affect your transit please click here.
Operating Hours 2021 – 2022
Saturday 1st May – Sunday 23rd May 7 days a week 8.30am – 5.30pm
Monday 24th May – Sunday 29th August 7 days a week 8am – 6pm
Monday 30th August – Sunday 31st October 7 days a week 8.30am – 5.30pm
The Caledonian Canal will be closed to sea-to-sea traffic to allow major engineering work and essential repairs to be carried out at a number of sites.
Closed to through traffic from 5.30pm Sunday 31st October 2021 until 8.30am Friday 15th April 2022
We plan to re-open the canal for local navigation from 8.30am Saturday 9th April. Please note that Cullochy lock will not be open for navigation at this time.
Some limited sections of the canal may be available for local navigation during the winter closure period. This would be within normal winter operating hours of Monday – Friday 9am – 4pm, with a minimum of 2 working days prior arrangement with the Canal Office in Inverness (T: 01463 725500).
Details of the various works can be found on our here https://www.scottishcanals.co.uk/canal-works-stoppage-programme/
Dinghies and unpowered craft
If your boat is unpowered but too large or heavy to portage around the lock chambers then it will need to have a canal licence. For safety occupants of small unpowered craft using the lock chambers are will be asked to disembark and pull the craft through on ropes. Boaters should note that for safety reasons, vessels must be rowed or under power at all times in the manmade reaches of the canal.
The Bye Laws of the Caledonian Canal, which have been in force since 1966, require that vessels comply with the speed limits of 6 m.p.h. (5.2 knots) in any part of the canal where ‘the waterway has been raised artificially’ and Skippers are required to pass moored craft at ‘Dead Slow’. Please download our Large Craft Operating Protocol for full details.
Please be advised that other than for reasons of safety, the canal ROAD swing bridges will NOT be opened to boat traffic at specific times. Download the Swing Bridge Peak Time Restriction for details.
Vessels wishing to enter Clachnaharry Sea Lock should radio the Sea Lock Keeper on VHF Channel 74 or 16 as they pass under the Kessock Bridge. Radio Corpach Sea Lock as the Sea Lock comes in to sight. This allows the Lock Keepers to advise of any boat movements and prepare for your arrival.
Single Handed Passage
Vessels are required to have a crew member ashore to handle lines at lock flights. Passage by single handed boaters may be subject to delay as lock keepers may not always be available to assist. We therefore recommend single handed skippers make their own arrangements to ‘buddy’ with another vessel on transit to share rope handling, or arrange for crew to join the vessel for the duration of their canal trip.
Canal Works & Updates
Check our Canal Works & Updates pages for details of current works along the Caledonian Canal.