Caledonian Canal’s 200-year-old Ness Weir safeguarded for another century

The lifespan of an historic weir which raises the level of Loch Ness by over a metre has been extended by a century, with custodians Scottish Canals reinforcing the structure with enough steel to construct two and a half Kelpies.

The £2 million Scottish Government-funded project saw the Caledonian Canal’s Thomas Telford-designed Ness Weir, which sits at the mouth of Loch Dochfour and the River Ness near Inverness, reinforced with 10,000 metres of steel piling to strengthen the structure and safeguard it for future generations.

Constructed between 1825 and 1830, the weir raises the water level of Loch Dochfour by almost two metres, Loch Ness by 1.2 metres, and holds back around 100,000,000m3 of water. Thanks to this elegant engineering solution, thousands of vessels – from holiday hire yachts to coast-to-coast fishing boats – are able to make the journey from Dochgarroch, through Loch Dochfour, and into Loch Ness each year.

The Scottish Government is delighted to have supported the integral engineering work undertaken by Scottish Canals on this historic asset. Their efforts have helped secure the continued operation of the Caledonian Canal for years to come.

Local communities are rightfully proud of their canals and we will continue to support Scottish Canals in safeguarding and maintaining these important national assets for future generations. Our canals are corridors of opportunity and we will continue to invest and work with partners to maximise their potential for the people of Scotland.

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport

Over the course of the eight month project, engineers utilised more than 1,000 tonnes of rock to construct a temporary access road; a helicopter to install a temporary ‘fish pass’ to retain the link between the River Ness and the mouth of Loch Dochfour; and over 800 tonnes of steel to reinforce the weir. The steel driven into the banks of the weir – enough to construct doppelgangers of the world’s largest equine sculptures – will ensure the vital historic structure endures for another hundred years.

Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure at Scottish Canals, said: “Ever since it was first carved through the fen, forest and heart of the Great Glen more than two centuries ago, the Caledonian Canal has played a vital role in the economy of the Highlands and Scotland itself.

“Thanks to the hard work of our engineers and contractors, and the investment of the Scottish Government, this project has safeguarded one of the canal’s most important engineering structures, ensuring the rich built heritage of Thomas Telford’s Ness Weir is cared for into the next century and beyond.

“We’re delighted that the thousands of yachts, paddlers, trawlers and tourists that make their way along the Caledonian Canal each year will be able to continue to explore the myths and marvels of the waterway and Loch Ness for generations to come.”

Find out more about the project

Notes to Editors

About Scottish Canals

Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of five Scottish canals as well as the surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel.

As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for bridges, buildings, locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and 19 water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which flow through them each day.

The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands, together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles.

The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22 million visits per year. See scottishcanals.co.uk for more information.

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