Public invited to explore the depths of the Caledonian Canal

Scottish Canals is offering the public the chance to learn about the engineering, history and wildlife of the historic Caledonian Canal and catch a glimpse of the waterway as they’ve never seen it before – without water.

As part of the works, made possible thanks to £5.35 million additional funding from the Scottish Government, the canal custodians have reduced the water level of over seven kilometres of the 200-year-old waterway at Fort Augustus in order to replace a series of lock gates. In total, around 5,160 cubic metres of water have been drained from the canal.

The replacement of the gates forms a key project in Scottish Canals’ Asset Management Strategy and will safeguard navigation of the historic waterway ahead of the busy spring boating season.

As part of the project, an open day on March 8th will offer the public the chance to see the centuries-old world that is usually hidden beneath the waterline – with a lucky few able to set foot inside the colossal lock chamber itself. Guided by Scottish Canals’ engineers, they will explore the foundations of the waterway, with the chance to glimpse the original mason’s marks carved into the canal’s rugged stone almost two centuries ago.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:

“This is a rare opportunity to witness some of the hard work undertaken by engineers to allow boaters to continue to navigate the waterways for years to come. The work being undertaken is essential to the future of the Caledonian Canal and it’s fantastic that the public can use this time to learn more about our incredible canal network.

“The Caledonian Canal plays a vital role in tourism for the region. To secure the future of the wider canal network we have provided this additional funding to enable Scottish Canals to undertake these critical repairs and we have increased Scottish Canals funding in the Scottish Budget for 2019/20 in recognition of the challenges faced in maintaining our historic waterways.”

Scottish Canals’ engineering, environment and heritage experts will also be on hand to talk visitors through the hard work that goes into caring for the incredible infrastructure and varied habitats of the Caledonian Canal in order to safeguard it for future generations to enjoy.

“The 200-year-old Caledonian Canal is one of the Highlands most popular visitor attractions with over 1,400 boats transiting the canal each year. However, many visit the waterway without ever seeing all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, and below the waterline, to look after the heritage, engineering, and habitats of Scotland’s waterways to ensure they continue to thrive for future generations to enjoy.

“The work we’re undertaking at Fort Augustus is a fantastic chance for the public to see the scale of work that goes into caring for the incredible infrastructure of the Caledonian Canal; glimpse the craftsmanship of the waterway’s 18th century design as it exists below the waterline; and take a tour of the canal’s history, engineering, and habitats led by the people who know it best – our passionate and knowledgeable staff.

“We may be their custodians, but these canals belong to the people of Scotland and are there for everyone to enjoy. I’d encourage everyone to come along to the open day to glimpse the Caledonian Canal as they’ve never seen it before and learn more about the hard work we undertake to care for the built and natural heritage of this amazing asset.”

Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure at Scottish Canals

The open day will be held between 11:00 and 15:00 on the 8th of March 2019, with visitors asked to meet at the Memorial Hall in Fort Augustus, Canal Side, PH32 4BD.

While tours into the chamber are now fully booked, there will be the chance for visitors to explore the drained locks from the canalside. More information can be found here

Find out more about the history of the Caledonian Canal.

Notes to Editors

  • 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. See or follow @ScottishCanals for more information
  • 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
  • Today Scottish Canals is utilising these 18th century assets along with innovative technology to tackle modern problems. Through working with partners to create pioneering systems, Scottish Canals is helping to combat flooding and driving positive transformation in some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas
  • The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract more than 20 million visits per year. See for more information

For further information, please contact:

Chris McDonald at Scottish Canals, on 07917 217 608 or email

Josie Saunders at Scottish Canals on 07881816283 or email

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