Work underway to safeguard Caledonian Canal’s 200-year-old Ness Weir

The 200-year-old Thomas Telford-built Ness Weir on the Caledonian Canal is undergoing a major refurbishment as custodians Scottish Canals aim to extend the structure’s lifespan by a century.

The £2 million Scottish Government-funded project will see the weir, which sits at the mouth of Loch Dochfour and the River Ness, reinforced with 500 metres of steel piling to strengthen the structure and safeguard it for future generations. Work is currently underway, with the project scheduled to be completed by the end of 2017.

Constructed between 1825 and 1830, the weir raises the water level of Loch Dochfour by almost two metres and Loch Ness by 1.2 metres and retains around 100,000,000m3 of water. Thanks to this elegant engineering solution, vessels are able to transit through Dochgarroch lock, through Loch Dochfour, and into Loch Ness.

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “The Scottish Government is delighted to support this fantastic project which will ensure the future of the Ness Weir as an important historic asset. Our funding has enabled Scottish Canals to undertake the work necessary to maintain and improve this structure which is integral to the continuing operation of the Caledonian Canal.

“We will continue to support Scottish Canals in maintaining these important national assets for future generations. The recent investment in our canals has led to local communities across Scotland gaining pride again in their canals, leading to increased use, improved safety, leisure and community based activity for all to enjoy.”

Part of the project will involve the installation of a temporary fish pass linking the River Ness and the mouth of Loch Dochfour. This will ensure continued upstream and downstream movement of fish whilst the existing pass is blocked off for installation of the strengthening piles. Scottish Canals is liaising with SEPA and the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board throughout the project to ensure the habitat’s fish population is unaffected by the works.

“The 200-year-old Caledonian Canal is a much-loved asset that attracts hundreds of thousands of visits each year from everyone from boaters and cyclists to paddlers and walkers. However, many of them visit the waterway without ever seeing all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, and below the waterline, to care for the heritage, engineering, and habitats of the Scheduled Monument.

“This project will safeguard one of the Caledonian’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. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for the public to understand the scale of work that goes into caring for the incredible infrastructure of the Caledonian Canal and appreciate the craftsmanship of the waterway’s 18th century design.”

Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure at Scottish Canals

Due to the large scale of the works, the canal towpath between Tomnahurich Swing Bridge and Dochgarroch Lock will be closed to the public until the completion of the project. The opposite towpath will remain open for use. The closed towpath will be repaired at the end of the project, removing potholes and improving the surface for all users. This towpath is expected to be re-opened by mid-December 2017. The works are not expected to have any impact on boat traffic.

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 for more information.

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