Few places on earth are as breathtakingly beautiful as the Scottish Highlands. The rugged landscape is dotted with castles, lochs and sweeping vistas, just waiting to be discovered. Nowhere is this more true than along the Caledonian Canal; a man-made waterway that links together some of Scotland’s most remote and picturesque villages.
Here we present our favourite 7-day itinerary for those who want to explore this magical region in depth – from Inverness to Fort William and back along the Caledonian Canal.
Along the way, you will find plenty of chances
Day 1 – Fly to Inverness / Pick up a boat at Caley Marina – Travel to Drumnadrochit
Inverness is a historic city that has been at the heart of Scottish history since medieval times. With a population of around 50,000 and surrounded by pristine nature, this UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site is an ideal first step on your tour.
With Caley Cruisers, you can pick yourself a boat from their large fleet of modern, high-quality motor cruisers and set off down to the village of Drumnadrochit on the shore of Loch Ness. Don’t worry, you won’t need any previous experience to pilot any of their boats.
If the staggering beauty of Loch Ness wasn’t enough, you’ll end your day at the famous Urquhart Castle, which dates back to the 13th century. It was at this Castle where many believe that Nessie, or “Nessiteras Rhombopteryx” (the scientific name attributed to the Loch Ness Monster) first appeared in 1933.
Day 2 – Fort Augustus
On your second day, you’ll take an exhilarating speedboat tour of Loch Ness, casting off the Dochgarroch Lock in a brand new 12-seater RIB, known as Wee Beastie for a combination of high-speed thrills and riveting retelling of the history of the area.
From there, you’ll continue to explore the Caledonian Canal, moving through the famous Fort Augustus Locks. From here, you’ll travel through some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery as you make your way towards Laggan.
This section includes over 20 locks which take about six hours to complete! If you’re going by boat, you might want to bring some snacks because there are few facilities available once onboard.
Day 3 – Laggan Locks
Day three involves a little less monster hunting and a little more relaxing at the Eagle Barge Inn on the Great Glen Way. The Eagle Barge Inn is a converted Dutch barge that now functions as a restaurant and bar. There’s even a warm fireplace and deep leather sofas to sink into
This is a great place to relax with some good food and an even better whisky selection.
From here you have the opportunity to go on walks across picturesque landscapes or take your bike for a ride along one of Scotland’s many trails.
Day 4 – Fort William
On day four, make sure you get up at the crack of dawn in order to make the most of all the activities to do around Fort William.
We’d recommend catching a taxi from the canal to Fort William. There are lots of private hire cabs nearby and it’s the easiest way of getting around. Once in Fort William, make your way to the famous Ben Nevis Distillery.
This is Scotland’s highest distillery, with staggering 360-degree views out across Loch Linnhe and towards the snow-capped mountains of Glencoe in the distance (perfect for a glass or two on such a beautiful day).
From here you can make your way up to Aonach Mor Visitor Centre, where there are more excellent vistas of this stunning part of Scotland, before descending back down into Fort William itself.
Here you will find plenty of shops and cafes along with some great pubs that serve delicious local ales and whiskies!
If you want to travel a little further afield, you can ride on the Jacobite Steam Train which runs from Fort William to Mallaig, allowing you the chance to experience one of Scotland’s most beautiful railway journeys.
There are many lovely places along this route that will make for great photo opportunities too, including Glenfinnan viaduct which is featured in Harry Potter.
Day 5 – Fort Augustus
If you love whisky, and we know you do, then the Speyside Whisky Tour is a must do during your trip to the Highlands.
Strathspey, which is the name of the area between Aviemore and Craigellachie in the River Spey, is home to more than 50 distilleries and the Speyside Whisky Tours are an excellent way to visit them.
You’ll be able to visit some of the most famous distilleries in Scotland, such as Glenfiddich, Cardhu, The Macallan and Glenfarclas, and be given the chance to taste their creations on a personalised tour with a local whisky expert.
Day 6 – Inverness
Back in the historic city of Inverness, you’ll get the magical opportunity to see the famous Moray Firth Dolphins and Seals.
The best place to spot these marvellous aquatic creatures is at Chanonry Point, Cromarty, just outside Inverness, where you’ll get to see their beautiful ecosystem and learn more about them.
The final day of the itinerary is all about relaxation, so once you’ve seen the dolphins, it’s back to Inverness for a rest and to do some shopping and eating before heading back home.
Day 7 – Home
Alas, all good things come to an end, including this amazing tour of the Caledonian Canal. However, while your journey might have ended, the memories of it will last you a lifetime.
Plus you can always order yourself a little something from the distilleries you visited to help you remember!