Best Picnic Spots on the Caledonian Canal
Do you enjoy a relaxing summer picnic with family or friends? Do you live in the Scottish Highlands, or are you planning to visit this summer? If you answered ‘yes’ to both questions, you are in for a treat. The Highlands offers the beauty and wonder of the Caledonian Canal, a 60-mile waterway connecting the east and west coasts of northern Scotland. And a cruise along the Caledonian Canal you’ll find plentry of places to relax, unwind and have a spot of lunch!
For the record, only about one third of the canal is actually man-made. The remaining two thirds consists of four lochs: Loch Ness, Loch Oich, Loch Lochy, and Loch Dochfour. Principal engineer Thomas Telford decided to use the four lochs to his advantage when he built the waterway in the early 1800s. His decision to incorporate what nature readily provided resulted in a waterway that is both utilitarian and beautiful at the same time.
We encourage you to check out the Caledonian Canal for summer picnicking opportunities. The canal features 29 locks, 10 bridges, 4 aqueducts and a beautiful area known as the Great Glen. Along its entire length, there are multiple areas that make great picnic spots, including the following:
Fort Augustus is a town rather than a single picnic spot. It is situated at the point the canal meets the southern end of the world famous Loch Ness. What makes Fort Augustus a great picnic spot? All of its options.
Right in town, you will find a number of canal-side spots offering picnic benches and great views. You can bring your own picnic lunch or buy something delicious at one of the many canal-side eateries. If you prefer something outside of town, there is an added bonus: the canal runs alongside the River Oich.
As you travel south-west toward Loch Oich, there are no fewer than half a dozen locations from which the river and canal are just a few hundred yards apart. Imagine enjoying your picnic with the river to the north and the canal to the south. The canal side road runs along the entire north side of the canal, connecting with the A82. This means there is easy access to all of these beautiful spots west of Fort Augustus.
Ardrishaig – Loch Oich
At the south end of Loch Oich the picnic area known as Ardrishaig. It should not be confused with the village of Ardrishaig in Argyll and Bute. From this spot, you have beautiful views of the loch as well as the Laggan Swing Bridge. There is a pontoon here as well if you are interested in launching a small craft.
Great Glen Water Park – Loch Oich
On the other side of the Loch, and slightly to the west, is the Great Glen Water Park. Not only does this park feature picnic areas and great views, it also offers a children’s play area, a slipway, public toilets, and opportunities for organised outdoor activities. You could make an entire day of it Great Glen. For an extended stay, check out one of the holiday lodges in and around the park.
The Laggan Locks separate Loch Oich from Loch Dochy to the west. It turns out that Loch Oich is the highest point of elevation along the entire length of the Caledonian Canal. The locks between Oich and Dochy allow watercraft to traverse the two, despite their different elevations.
You will find a wonderful picnic spot at Laggan Locks, along the southern banks of the canal. This is a great place to enjoy your picnic lunch while watching the locks move boats up and down. If you’ve never seen working locks in action, it is definitely worth taking some time to observe. Man-made locks are one of those impressive feats of engineering that seem too impossible to be real. You will be amazed at how effortlessly the various watercraft move up and down the locks.
Caley Marina – Inverness
The Caley Marina in Inverness might not look like much – it does not offer an ‘official’ picnicking site with facilities – but it is still a great place to spread out your blanket and enjoy a quiet lunch by the canal. This is the place to be if you like to watch the boats come in and out. The best thing about this spot is that it is just on the other side of the canal from the centre of town. That means you are never far away if you need petrol or a variety of picnic supplies.
Moy Bridge – Lochaber
The Moy Bridge in the Lochaber region of Loch Lochy is the only surviving swing-bridge along the Caledonian Canal’s 60-mile length. The site of the bridge includes the keeper’s cottage. As a hand operated bride, the keeper must first open the south end, then row across the canal to open the north end. This is a great place to picnic during the busy summer season, especially if you want to witness what canal travel used to be like before the days of powered swing-bridges. You will have to park in Gairlochy and walk to the site, though.
Corpach is the town that marks the western terminus of the Caledonian Canal. There are multiple picnic spots to choose from on both banks. The closer you are to town, the more amenities will be available, including public toilets and restaurants.
One of the nicest is a little spot on the northern bank, right off Old Banavie Road, near the Moorings Hotel. It offers a large parking lot and plenty of open space to spread your blanket and enjoy your lunch. Being so close to the start of the canal allows for plenty of opportunities to see the cruise boats going back and forth.
There are dozens of other great picnic sites along the Caledonian Canal. In fact, there are too many for us to list them all. A quick Internet search will help you find sites in whatever area you plan on visiting. So get out there and enjoy one of the Highlands most beautiful assets. A few hours spent walking along the Caledonian Canal will help you understand what an important waterway it truly is.