The Caledonian Canal Explorer 6-night cruise is a one-way journey through the very heart of Scotland from the east coast to the west coast, along the magnificent Caledonian Canal. The scenery from the boat is outstanding but we have had enquiries from guests who wish to bring their bikes on board. Here are some of the opportunities for cycling and cruising. Guests can do as much cycling as they want or intersperse it with walking, wildlife spotting and cruising. As always we have an expert Wildlife Guide on board and our Chef who will provide fabulous meals.
Departing Oban we cruise up the sea loch, Loch Linnhe, passing the picturesque and quintessentially Scottish castle, Castle Stalker. The anchorage for our first night and dinner on board is Port Ramsay at the very north end of the Island of Lismore. This is the perfect location for a sunset looking west to Loch Linnhe and the Morvern Hills. Guests have the option of a short stroll to Port Ramsay, a charming and peaceful settlement of terraced white washed cottages dating from 1800, to get a flavour of what is to come.
After an early start with breakfast on the move, we head north up Loch Linnhe and through the Corran Narrows where the land constriction causes a “tide race” of fast moving currents. There are stunning views across to Glencoe and Ben Nevis with possible sightings of deer, otters and golden eagles. We reach the entrance to the Caledonian Canal at Corpach in the late morning and head up to Neptune’s Staircase, just one of the many amazing feats of engineering that make up the Canal. The Staircase is a series of 8 locks and travels up 70 feet in height, the longest staircase lock in the UK. After the excitement of traversing the Staircase we relax at the top at Banavie for lunch. Guests then have the option of a 7 mile cycle to Gairlochy via an off-road track which gives great views up the Great Glen and east across to Ben Nevis. At Gairlochy after dinner on board, guests can cycle through the nearby Beech Forest, where bike rides of 5 miles or more are on offer and where pine marten are often spotted.
After breakfast, guests can walk or cycle 3 miles to the Clan Cameron Museum and Achnacarry Castle with its lovely gardens and turbulent Ka-Aig Falls. After lunch we cruise along Loch Lochy passing Kilfinnan and into Laggan locks, before entering beautiful Loch Oich. Cyclists can be dropped off at Laggan for an off-road ride of around 9 miles along tracks with great views over Loch Oich, to Aberchalder, our overnight stop. This is a quiet, picturesque setting, perfect for an after dinner shore-side stroll, and another hot spot for pine marten.
At this point in the cruise, cyclists have the option to go by forest trail from Aberchalder, all the way to Fort Augustus, gaining height as they pass by Auchterawe with fantastic views to the north up the Great Glen. The route then descends into Fort Augustus to meet the boat at the bottom of the impressive Fort Augustus lock staircase in time for lunch. For the rest of the day, guests can relax and explore this delightful village which has lots to see, or enjoy a beer watching the boats manoeuvre through the staircase. Enthusiastic cyclists can try some of the cycling tracks into the surrounding hills.
Today is the opportunity for one of the best cycling routes, from Fort Augustus to Foyers, on the south side of the Loch Ness. It starts easily, then climbs up towards Loch Tarf, where it levels out before again rising to a plateau with stunning views of Loch Ness. The long descent arrives firstly at the village of Whitebridge where you can get a well-deserved coffee, then descends again, winding its way down to the delightful village of Foyers. The famous Foyers Falls are worth a visit before meeting the vessel at its mooring in the village. The cycle trip is 15 miles long, taking about 3 hours. To wind down afterwards, an evening walk is a must, enjoying the fabulous views to the west across Loch Ness to watch the sun setting below the hills and maybe a dram at the famous Graigdarroch Inn.
This part of the Canal is so rich in history that a short cruise across Loch Ness to the famous Urquhart Castle is essential. This is one of the largest castles in Scotland, but with one of the bloodiest histories. The castle ruins are very evocative with a very good audio/visual display and excellent visitor centre. Nessie hunters might want to visit the centre at nearby Drumnadrochit with lots of woodland walks. Cyclists then have the opportunity of taking in a great cycle trail following the Great Glen Way. Leaving Drumnadrochit, the trail rises steeply, leading up to Abrichan, high above Loch Ness. The track then descends to Dochgarroch to meet the boat. This is a demanding 16 mile ride, but worth it for the spectacular views over virtually the whole of Loch Ness.
For the final leg of the Caledonian Canal, we cruise Loch Dochfour with a walk ashore along a woodland path redolent of “Swallows and Amazons”, then onwards to Inverness and into the Muirtown basin at the very north end of the Canal for our final night anchorage. After dinner there is a choice of bike rides along the shores of the Beauly Firth or the option of staying onboard to socialise and relate the adventures of the cruise!
After breakfast, we say our goodbyes and guests depart at approximately 11.00 am