Coast to Coast – Fort William to Inverness – The Great Glen Way & Caledonian Canal
A 65 mile coast to coast cycle route from Fort William to Inverness the first section takes you along the Great Glen Way which runs alongside the Caledonian Canal. On the first part of the route the Great Glen Way skirts the shores of Loch Linnie to Corpach just outside Fort William and runs along the Caledonian Canal. The route passes various canal features until Loch Lochy where forest tracks take it along the
western shore before rejoining the canal at Laggan Locks. Then at Fort Augustus, the half way point you have a choice of routes. We chose the more difficult route up the hills on the southern side of Loch Ness. The route is varied. The first section from Fort William to Fort Augustus is fairly flat along the canal towpath, forestry roads and country lanes. On the second section of the ride you will encounter some steep hill climbs on the south banks of Loch Ness and who knows you might even get to see ‘Nessy’. Don’t forget to take your camera on this ride as there are some famous and spectacular views along this cycle ride. You can hire cycles at
Fort William from Nevis Cycles, Lochy Road, Fort William near to the start of the cycle route. A significant part of this route is along canal towpaths and on some canal towpaths in the UK you may require a permit to cycle them. You can download YOUR FREE PERMIT from our homepage. Just click on the link to Waterscape.com near the bottom of the page.
The Caledonian Canal was Constructed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1822. It joins the East and West coasts of Scotland over a total distance of 65 miles and has 29 locks, 4 aqueducts and 10 bridges. With some fantastic views and points of historical interest along its route. Fort William is the largest town in the highlands and second largest settlement behind the city of Inverness. Fort William is a major tourist centre with Glen Coe just to the south, and Glenfinnan. It is an important centre for outdoor activities such as hill walking, climbing and cycling with Ben Nevis very close to the town itself.
Starting from Fort William Railway Station (terminus for the Harry Potter Steam Train) take the off road path situated behind the supermarket and follow the path out of Fort William. After a few hundred yards the path takes you across a small bridge over a small estuary. At the other side of the bridge you start to cycle along some quiet suburban roads. Once you’ve crossed the bridge TURN RIGHT along Abrach Road and after 200 yards TURN LEFT on to Earl of Inverness Road. After 100 yards TURN RIGHT by Nevis Cycles along Lochiel Road and cycle 300 yards to the end of Lochiel Road.
At the end of Lochiel Road you come to a path straight ahead of you. Continue along the path and after 500 yards you pass the 13th century Inverlochy Castle on your right and the path takes you across a bridge over the river.
On the other side of the bridge TURN LEFT along Kilmallie Road B8006 keeping to the cycle lanes. After about quarter of a mile TURN LEFT down Glenmallie Road and after 150 yards TURN RIGHT along Erracht Terrace and follow the road along until it takes you to the shore path. Continue along the shore path as it takes you around the small peninsula and after approximately the path takes you to Neptune’s Staircase, situated just after Banavie Railway Station. Along the shore path there are some fantastic views down Loch Linnie past Fort William. Neptune’s Staircase was built by Thomas Telford and is one of the biggest staircases in Britain. The lock comprises of eight locks on the Caledonian Canal. It is the longest staircase lock in the United Kingdom, and lifts boats 64 feet. The locks were originally hand-powered, but have been converted to hydraulic operation. The base plinths of the original capstans are still present, although the capstans themselves are now gone. It takes approx 1 hour 30 minutes for a boat to pass from one end of the staircase to the other, through the eight locks.
At Neptune’s Staircase you keep to the right hand side of the locks and cycle along
the eastern side of the canal along the towpath. Continue along the towpath as it follows the canal for six and a half miles where you come to the small village of Gairlochy.
At Gairlochy the Caledonian Canal meets with Loch Lochy. At the centre of Gairlochy TURN LEFT onto the B8005 and cycle along the road for 4 miles to Clunes passing through Bunarkaig as the road takes you along the southern part of Loch Lochy. At Clunes you come to a ‘T’ junction. At the junction TURN RIGHT and follow the quiet road as it leads you down to the lochside and takes you along a forest road heading towards Laggan.
Continue along the forest road alongside the loch for about four and a half miles and then you come to Laggan. At lagan you have a choice of routes. You can continue on the quiet roads on the north side of the canal which then takes you along a forest road and past Invergarry to Bridge of Oich, a total of 7 miles. Alternatively you can cross over the canal at lagan at the locks TURNING RIGHT THEN LEFT and follow the steep path up the hill through the trees. Near the top of the hill you come to a disused railway line. As you approach Invergarry on the other side of the loch you come to an old military road at Loch Oich and the road bends to the left at the end of the loch and takes you down to Bridge of Oich. This route can be muddy and rough in places and you encounter some farm gates along the way. A total of 6 miles.
At the end of either route you arrive at The Bridge of Oich at the end of the loch near to Aberchalder. At The Bridge of Oich continue along the towpath on the left hand side of the canal which takes you past the lock and then takes you along the towpath for four and a half miles to Fort Augustus.
Fort Augustus is situated at the south end of Loch Ness and has shops and café’s for you to enjoy some well earned refreshments. Fort Augustus also has an impressive set of locks, a couple of hotels, B & B’s and a pub.
Fort Augustus is the half way point of the cycle ride and from here you have a choice of routes. You can if you wish from Fort Augustus go left along the A82 which takes you along the northern banks of Loch Ness all the way to Inverness where you pick up the Caledonian Canal again as you approach Inverness or you can take the route we chose along the southern banks of Loch Ness which. The mileage is roughly the same either way but on the A82 the route is fairly flat with just some rolling hills but there can be heavy traffic on the road.
We chose the more difficult route for this last section of the ride along the southern side of Loch Ness. From Fort Augustus bear right along the A82 for a short distance and as you start to leave Fort Augustus TURN LEFT onto the B862 following the side of the loch towards Glendoebeg and as you start to leave the water side and climb up towards the ridge ahead you will pass the small Loch Tarff on your left. Carry on following the B862 all the way up to the top of the ridge where you will enjoy some spectacular views of the area. Carry on cycling down the ridge along the B862 through Whitebridge and towards Foyer. At Foyer you can stop and experience the spectacular site of Foyer Falls said to reach a height of 1000ft at its highest point.
Carry on along the B862 through Easre Boleskine (the road is named as General Wade’s Military Road at this point) along this part of the ride if you look across the loch you will see the world famous Urqhart Castle. The present Urqhart Castle was believed to have built in the 13th century on the same site as people have believed to have lived for over 4000 years. It is thought that a castle has stood on this site since the 6 century in the times of St Columba.
Continue along the road as it takes you through Dores where you will start your final approach to Inverness along Dore Road. Which eventually runs into Iland Bank Road and Castle Road at Inverness. On Castle Road you will pass the Castle on the hill on your right and on the left as you cycle along you will see across the river Inverness Cathedral and some of Inverness’s fine hotels on the banks of the River Ness. At the end of Castle Street you come to a set of traffic lights by the bridge. At the traffic lights GO STRAIGHT AHEAD along Bank Street and after about 300 yards you come to a small pedestrian bridge across the river. TURN LEFT and cross the bridge over the river.
On the other side of the bridge Cross over Huntly Street and cycle along Greig Street. After 150 yards at the end of Greig Street you come to a cross roads. At the junction GO STRAIGHT AHEAD along Fairfield Road and cycle along the road through the suburbs of Inverness. After about a quarter of a mile at the end of Fairfield Street you come to the Caledonian Canal. Your nearly there now!!
At the canal BEAR RIGHT along the canal past the locks and after 500 yards you enter the marina near the end of the canal. From the marina car park Cycle past the main marina/harbour master buildings. With the Caledonian Canal on your left hand side as you cycle along. Note: – make sure when you cycle past the main buildings you follow the cycle path on the right hand side of the perimeter fence (the other side leads you to a dead end. Cycle past the main buildings and moorings and follow the wide path along side the canal. After 400 yards you pass a small nature reserve on your right hand side. If you look on the mud banks of the reserve when the tide is low you can see ‘The Witches Coffin’ raised out of the mud. Continue past the reserve and after about 200 yards at the end of the nature reserve you come to a gate where you have to dismount to cross over the railway crossing. Take Care of the signals and trains.
Cycle past the railway crossing and you now have the Beauly Firth on your right hand side as you cycle the 500 yards to the sea locks at the end of the canal, the end of your coast to coast cycle ride across Scotland. Hope you enjoy the cycle ride although it can be a tough one in places its definitely one of those rides you can say to your mates down the pub you have done as an achievement. Inverness is said to be the capital of ‘The Highlands’ and is a bustling city with plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and tourists attractions for you to enjoy.