Caledonian Canal – history
Some of The Lovat hotel bedroom windows face the Caledonian Canal with gorgeous mountains in the background. The walk along the Caledonian Canal is really beautiful and easy as the path is flat. It is also a part of the Great Glen Way.
I looked into the past to find out more about the work by engineers that resulted in this great coast-to-coast waterway.
Scottish Canals have summarised the main events and progress of the Caledonian Canal. Here’s how it all began…
The canal was conceived to provide safe passage for shipping including the British Royal Navy, avoiding the dangerous route through the Pentland Firth and around Cape Wrath. The construction of the canal also provided employment after the Highland Clearances. The route was first surveyed by James Watt in 1773.
Act of Parliament was passed authorising the construction of the canal. Thomas Telford was asked to survey and build the canal with the help of William Jessop. The work was expected to take 7 years to complete at a cost of £474,000.
Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo and the perceived threat to British Naval shipping was gone.
The 22 mile canal with its 29 locks was open. It had taken 12 years to build at a cost of £910,000.
1843 – 1849
Defects in the construction material resulted in a partial collapse of the locks at Corpach and the canal bank at Cullochy. The canal was closed and the defects addressed by James Walker; an associate of Telford.
Queen Victoria took a trip along the canal.
1914 – 1918
Shipping increased during WWI as vessels tried to avoid the German Navy patrolling of the Northern coasts of Scotland.
Ownership of the canal was transferred to the Ministry of Transport.
Paddle steamers like the Glengarry and Gondolier, operated busy passenger services along the Great Glen.
The canal is mechanised replacing manpowered capstans with hydraulics to operate locks and bridges.
Ownership of the canal transferred to the newly created British Waterways.
Major restoration works are undertaken for the next 10 years.
The Caledonian Canal is now used for commerce and leisure, attracting visitors from all over the world, both on and off the water.