If you use one of the canals, not only do they provide short cuts, but they provide a break, in terms of a different pace and time to just enjoy the scenery. Remember canals are fresh water so you will need to add 10cm to your draft. There are 3 canals shown in the diagram.

Forth and Clyde Canal. The restored canal reopened in 2001, and connects the Firths of Clyde and Forth. This route takes you through large towns with busy areas and also peaceful countryside and passes the Falkirk Wheel, the first rotating boat lift. You will need to unstep your mast for this route.

Caledonian Canal. The ‘Caley’, as it is known will save you approximately 250 to 500neptunes staircase miles depending on the number of stops. The benefit comes not only from the shorter distance; but it is also more sheltered, though the wind can be funnelled down the glens, which results in the wind being either with you or against you. It stretches 50 nautical miles from Fort William to Inverness, following the natural fault line of the Great Glen through the Highlands. About a third (19nm) comprises of man made canals that link a chain of fresh water lochs. Designed by Thomas Telford, the canal was Britain’s first state-funded transport project and took 19 years to build, opening in 1822. This route passes dramatic scenery: the Great Lochs of Lochy and Oich, the infamous Loch Ness and the historic castle of Urquhart Castle. It offers the opportunity to drop anchor in some tranquil spots and you will pass through Chanonry Narrows at the entrance to the Moray Firth, which is reputedly the best place in the UK to see dolphins. If you do take this route, don’t just take the shortest route to or from the canal at the Fort William end. One couple cruised around Canna, Skye, Rum and Staffa before heading south. I would strongly recommend this, otherwise you will miss out on some stunning cruising

Crinan Canal. At 14.5km, it is the shortest canal and is described as Scotland’s prettiest short cut. It crosses mid Argyll, from Ardrishaig, Loch Fyne and emerges at Crinan, allowing you to miss out the Mull of Kintyre, which is known for its strong tides.

Prices correct to Mar 19. Whilst every attempt is taken to ensure this information is correct please check with British Waterways.


Transit Licenses, per metreOutward JourneyReturn JourneyTime allowed for transit (*or part day)Hours
Firth and Forth£15.50£12.305120
Additional day or part day all waterways*£1.50£1.50124

If you want more planning information about the canals, depths, min widths, avg transit time etc please refer to the 5 pages on canals in UK and Ireland Circumnavigator’s Guide. A useful website is here