Is the Caledonian Canal the most beautiful waterway in Britain?
Scotland's west coast is home to some of the most dramatic natural landscapes in the whole of the UK, with its remote and mysterious islands, highlands and spectacular lochs.
From the glistening waters of Loch Ness, Loch Nevis and the Sound of Mull to the imposing Fort Augustus and Fort William (the departure point for the Jacobite steam train), the sights of the west coast draw visitors from all over the world, as well as from around the UK.
One of the best ways to see this magical part of the country is by making your way along the endlessly beautiful Caledonian Canal.
This stunning waterway runs from Inverness, the 'capital of the Highlands' to Fort William. It passes through a range of charming towns and villages, past lochs and verdant countryside, providing a wonderfully scenic way to travel through Scotland.
DISCOVER THE CALEDONIAN CANAL WITH KIRSTY WARK
If you're looking for a relaxing staycation in Scotland, this scenic waterway is an excellent place to start.
The Caledonian Canal first opened in 1822 and was built to provide a safe passage for ships between Inverness and Fort William, including those of the British Royal Navy.
Today, it offers a great way for visitors to travel from coast to coast, traversing magnificent scenery in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. The canal is around 60 miles long, with 22 of them man made and the rest formed by natural freshwater lochs.
There's an abundance of things to see and do along the Caledonian Canal, but one of the highlights is the world-famous Loch Ness, with the romantic ruins of Urquhart Castle perched on its shores.
EXPLORE THE CALEDONIAN CANAL WITH CAROL KIRKWOOD
You might also choose to pause at one of the many towns and villages that dot the banks of the canal. There's Invergarry with its mysterious castle ruins, and Fort William, where you can enjoy views of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland.
There are several ways to experience the canal, depending on the type of holiday you want and how much time you have.
You may choose to hire your own boat and traverse the canal in your own time. You should allow around three days to travel the entire length of the canal. But if you're in no particular rush, take some time to sail around Loch Ness, or jump on land to explore the wonderful waterside attractions along the way.
If you're visiting the canal on a day trip from elsewhere in Scotland you can spend time walking or cycling along the well-maintained paths on the banks of the canal. The Great Glen Way walking route will take you along sections of the canal towpath through some of the Highlands' prettiest scenery and alongside Loch Ness.
Alternatively, you can hire a canoe and paddle along a stretch of the canal at your leisure, admiring the native wildlife that calls the canal home. You might spot a beaver, grey heron, otter or a dazzling kingfisher as you paddle along.
If you're tempted to explore the Caledonian Canal, you can also join Country Living for an exclusive eight-day cruise on a yacht-style ship with TV weather star Carol Kirkwood in May.
Or try a six-day holiday with Country Living and broadcaster and journalist Kirsty Wark in October.
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