Paddle The Caledonian Canal With The Kids

Paddle The Caledonian Canal With The Kids

Discovering the Wonders of the Great Glen

As I stood on the banks of the Caledonian Canal, the majestic peaks of the Scottish Highlands towering in the distance, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement bubbling within. This was going to be an adventure like no other – a chance to paddle through the heart of the Great Glen, with my trusty sidekick, my 12-year-old daughter Maya, by my side.

The Caledonian Canal holds a special place in the history and natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Stretching for 60 miles, it connects the east and west coasts, weaving its way through a series of lochs and rivers, including the legendary Loch Ness. The canal’s website boasts that it’s a “unique and breathtaking waterway” – and after our experience, I can wholeheartedly agree.

Preparing for the Journey

As Maya and I started our preparations, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of nervousness. This wasn’t going to be a leisurely float down the river; we’d be tackling the full 100-kilometer stretch of the canal, with portages around the locks and the potential for challenging weather conditions on the lochs. But with my years of experience as a canoe guide, and Maya’s enthusiasm and resilience, I knew we’d be more than up for the challenge.

We made sure to pack all the essential gear – from waterproof clothing to a sturdy, two-person canoe. And of course, no adventure would be complete without Billie, our ever-faithful (and occasionally mischievous) canine companion. With our supplies stowed and our spirits high, we set off from the town of Corpach, ready to embark on our Caledonian odyssey.

Navigating the Canal’s Wonders

As we glided through the first section of the canal, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the engineering feat that lay before us. The Caledonian Canal was a true marvel, with its series of locks and staircase systems that allowed boats to navigate the changing elevations. We paddled past the impressive sight of Neptune’s Staircase, the longest lock staircase in Britain, feeling a sense of accomplishment as we effortlessly made our way through.

But the real magic began as we reached the lochs. Loch Lochy, with its glistening waters and towering mountain backdrop, was a sight to behold. The wind was on our side, and we quickly raised our small sail, letting it carry us across the loch. Maya’s initial trepidation about the sail quickly turned to delight as we surfed down the waves, taking in the stunning panoramic views.

Camping Under the Stars

As the day wore on, we reached the end of Loch Lochy and decided to set up camp at the secluded Glas Dhoire site, with its composting toilets and wild feel. Maya was thrilled to explore the surrounding woods, and we settled in for a cozy evening by the campfire, swapping stories and enjoying a hearty meal prepared by yours truly.

The next morning, we continued our journey, tackling the portages around the Laggan and Kytra locks with a sense of teamwork and accomplishment. The canal’s narrow, pine-fringed cuttings gave us a taste of the Canadian wilderness, a welcome respite from the open expanses of the lochs.

Conquering Loch Ness

As we reached the mighty Loch Ness, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of trepidation. This loch is no joke, with its reputation for treacherous winds and waves. But with the weather on our side, we set out, keeping close to the southeastern shore for safety.

The sheer vastness of Loch Ness was almost overwhelming, and Maya and I took turns paddling, marveling at the seemingly endless expanse of water before us. We spotted the iconic ruins of Urquhart Castle in the distance, a silent sentinel guarding the loch’s mysteries.

As we neared the end of our journey, we were greeted by a welcome sight – our friend Russel and his twins, Alice and Max, who were also embarking on a Loch Ness adventure. We shared stories and laughter, our little community of paddlers united in the shared experience of conquering this magnificent waterway.

A Sense of Accomplishment

As we pulled our canoe out of the water at the final destination, a sense of pride and accomplishment washed over me. We had done it – paddled the entire length of the Caledonian Canal, braving wind, waves, and all the challenges that came our way. And more importantly, Maya and I had forged an even stronger bond, creating memories that I know will last a lifetime.

I couldn’t help but think back to the start of our journey, when I had wondered if we were up for the task. But as I looked at my daughter’s beaming face, I knew that this was more than just a physical challenge. It was a journey of self-discovery, of pushing boundaries, and of embracing the wonders of the natural world.

So if you’re looking for an adventure that will leave you with a deep sense of accomplishment and a newfound appreciation for the beauty of the Scottish Highlands, I can’t recommend the Caledonian Canal enough. Pack your bags, grab your paddle, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey with your loved ones. Who knows, you might even spot Nessie along the way!

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