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Caledonian Canal, Banavie

Canal (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Caledonian Canal, Banavie

Classification Canal (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Caledonian Canal, Corpach To Banavie; Fort William; Caol

Canmore ID 105806

Site Number NN17NW 11

NGR NN 1261 7800

NGR Description NN 1000 7660 to NN 1369 7999

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Kilmallie
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Lochaber
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Recording Your Heritage Online

Caledonian Canal The idea of exploiting the natural corridor of the Great Glen as a shipping route linking east and west germinated in 1773, when James Watt was commissioned to carry out a survey and report on the potential. By 1801/2 this vision had broadened to encompass a whole programme of improvements, from a network of new roads to the founding of fishing villages, harbours and churches - 'one intimately connected system, which would evidently have a striking effect upon the welfare and prosperity of the British Empire' and, more particularly, boost the desperate Highland economy by encouraging trade, providing employment and stemming the flood of emigration. Most importantly, too, during this period of French aggression, the canal would play a strategic part in the protection of shipping by providing an 'inland navigation between the eastern and western sea capable of admitting a Frigate of 32 guns'' . Following an Act of Parliament of 1803, work started on its construction at both ends in 1804, under the direction of Thomas Telford (with William Jessop). This was a remarkable feat of engineering which, despite the advantages of there being three freshwater and two sea lochs along the route to provide many miles of existing water, and a drop from the highest level of only 94 ft, necessitated excavations and earthworks on a massive scale. The vast workforce was assisted by steam technology. Works included the construction of aqueducts, and of 29 locks (mostly in groups) with stone-lined basins. Although directed like a military operation, the canal took 19 instead of the estimated 7 years to build and when it opened (still unfinished) in 1822 , it had cost £912 ,000 instead of the anticipated £350,000. Extensive improvements in the 1840s, including rebuilding aqueducts, upgrading lockgates and facing the whole canal basin in stone, took the canal's eventual cost to beyond £1.2 million. The need for subsequent repairs has been ongoing, and today the canal is reported to be in as serious a condition as ever.

[Thomas Telford (1757-1834) was the son of a Dumfriesshire shepherd who trained as a stonemason and died one of the foremost civil engineers of his day. Appointed engineer to the British Fisheries Society in 1796, his remit soon extended beyond the provision of harbours and fishing stations on remote Highland coasts, to parliamentary churches and the Caledonian Canal. From 1804 he supervised the construction of an impressive network of parliamentary roads, bridges and inns (jointly funded by landowners and government under the Commission for Roads and Bridges). These differed in purpose from their military forerunners in having the social and economic interests of the civilian community principally at heart.]

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

Archaeology Notes

NN17NW 11.00 1000 7660 to 1369 7999

NN17NW 11.01 NN 11341 76955 Banavie Locks (Neptune's Staircase)

NN17NW 11.02 NN 1171 7733 Banavie Locks Canal Basin

NN17NW 11.03 NN 1140 7708 Cancelled (Described under NN17NW 11.11)

NN17NW 11.04 NN 1134 7696 Banavie Locks, Swing Bridge (Neptune's Staircase) [Location unverified]

NN17NW 11.05 NN 1154 7710 Banavie Pier [Railway] Station

NN17NW 11.06 NN 11682 77279 Banavie Pier [Landing Stage]

NN17NW 11.07 NN 13495 79625 Allt ton nan Eildean overflow (sluice)

NN17NW 11.08 NN 13589 79701 Torcastle, Bank Cottage (Canal Cottage)

NN17NW 11.09 NN 11176 76783 Caol Pier

NN17NW 11.10 NN 11196 76772 Caol, Canal Cottage

NN17NW 11.11 NN 11403 77069 Banavie Locks, Telford House East (Neptune's Staircase)

NN17NW 11.12 NN 11447 77037 Banavie Locks, Smithy (Neptune's Staircase)

NN17NW 11.13 NN 11429 77017 Banavie Locks, Stables (Neptune's Staircase)

NN17NW 11.14 NN 11493 77180 Banavie Locks, Salix House (Neptune's Staircase)

NN17NW 11.15 NN 11436 77022 Saw Pit (Banavie Locks)

See also:

NN17NW 12 NN 12193 77641 Mount Alexander Aqueduct

NN17NW 13 NN 13182 79159 Torcastle Aqueduct

NN17NW 17 NN 11230 76836 BanavieSwing Bridge (A830 road)

NN17NW 19 NN 11206 76811 Banavie Swing Bridge (West Highland Extension Rly)

NN17NW 26 NN 1122 7706 Lochiel Arms Hotel

As the canal heads in a northerly direction from Corpach, up through Banavie and for the ensuing few miles, it is dominated by the natural feature of the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis.

G Hutton 1992.

On this map sheet the canal originally heads SE, but quickly turns in a NE direction, passing under two swing bridges, railway (NN17NW 19) and road (NN17NW 17), flowing through the flight of locks at Banavie (NN17NW 11.01) and then winding through the open countryside, passing over two aqueducts (NN17NW 12 and NN17NW 13) on its route.

Information from RCAHMS (MD) 30 August 2001.

Architecture Notes

See also NN17NW 11.01.


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