Walk: Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus, Highland
This bonny section of the Great Glen Way traces lochs and canals beneath a raft of majestic Munros for the perfect Highland adventure.
The natural faultline of the Great Glen Way washes across Scotland in a series of beautiful lochs, which were linked by Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal in 1822, providing a route for vessels to cross between east and west Scotland. This delightful waterside walk begins at Laggan Locks and follows the Caledonian Canal along the eastern shore of Loch Oich to reach Fort Augustus.
Although it’s a lengthy stomp of nearly five hours, it offers calm, straightforward walking on well-signed and maintained paths beside water and through lush woodland, with opportunities to spot red squirrels, pine martens and eagles, if you’re lucky.
Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus walk
10.8 miles (17.5km) | 4.5 hours | moderate
From Laggan Locks at the east end of Loch Lochy, follow the canalside path north-east past the picnic area and Eagle barge and along the embankments. As the grassy track becomes a gravel path rising into the woods, shaded by Scots pine trees, admire views to the glinting waters of the canal, which took 18 years to construct, and think of the effort it would have taken to cut its passage into this higher ground.
Continue on the path (ignoring the route on the right leading to the A82) to cross the footbridge over the burbling Allt an Lagain. After exiting the woods, look back down the canal to drink in the view to the Loch Lochy Munros. Continue along the bracken-clad canalside route to emerge on the A82 near the Laggan Swing Bridge.
2. Linking lochs
Cross the main road to a quiet lane opposite into the Great Glen Water Park on the shores of Loch Oich and follow the signs for the Great Glen Way, tracking up into the woods on to a shared cycle path, once a railway line built in 1896, now fringed with rhododendron and purple orchids. This is Leitirfearn Forest Nature Reserve, a verdant mixed native woodland, rich with ferns, moss, ash, birch, elm and hazel, which runs along the eastern shore of Loch Oich, the smallest of the three lochs linked by the Calendonian Canal.
The thick woodland allows only occasional glimpses across the loch; after several miles, the path passes old Leitirfearn cottage with views to Invergarry Castle and opens into a small meadow before returning to woodland and shore before rising steeply to pass through an old railway tunnel. Eventually the track crosses a small waterfall before turning left at gates to cross an old railway bridge over the Calder Burn.
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Turn left at a kissing gate to follow a path beside Loch Oich, go over a ladder stile and follow the canal path to the Aberchalder Swing Bridge (detour here to see the double-cantilevered Oich Bridge, built in 1854). Cross the A82 to follow the track on the south side of the Caledonian Canal, passing Bridge House Tea Garden.
At Cullochy Loch, find the towpath on the north side of the canal, which passes through woodland of elegant birch trees. Admire the wide sweep of the canal where a small loch has been incorporated, and the colourful boats, continuing to the pretty surroundings of Kytra Locks.
4. Fort finish
The pine-clad canal continues into mixed woodland of hazel and birch and the River Oich can be seen running alongside at points.
Finally Fort Augustus comes into view, a large village that sits on either side of five splendid stepped locks descending towards Loch Ness. At the A82, turn left and cross a bridge over the River Oich to reach the tourist information centre, from where Scottish Citylink operates a bus back to Laggan Locks five times a day. Alternatively, Fort Augustus offers a variety of accommodation, including campsites and hostels and hotels, if you wish to continue your Great Glen Way adventure.
Laggan Locks to Fort Augustus map
Maria Hodson is production editor at BBC Countryfile Magazine, alongside Margaret Bartlett. Since moving to Bristol in 2014, Maria has made every effort to escape into nature and loves all things wild and watery, from surfing and swimming to paddle-boarding and kayaking. Her adventure highlight in recent years was sea kayaking around remote St Kilda, off the coast north-west Scotland, in 2016. Most weekends, however, are spent exploring the great outdoors with her small child and doing accessible walks. Favourite family adventures are bird-watching at Slimbridge Wetland Centre and exploring the Forest of Dean, as well as an annual pilgrimage to see the starling murmuration on the Somerset Levels.