Who hasn't heard of Loch Ness and her famous resident monster? Nessie is among a handful of Scottish monsters, but she definitely enjoys one of the more spectacular homes. Indeed, few have as grand a base as Loch Ness and the Great Glen, the historic fault line that bisects the nation from coast to coast. With the Great Glen Canoe Trail, you can head out on the water in search of Nessie and savour the fantastic scenery, whether you spot her or not.
The Great Glen series of lochs is a staggering sight, connected by canals that stand in the shadow of a sweeping fold of mountains that rise up like skyscrapers on both flanks on the run between Fort William and Inverness. It's always been popular with walkers, cyclists and boaters, and has become a firm favourite with paddlers too, both kayakers and open canoeists. And with the Great Glen Canoe Trail, the Caledonian Canal artery opens up in a way that cruisers and tour boats just cannot compete with.
It's certainly no easy option: in its entirety, the canoe route offers a real test that covers 60 miles in around five days, taking you from the North Sea on one flank of Scotland right across to the Atlantic on the other, including stretches on the open waters of Loch Lochy and Loch Ness. There's proper money behind the project, with four main funding partners – British Waterways Scotland, Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission Scotland – working with the Scottish Canoe Association on the practical development of the trail. Together, they've planned out a formal canoe trail with low-level landings to protect the canal banks from erosion, plus information boards and other facilities en route.
Wilderness Scotland offers excellent five-day guided group trips designed to cater for novice and experienced paddlers alike. Of course, it's always been possible to do this route on your own, but the trail makes it that much easier – and more enjoyable.
When you've finished searching for the Loch Ness monster, the Scottish Highlands is filled with accommodation options to extend your trip, including hostels, self-catering cottages and lodges. And for more top choices, check out our guide to Scotland.