Canal Guide

Crinan Canal

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Crinan Canal


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The Crinan Canal across the Kintyre Peninsula Scotland.

Researched and written by Jeannette Briggs


The Crinan Canal is one of the Scottish canals, which do not link up to the main UK network, but which enable Scottish canal enthusiasts to enjoy the pleasures of canal cruising and canal boat holidays.  The Canal traverses the Kintyre peninsula from the Sound of Jura in the west to Lock Fyne in the east and has been called "the most beautiful short cut in Britain"!  It was originally opened in 1801 and was intended to offer a safe passage for cargoes such as herring boats and other coastal shipping between the open waters of the Sound of Jura lashed by the Atlantic Ocean in winter and the relatively calm Loch Fyne. The canal was not properly finished until 1816 when the great civil engineer Thomas Telford redesigned whole sections.  While the working boats have virtually disappeared from the Crinan Canal but it is well - used by those enjoying a canal boat holiday - even those new to canal boat hire.

The Crinan Canal at Ardrishaig The sea lock at Ardrishaig
The Crinan Canal at Ardrishaig - photo by Tom Richardson and reproduced by kind permission The sea lock at the other end of the canal at Crinan - photo by S Worsfold

The canal is very scenic and quite short, being only 9 miles long.  At the Loch Fyne end (the southern end) the canal leaves the Loch and enters the sea lock at Adrishaig.  This is a pretty little town which grew up as a direct result of the opening of the canal. Boats called "Clyde puffers" once regularly used the Crinan canal, and sometimes you can see one or two of these canal boat veterans moored up in the canal basin. 

From the sea lock you pass through three wide locks which take the canal up towards Lochgilphead, around which the canal skirts before striking out in a north-easterly direction towards Cairnbaan.  This is an ancient place, where rock carvings and a Bronze Age burial mound have been found.  There are four locks here which raise the canal up to the summit level.  The summit offers a very short respite to canal boaters because within just a half a mile the canal boat journey begins to descend to the Sound of Jura.

The locks at Cairnbaan The canal at Dunardry
The approach to The locks at Cairnbaan - Photo S Worsfold The Puffer: An occasional visitor going between the Western Isle and Lock Fyne - Photo S Worsfold

Five locks at Dunardry take the canal downwards - at Lock No. 11 you will find a rolling bridge which runs on rails and is hand operated.  All around you are hills covered in trees, but you can also see Moine Mhor which is an area of open wetland bogs and a National Nature Reserve.
The canal at Bellanoch The canal at Bellanoch

The Swing Bridge at Bellanoch and swing mechanism (Right)- Photo S Worsfold


The next structure of note that you reach is Bellanoch Swing Bridge which carries a road across the canal and the Nature Reserve.  Just beyond here is Bellanoch Marina, which is part of Bellanoch bay.

The locks at Cairnbaan

Photo by S Worsfold

The canal continues north-westerly above the estuary of the little River Add, until it traverses through a rocky section and finally reaches its destination - the Crinan Canal basin.  From here you can reach the open sea and there are cruise holidays available from St Hilda Sea Adventures. See 

The canal at Crinan The end of the canal at Crinan
The start of the beautiful Crinan Canal, view from The Crinan Hotel - Photo S Worsfold Entering the Crinan Canal - Photo S Worsfold

The Crinan has lots of visitors and canal boat holiday makers especially in the summer - not surprising really as the views all around you here are superb.

I hope that this brief introduction to the Crinan Canal has created some interest and that you visit the canal for its unique beauty and peace and see for yourself why visitors - including Queen Victoria - find the views here "very fine indeed", to quote the Queen's own journal.

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