Bring the kids to watch these canal locks at work and marvel at the machinery dating back to the 19th century.
Neptune’s Staircase is a fascinating early 19th-century engineering treasure on the Caledonian Canal. It is Britain’s longest staircase lock, with a complex design that allows boats to pass. Embark on a family walk along the steps of the staircase and inspect the impressive machinery.
The highlight for children and adults alike is watching the locks at work, permitting boats to pass between lakes. Note the eight locks that lift vessels a height of 64 feet (20 meters). Stroll alongside the machinery to see the entire process, which takes roughly 90 minutes. Enjoy a close-up view of a boat traversing each stage. Read the information boards to learn how the locks work using hydraulic rams. Its initial operation used many cables and took half a day to complete a lifting.
Stroll along the elegant paths on the flanks of the canal and enjoy the serene atmosphere. Listen to the flowing water and the calls of wildlife in the dense surrounding forest. Meditate on life as you look into the canal from one of its bridges.
The patches of grass on both banks are ideal for picnics. Relax with your family and eat with a backdrop of the Ben Nevis mountain rising over the forest. Snap photos of the eight locks that are 180 feet (55 meters) long. Stay for the sunset, when the hues of the water and sky change with brilliant colors.
Learn about the history of the locks, which were constructed by engineer Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822. They went through several periods of crisis, notably in the 1990s when the walls leaked.
Dine at the restaurant and the tearoom in the hotel beside the canal. Check the online schedule for the Jacobite Steam Train, which passes nearby.
Neptune’s Staircase is in Banavie, a small village 3 miles (5 kilometers) north of Fort Williams. Visit the Ben Nevis Distillery, Loch Linnhe and the Old Inverlochy Castle on the way. Take a bus or drive to the site in about 10 minutes from the city. Leave your car at the free parking lot.