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Sail the Caledonian Canal: Oban to Inverness

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Embark Disembark Vessel DurationVoyage No
Sat 22-04-2023, 14:00Oban, Scotland Thu 27-04-2023, 10:00Inverness, Scotland Provident 5 NightsPV220423

This is a great early season voyage to explore the Great Glen from Oban to Inverness. The trip takes you up Loch Linnhe to Fort William and into the Caledonian Canal.  The Canal starts with Neptune’s Staircase – which is a dramatic flight of 8 locks.  

The journey takes us through the countryside on a mixture of navigable rivers and lochs.   We should be able to get the sails up several times and there will be chances to explore ashore too.

For a short getaway this trip ticks a lot of ‘must see’ boxes, from Loch Ness and Ben Nevis, to ‘Neptune’s Staircase’, as well as the phenomenal Highland landscapes.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel

Ideal Voyage for …..

Anyone keen to try traditional sailing who would prefer sheltered water.

Those up for a fun and varied trip.

Sailors keen to complete this iconic passage.

Nessie spotters…


  • Views of Ben Nevis and more iconic Scottish scenery
  • Traversing ‘Neptune’s Staircase’, the longest string of locks in the country
  • Stunning open water sailing in Loch Linnhe and down to Oban


Vessel type / Rig Gaff Ketch
Guest Berths 8
Beam 18ft
Draft 9.2ft
Deck Length 70ft
Overall Length 92ft
Tonnage 85 tons
Year Built 1924
More about the Vessel

Voyage Description

oban area for sailing
OBAN HARBOUR and the firth of lorn


Embarking in Oban

The unofficial capital of the West Highlands, Oban’s transport links make travel planning nice and straightforward, and there are some glorious landscapes to travel through en route to join the ship. We’d recommend arriving early to explore the town, perhaps visiting McCaig’s Folly with its stunning views across the bay, or nip into the distillery for a bottle to share with your fellow sailors.

Once on board you’ll enjoy a familiarisation from the crew before setting sail, heading north up Loch Linnhe to the entrance of the canal.

The Caledonian Canal

Passage through the canal is a fantastic sailing holiday, especially for those who aren’t quite ready for a deep sea adventure. There are some sedate stretches along the narrow channels, but there are also plentiful opportunities for ‘proper sailing’, across stunning steep-sided Lochs with a stiff breeze.

This vital link between the North Sea and the West Coast doesn’t actually include all that much man made canal. Thomas Telford, the engineer behind the canal, recognised that the ‘Great Glen’ fault-line did most of the work already, and what was needed was to link up the Lochs Ness, Oich and Lochy with a few additional channels (the man made sections totalling only around a third of the total length).

One of the biggest challenges to shipping through the canal is the difference in altitude across its length, with some sections reaching 32 meters above sea level.

To combat this there are 29 locks along the Caledonian, including the famous ‘Neptune’s Staircase’, the longest chain of locks in Britain. 8 locks raise ships a total of 20m in under half a mile. This is a real sight to behold, and apart from the upgrade to hydraulic rather than manual capstans (speeding up the process considerably), the technology in use is pretty much the same as it was when it was first built in the 1820s.

caledonian canal locks neptunes staircase
neptune’s staircase

One of your last stretches of open water is the infamous Loch Ness: make time for some hands on sailing in between watching out for the monster!

Disembarking in Inverness

The largest city and the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness has excellent public transport links to make your onward journey planning nice and easy. It’s worth taking some time to explore the city before you depart. You’re standard disembarkation time for Provident is 10am, so after a hearty breakfast you can explore the old town, or pay a visit to the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery which has fantastic collections spanning local and Highland history and culture.


Mostly flat water, with the possibility of some slightly stiffer conditions on the first day of your trip, sailing up Loch Linnhe. The wind can be quite strong along the canal, especially in the more open natural sections and, as its Scotland, you should expect a bit of rain!


Whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete beginner, the professional crew will train you to be guest crew from the moment you arrive, with the intention that everybody works together to sail the ship. The common thread to all Classic Sailing holidays is ‘Hands on’ participation on ships that use ropes, blocks and tackles and ‘people power’ to set sail.


We cater for a wide range of ages and physical abilities and how much you are expected to do varies a bit between vessels. See the vessel tab above which explains all about the ‘sailing style’ and what to expect in terms of hands on participation. There is a lot of information about day to day life, the ships facilities and accommodation on the vessel pages.


Every customer sailing with us will need to fill in basic medical questions on their booking application. If you are not sure if your current level of fitness and agility are up to a voyage, then please ring the Classic Sailing Office on 01326 53 1234 and we can chat through your concerns and possibly find options that might suit you better.

Start & End Port

Oban, Scotland

For joining your vessel in Oban, the North Pier in the map shown below will be the best place to meet the crew. Your vessel will either be tied up alongside the wall, or out at anchor. Make sure you take a note of the ship’s number found in your confirmation in case of any problems on the day.

Inverness, Scotland

The exact location for joining your vessel isn’t likely to be known until closer to the time, make sure you have a copy of the ship’s phone number to find them on the day.

Kit List

Provident - Kit List

What is Included:

  • Bedding
  • All meals and soft drinks aboard.
  • All safety equipment, including lifejackets
  • Fantastic sailing

What is Not Included:

  • Travel to and from your voyage
  • Personal travel insurance.
  • Alcohol (although reasonably priced wine, beer and whisky will be available to purchase on board). Consumption of alcohol is always at the discretion of the skipper
  • Waterproofs - If this is your first voyage good walking waterproofs will be fine. We only recommend buying sailing waterproofs if you are frequent sailors.
    • You will find exploring ashore in walking gear much better than struggling around in sailing kit!

What to Bring

  • Enthusiasm!
  • Waterproofs - see above.
  • Your own towel.
  • Hats for sun and cold weather.
  • At least two sets of warm clothes - layers e.g. tracksuit bottoms, shirts, fleece jacket, wool jumpers, thick socks, and neck scarf. It can get cold at sea even in mid summer.
  • Swim suit, towel, and suntan lotion.
  • Flat shoes with a good grip e.g. trainers or sailing deck shoes. Sailing boots or wellies are also helpful.
  • (An alterative to boots in summer is to bring another pair of flat shoes with a good grip in case the first pair get wet).
  • All terrain type Sandals are great for dinghy trips ashore – but you do need shoes which protect your toes for sailing.
  • Camera, binoculars, sketchbook, a relaxing read.
  • Any medication, spare spectacles. Seasickness tablets or pressure-point wrist bands (talk to your pharmacist)
  • Your own logbook if you'd like to keep track of your sea miles
  • Tech chargers (USB sockets are available in all the cabins) and waterproof cases for anything valuable


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