The canal, which links the lochs of the Great Glen—Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Ness—owes its origins to a combination of military and political pressures that emerged at the time of the Napoleonic Wars with France. In short: British needed a better and faster way to move naval vessels from one side of Scotland to the other. The great Scottish engineer Thomas Telford (1757–1834) surveyed the route in 1803. The canal, which took 19 years to complete, has 29 locks
and 42 gates. Telford ingeniously took advantage of the three lochs that lie in the Great Glen, which have a combined length of 45 miles, so that only 22 miles of canal had to be constructed to connect the lochs and complete the waterway from coast to coast. Along and the canal stunning vistas open up: mountains, lochs, and glens, and to the south, the profile of Ben Nevis. At the small but engaging visitor center in Fort Augustus you can learn all about this historic engineering feat, and take a picturesque walk along the towpath.