Explore some of Telford's finest works of engineering

Thomas Telford was one of Scotland and Britain’s most celebrated engineers and was responsible for some of the finest bridges, harbours, tunnels and roads up and down the country. Held in such high regard, he was granted a burial at Westminster Abbey. However perhaps his greatest achievement, certainly in Scotland, was the planning and building of the Parliamentary roads and the Caledonian Canal.

In this post, you can travel along your own Thomas Telford Trail and admire some of the greatest engineering work the country has ever seen.

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Clachnaharry Locks

The Caledonian Canal is unlike any other canal boat experience in the UK

Beginning of the Caledonian Canal

Start your tour just north of Inverness where the Caledonian Canal begins. Here are Clachnaharry Locks, site of some ingenious thinking from Telford. How can boats safely enter the sea from a canal when the coast was just deep mud flats? The boats would sink quickly. So what they did was build out into the sea, piling up land and then cutting through the mud to extend the canal deeper into the water. Here, the boats could safely move away from the coast.

This was heavy, manual labour and you can still see how they did it today. Nearby is a plaque with a poem by Robert Southey, to his friend Thomas Telford about the opening of the Caledonian Canal in October 1822.

Top tip – whilst you’re here, keep an eye out for dolphins who like to come and visit these waters regularly!

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Invermoriston Bridge

Small in stature when compared to some of his other designs, nevertheless this bridge stands as one of Telford’s lasting memorials to his hard work. About half-way down the north-western side of Loch Ness sits the small village of Invermoriston and Telford’s bridge is just nearby. One of over a thousand bridges built to connect up the towns and villages of the Highlands, its humpbacked design has stood the test of time. There are two bridges here because time and vandalism have taken their toll on Telford’s original bridge. A new bridge was built in 1933. This one gives a great view of Telford’s original construction.

Top tip: This is a great spot to see salmon leaping! The end of October is the best time of year, and going early morning or early evening will increase your chances of spotting one.

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Loch Ness Roads Today

Most of the roads that today surround Loch Ness were down to the work of Thomas Telford

A82 Travel

Continue southwards past Loch Ness on the A82 and consider for a moment what you are driving on. This road was mostly planned by Telford. When he was young, there were no roads connecting up the Highlands like this. He changed how people could travel, and opened up much of northern Scotland to commerce and tourism.

Top tip: The A82 travels through to Drumnadrochit, the location of the Loch Ness Visitor Centre. This is worth a visit to find out more about the reclusive resident in Loch Ness!

Explore Drumnadrochit

Caledonian Canal and Neptune’s Staircase

The Caledonian Canal took 12 years to build and was planned by Telford. It is a stunning feat of engineering even by today’s standards. if created today, would still beIt was originally planned as a safe route for the British Navy so they could avoid travelling around the dangerous waters of the Pentland Firth and Cape Wrath. Telford was given the charge to design and build it – and he did it with style!

The 22-mile canal has 29 locks and in 1873 Queen Victoria took a trip along it. People still flock to see it and enjoy time on a boat. It travels from Inverness on Scotland’s east coast to Fort William on the west. If you visit, make sure you head towards Neptune’s Staircase near Fort William. This is an astonishing feat of Telford’s engineering. It is a series of locks, raising the canal 19 metres over a quarter-mile. It’s a mesmerising sight to watch and takes a boat 90 minutes to traverse all the locks. It’s the longest staircase lock in Britain. You can find it at Banavie, near Fort William.

Top tip: Fort Augustus is at the south-westerly tip of Loch Ness and is the perfect place to watch canal boats enter and leave Loch Ness. Sit outside a local pub and enjoy the view!

So enjoy your first steps along a Thomas Telford trail, and admire amazing engineering examples. If you are looking for more examples of beautiful structures here near Inverness, then visit some of the beautiful castles in the area.

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Abandoned Pier

Inverfarigaig used to be a bustling industrial area with the pier providing access for materials and shipping of goods.

Inverfarigaig Pier

And now it’s time to drive along the beautiful south side of Loch Ness, past Cameron’s Tearoom. But if the temptation of delicious cake and patting Highland Cows is too much, you may need to stop! And then on to Foyers (but take in Loch Tarf, Suidhe Viewpoint, and Foyer Falls as you go). Finally, it’s time to drop down the steep hill, through the forests in search of Thomas Telford’s hidden Inverfarigaigpier. Yes, this hidden gem on Loch Ness is now served by a solitary single track and marked at the end by an old boat shed. But creep through the bushes and you will find a beautiful, secluded sanctuary upon this historic engineering feat. Beginning as a mass of rubble, extended in concrete, and in rubble contained in metal piles, the pier took shape being built in the early 19th century.

Find out the story of Thomas Telford's full life...

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