Five of the best sights to see along the Crinan Canal

Every year nearly 2,000 boats make the journey along the nine miles of the Crinan Canal, which links Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne with Crinan on the west coast. But “Britain's most beautiful shortcut” isn’t just for puffers, kayaks and yachts. Walkers, cyclists and joggers enjoy it too. And the great thing is that ancient woods, rock art and forts are found not far from the towpath. Whether you’re travelling by foot, bike or boat, don’t miss these five sights along the way!

1. Get bogged down! Moine Mhor (‘the great moss’) National Nature Reserve is a surviving remnant of a once much more extensive raised bog. This ancient habitat (older than many of the standing stones in Kilmartin Glen!) is home to dragonflies, hen harriers, curlews and other moorland and wetland species.

2. Take a woodland wander. Crinan Wood is just a few minutes’ walk from the Crinan Canal basin. This ancient Atlantic oakwood is a magical place. The west coast climate has created a temperate rainforest, full of fern, moss, lichen and gnarled oak and birch. If you can tear your eyes away from the sweeping views of Jura and Mull, you might spot a red squirrel or two! For something more strenuous, try the Castle Dounie Circuit. This 6.5 kilometre walk climbs high through the forest to reach an Iron Age Fort on a hilltop above Crinan. Another option is the Near To Nature trail at Dunardry, an adventurous sensory walk complete with living sculptures.

3. Be amazed by Achnabreck. It’s a bit of a detour from the canal towpath to reach the Achnabreck Cup and Ring Rocks, but it’s well worth the effort. After a short forest walk, you’ll discover the most extensive prehistoric rock carvings in the UK. Among the many multiple rings are the largest examples yet discovered – up to nine rings almost one metre across.

4. Meet the beavers. If you want to get up close and personal with a beaver in the wild in Scotland, then Barnluasgan in Knapdale near Crinan is the place to do it! The first beavers were released here in 2009 as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial. You’ll find scenic trails which will allow you to see the work of this shy creature. Time your visit right and you might even spot one.

5. Walk in the footsteps of kings! Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Dunadd Fort. This rocky outcrop rising dramatically out of Moine Mhor was once the capital of the Ancient Kingdom of Dalriada. Legend has it that the first Kings of Scotland were crowned here. At the top you’ll find a carved flat stone slab with a cup indentation. There’s also a carved footprint, which is thought to have been part of the coronation ceremony for the kings of Dalriada.

The Crinan Canal’s grassy banks are perfect for picnicking on a summer’s day, but you’ll also find some great places to eat and drink as you journey along. The Cairnbaan Hotel at Lock 8 serves up locally sourced, seasonal produce. Or how about sunset drinks at the Crinan Hotel?

Find out more about things to see and do in Inveraray, Knapdale, Kilmartin & Crinan.