A new visitor centre is to open alongside the Caledonian Canal in the spring as par of Scottish Canals ambitious plans to turn Neptune’s Staircase in Lochaber into a “world-class tourism destination”
And the government-sponsored agency is currently advertising for visitor centre assistants to work there.
The string of loch gates at the western end of the Caledonian Canal, at Banavie, near Fort William, was designed by Scottish architect Thomas Telford and raises vessels to a height of about 70ft above sea level over a distance of around 500yds.
It already attracts thousands of visitors each year, but Scottish Canals believes it would be even more successful if it provided more facilities for both tourists and locals.
The agency has been granted planning permission and listed building consent to turn the old Saw Pit into an interpretation centre for Neptune’s Staircase and the Caley Bears shop into a Scottish Canals shop.
It also has permission for the maintenance bothy to be used as an “activity hub” for providers of outdoor pursuits.
Development surveyor at Scottish Canals, Keith Mackie, said: “Home to the engineering marvel of Neptune’s Staircase and set in the shadow of Ben Nevis, Banavie is one of the jewels in the crown of Scotland’s canal network.
“It is already a popular tourism destination – but it has the potential to be so much more.
“The new interpretation centre is part of wider project that will create a bustling tourism and activity hub around the iconic lock flight.
“Offering visitors the chance to discover the incredible history of the 200-year-old waterway and explore the majestic Great Glen by boat, boot and bike, the new hub will help safeguard the area’s rich heritage and secure a sustainable, vibrant future for the local community and the Caledonian Canal itself.”
Customers will be able to purchase tickets for many attractions, including a new passenger boat service operating from Banavie to Gairlochy and beyond.
The operator, Clyde Marine, is working with Rockhopper, another new activity provider, to provide boat, bike and canoe packages to visitors.
Mr Mackie added that Scottish Canals was keen to work with other providers in the area to promote their businesses and develop new canal-based opportunities.