Caledonian Canal Centre

Client: Scottish Canals

The Caledonian Canal, as it makes its way through Fort Augustus via the spectacular lock chambers, is one of the most-visited pieces of engineering in the Highlands.  Scottish Canals had made the most of what its estate was able to offer through a nonetheless small interpretation space around half-way along the North side of the locks.

When the former shop, restaurant and – at first floor – restaurant-kitchen and a five-bedroom flat came onto the market, having lain derelict for a number of years, Scottish Canals took the risk of expanding its local portfolio and only then fashioning a brief.

That brief distilled into –

  • Installing a new, dedicated interpretation space, but drawing out from that to populate the whole public offer with nuggets of information
  • Reimagining the restaurant (bringing the kitchen to the ground level)
  • Expanding the food offer with a grab-and-go counter and ice-cream parlour
  • Retail space, promoting products associated with the canal
  • A separately tenanted shop space
  • Secure outside sitting areas
  • 21st century welfare facilities
  • An administration office
  • Seven boutique rooms at first floor
  • A new stair, compliant with Scottish Building Standards – replacing two non-compliant external stairs
  • A less complex and more maintainable external profile and appearance

Scottish Canals used direct labour to clear the buildings’ interiors.  As the project became a ‘proper’ building site more and more raw and unsafe fabric was uncovered, involving the client, design and contractor team in a great deal of quick and creative thinking.  The whole process was fully collaborative and exciting, delivering a multifunctioning and immediately successful new core to Fort Augustus.

We brought a unifying simplicity to the exterior through stripping all of the unnecessary attachments from the façades, replacing all of the windows, using lots of white paint and client livery and superimposing a uniform larch-clad screen to the East elevation.



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