The Gondolier paddle steamer was built especially (in 1866) to operate on The Caledonian Canal from Fort William, on the west coast, to Inverness, on the east. The steamer was primarily intended for sightseeing, but as the A82 road wasn't completed for another 60 years it would also serve as an important transport link.

The canal allowed ships to navigate the Great Glen by joining the Lochs: Linnhe, Lochy, Oich and Ness.

The Gondolier operated on the canal until 1939, when the ship suffered a most unusual fate. The paddle steamer was intentionally sunk off the coast of Orkney, to act as a barrier to enemy ships during WWII.

Until about ten years ago the ship was commemorated by having a restaurant named "The Gondolier" in Fort Augustus. The restaurant has also now gone.

A similar ignominious fate befell the PS Gairlochy which was set alight, & intentionally sunk (1919) in Loch Ness. It remains there still.

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The Caledonian Canal was designed by the famous engineer Thomas Telford. It was meant to be 33.5m wide at the surface, 15.2m wide at the bottom, and 6.1m deep. However, due to the difficult construction conditions the depth wasn't initially achieved. Regardless, the canal was opened to traffic in 1822 while the depth was typically 3.7m. Dredging & improvements continued during the 19th century.

Maintenance work on the canal locks continue to the present day.

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@fitheach Wait what, they sunk a ship in the Loch Ness as a defense? How does that make any sense?

The similar fate was the sinking, not the reason. I don't know why the PS Gairlochy was scuttled. It might have been the company owning it didn't have money for repairs, but that is just a guess. I would need to find newspaper reports from 1919.

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