Unusually high water levels on Loch Oich have partially washed Cullochy weir away, causing a major breach of the canal embankment.

This requires a ‘major engineering response’ and means that the Caledonian Canal could be closed to navigation until the end of April

The ‘major breach of the canal embankment’ has occurred approximately six miles south of Fort Augustus on the Caledonian Canal.

While there is no risk to life or property, there has been an impact on the flow of water between the canal and the local system of lochs.

Loch Oich, which usually sits at an average depth of 1.2m, is now at 0.4m, although the water level was higher than normal over the weekend due to excessive rainfall.

Josie Saunders, head of corporate Affairs for Scottish Canals, said: ‘This is a major breach of the Caledonian Canal brought about by heavy rainfall and snow melt off the nearby hills and it requires a major civil engineering response.

‘We are keenly aware of the importance of the Caledonian Canal to the local economy and are treating the incident as a top priority. We were on site in a matter of hours after the incident took place and work to stem the flow of water is taking place at the moment.

‘However, it will mean that the Caledonian Canal, which was due to open for the season on March 23rd, will be closed to sea to sea navigation until sometime up til the end of April.

‘We are doing all we can to minimise the impact on tourism in the local area and will manage further works from the end of April onwards around boat movements so the canal will be operational from then onwards.

‘While it is too early to say what the repair costs will be for Cullochy Weir, our current estimate is between two and three hundred thousand pounds – although we won’t have a more concrete idea of the costs until the design works on site have been carried out.’

She added: ‘We will continue to keep customers regularly informed of progress and will provide updates on our website and via our social media channels.’