Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NN 11425 77016
211425, 777016


Group of single storey rubble industrial buildings comprising early 19th century gabled former smithy and sawpit and circa 1880-90 piended roofed workshop. The smithy and workshop are white painted rubble, the sawpit is timber clad with external Y-shaped timber supports to the west.

Predominantly timber-framed windows throughout; lying-pane casement windows to sawmill; timber shutters to former smithy.

The interiors of the buildings were visited in 2013. All have unadorned rubble walls. The former smithy is in use as a shop (2013).

Statement of Special Interest

The smithy, sawpit and workshop on the side of the Caledonian Canal at Neptune's Staircase at Banavie is an important and relatively externally unaltered group of industrial buildings associated with the original construction and subsequent repair of the Caledonian canal. The former smithy and sawpit feature on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map and are likely to date from the construction of the canal. The workshop appears on the 2nd Edition Map of 1899 and is likely to have been built to provide more workshop space when the locks needed repairing. All were originally built to store materials, provide stabling for horses and enable wood to be cut for the construction of the exceptional series of locks called Neptune's staircase. The former smithy probably also functioned as stables. All the buildings are externally little altered and the unbroken roofline and lack of any additions or extensions is rare in buildings of this date.

The buildings are situated immediately on the canal side next to the series of locks and across from the listed Lock Keeper's Cottage. This proximity to the canal and other associated buildings emphasises the relationship between the group and the canal and although there has been some new build to the rear of the canal, this context is still clearly defined.

Internally, most have an open single space and bare walls which is typical of the original industrial nature of the buildings.

The whole of the Caledonian Canal is a Scheduled Monument which identifies it as being of national importance to Scotland. For this section of the Caledonian Canal see Scheduled Monument No 3530.

The iconic Neptune's Staircase at Banavie is the longest staircase lock in Britain, and consists of 8 locks and 9 lock gates. A staircase is defined as two or more, adjacent locks and where the upper gates of one lock serve as the lower gates of the next. Boats entering the staircase are therefore committed to passing through all the locks in one go before other canal users can use them. It was nicknamed Neptune's Staircase by those who constructed it. It originally had 36 capstans which would be rotated in a strict order to allow the water in or out of the locks. Each capstan had 20 rotations and it would take half a day for a boat to climb or descend the staircase and consequently boats may have to wait for up to day to use the staircase. Many lock keepers were needed to operate this staircase smoothly, swiftly and safely. During the 20th century the staircase was mechanised, cutting down the time and effort in operating the locks.

A number of single storey workshops, stables and stores were built along the canal at various points to house materials and provide stabling for horses during the construction of the canal. These were situated not only at locks, but also at other strategic points where significant construction was taking place, including basins. A number of these buildings survive and their continued existence helps to better understand the construction process of the canal. As simple, single storey rubble buildings, they also add significantly to the character of the Caledonian Canal.

The Caledonian Canal is one of five canals surviving in Scotland but is unique among them as being the only one entirely funded by public money. The canal was part of a wider infrastructure initiative across the Highlands to facilitate trade and the growth of industry and, most importantly for the Government, to tackle the emigration problem resulting from the Highland Clearances, by providing much-needed employment. The experienced engineer Thomas Telford submitted a report in 1802 to Government commissioners which detailed the route and size of the canal. The canal connects Inverness in the north to Corpach, near Fort William in the west, by linking four lochs: Loch Dochfur, Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The total length of the canal is 60 miles, but only 22 miles are man-made.

Built to take sea-going ships, including the 32-gun and 44-gun frigates of the Royal Navy, the Caledonian Canal was designed on a much larger scale than other canals in Britain and the locks were the largest ever constructed at that time. This combined with the remoteness of the location and the variable ground conditions, make it a great feat of engineering and construction.

Telford was appointed principal engineer to the commission with William Jessop as consulting engineer. Although work began in 1804 rising costs and the scale of the project resulted in slow progress and the first complete journey was made on 23-24 October 1822. Whilst the Canal was constructed for commercial use it was never a commercial success. Since its opening it was beset by problems and had to be closed for repairs and improvements in the 1840s. However the canal became popular with passenger steamers with tourism increasing following a visit by Queen Victoria on 16 September 1873.

Previously listed as 'Caledonian Canal Banavie, Neptune's Staircase, Former Smithy and Former Stables'.

The category changed from C to B and statutory address and listed building record updated as part of the Scottish Canals estate review, (2013-14).



Ordnance Survey (1875) 25 inches to the mile. 1st Edition, London, Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey (1899) 25 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey, London.

A D Cameron (2005) The Caledonian Canal, Fourth Edition, Edinburgh, Birlinn.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, (accessed 11-12-13).

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

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Workshop, Former Smithy and Sawpit at Neptune’s Staircase, Caledonian Canal, looking southeast, during daytime on a cloudy day.
Workshop and sawpit at Neptune’s Staircase, Caledonian Canal, looking northeast, during daytime on a cloudy day

Printed: 29/02/2024 21:52