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 11405 77068
211405, 777068


Circa 1808-11. 2-storey, 5-bay symmetrical former lock keeper's house, divided into 2 properties, with wide, roofed, 3-bay projecting bow front, facing the canal on the west side. The house is white harled with some contrasting black-painted raised ashlar margins. There is a base course and eaves course and deep overhanging eaves. The entrance doors to both properties are on the west side of the property. There is slate hanging to the south west gable.

The windows are predominantly 6-over 6-pane timber sash and case. There is a grey slated piended roof with a large central 8-can chimney stack.

The interior was seen in 2013. The property is divided into 2 houses; one to the west and one to the east. It has undergone some alteration, but there are narrow, curved staircases, some timber fire surrounds and 4-panel timber doors.

Statement of Special Interest

The early 19th century lock keeper's house at Banavie is an important, unusual structure in domestic canal architecture because of its scale and quality of design detail. It sits within its own grounds on the west side of the Caledonian canal and is unusual as the entrance to the property is on the elevation away from the canal. Most buildings associated with the canal have their principal entrance elevation facing the canal. The design of the building, with the prominent 3-bay curved bay is very unusual for lock keepers' houses and is understood to be unique to the Caledonian Canal. There are three similar listed houses on this canal. The property has been little altered externally and is notable for retaining its unbroken roofline as well as its distinctive central stack and its traditional glazing pattern. Unusually, slate hanging is on the south west gable, probably added for extra protection against the prevailing west winds.

The house is situated immediately on the canal side and retains its connection to the canal. The interior has undergone some alteration, but retains some timber fire surrounds.

The majority of the domestic architecture on Scotland's canals is of a more simple design than this house and often consists of a single story cottage, with perhaps a later extension to the rear. This building reflects a more fashionable approach to design, incorporating 2 storeys, wide bays and large, multi-pane windows.

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 house was built initially to house the lock keeper and around 30 men, who built this spectacular series of locks called Neptune's staircase. Neptune's Staircase was constructed between 1809 and 1811 and the house is most likely to be of this date. The workers for the canal were originally housed in turf huts with stone houses being built later. After the canal was built, the house became the lock keeper's house.

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.

The primary role of a lock keeper was to maintain and operate the locks and the cottages and houses were constructed adjacent to them for convenience. Cottages were usually single storey with accommodation comprising of a living room and a bedroom. This property is unusual in being much larger in size. It does, however, have a large garden, which was common in that the lock keeper could grow vegetables and keep poultry and animals.

The previous listed building record written in 1971 noted that the Canal House was built in 1815 and designed by Thomas Telford. At the time of writing there is no documentary evidence to support this.

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, Lock Cottage, (Lock Keepers' House)'.

Statutory address and listed building record updated as part of the Scottish Canals Estate Review, (2013-14).



Ordnance Survey (1874) 25 inches to the mile. 1st Edition, London, Ordnance Survey.

J Lindsay (1968) The Canals of Scotland, Newton Abbot, David & Charles p 150.

A D Cameron, (1972), The Caledonian Canal, Suffolk, Terence Dalton Ltd p. 68.

G Hutton, (1992). Caledonian, The Monster Canal, 2nd Edition, Stenlake Publishing Ltd.

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.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

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Telford House East and Telford House West at Neptune’s Staircase, Caledonian Canal, looking northwest, during daytime on a sunny day with the canal in the foreground.
Telford House East and Telford House West at Neptune’s Staircase, Caledonian Canal, looking north, during daytime on a sunny day.

Printed: 13/07/2024 20:02