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Falkirk


Route Highlights:

Please note: for the remainder of 2020, cruising from Falkirk is limited due to a breach between Falkirk and Edinburgh. You can enjoy a relaxed short break to the Kelpies, to Kirkintilloch or through the Falkirk Wheel only.

The Forth & Clyde Canal to Glasgow and Bowling and the Union Canal to Edinburgh join at the Falkirk Wheel and together are known as the Scottish Lowland Canals. Your canal boat holiday cruise starts at the base of the Falkirk Wheel, one of the most stunning backdrops to any canal in the UK. The Wheel, around the height of eight double decker buses, is the world’s first rotating boat lift, replacing a former flight of 11 locks. There is no charge for the Falkirk Wheel but it is advisable to book beforehand (01324 619888) - the marina will advise on this nearer the time. Trips operate approximately every half hour from 10.00hrs to 17.00hrs daily, each 'revolution' taking one narrowboat and the Scottish Canals trip boat. If returning for 9am at the end of your holiday, from Edinburgh, you will need to come down on the Wheel the night before so that your boat can be returned and vacated on time on the last morning.
The Forth and Clyde being a sea to sea canal is much wider than the average English canal. Between the base at Falkirk and Glasgow are four locks and three road bridges, all of which are currently operated by Scottish Canals staff. Between Glasgow and the Clyde at Bowling there are a further 18 locks and a number of pedestrian bridges, also operated by Scottish Canals staff. Passage through locks and moveable bridges nmust be pre-booked. The Union Canal is a contour canal and strickly speaking has no locks or bridges that have to be opened to let you pass. However there are 2 locks to access the wheel.Click for suggested routes.

IMPORTANT - Rover Ticket at Falkirk: A Rover Ticket will be charged by Scottish Canals for use of the canals. This will be a flat charge of £25 for any holiday over 4 days in duration. If your trip is for 4 days or less, you will be charged £15. This ticket will be administered by Scottish Canals and payable on the first day of your holiday via the Falkirk Office.

The sample routes below are merely suggestions. The age and nature of our unique waterways means that there may occasionally be a need for planned or emergency restrictions or closures and therefore it cannot be guaranteed that every route will always be available.

Short Break Route Suggestions (3 & 4 nights):

Relaxed route: See the Kelpies and Return - 8 miles, 28 locks, 8 hours total
The Forth & Clyde Canal. A very leisurely short break over a weekend with plenty of time to visit The 'Kelpies' which are 30-metre-high horse-head sculptures, standing next to a new extension to the Forth and Clyde Canal, by the River Carron, in The Helix, a new parkland project. There are visitor moorings below and above the last lock, Carron Cut Lock 3, by the Helix Centre which also offers a children's play zone, pedaloes etc: www.thehelix.co.uk. You should also have time to take the boat up and down the Falkirk Wheel (or go on the trip boat) and visit the centre by the marina. www.scottishcanals.co.uk/falkirk-wheel

Intermediate route: Ratho, via Linlithgow and Return - 48 miles, 6 locks, 16 hours total
Pass over Falkirk Wheel Aqueduct, through Rough Castle Tunnel and the Falkirk Tunnel. Both tunnels are one-way only with light signals. The Union Canal is 31½ miles long and follows the contour the whole way to Edinburgh, thus avoiding the need for any locks throughout its length. At Brightons (Bridge 54) there are shops, a cashpoint, etc. within 10 minutes walk. Continue to Linlithgow where there is a good choice of eateries, plus the Linlithgow Union Canal Society Tearooms & gift shop and the Manse Road Basin Museum (check for opeing times). Discover the ruins of Linlithgow Palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Edinburgh is easily accessible from here by bus or train (regular services every 15 minutes). Cruise on to the Edinburgh Canal Centre in the conservation village of Ratho. Ratho offers a canalside pub, local shop and Post Office. Turn for the return journey.

Intermediate route: Central Glasgow (Applecross) and Return - 44 miles, 10 locks, 17 hours total
The Forth & Clyde Canal. Four evenly spaced locks after Bonnybridge take the canal up to the broad, straight section before Auchinstarry, near to the town of Kilsyth. The majestic Campsie Fells rise from the valley that the canal shares with the River Kelvin and the scenery is superb as the canal then follows contours for the rest of the journey to Glasgow, twisting along the route. Take the canal arm south towards Applecross Street Basin in Glasgow which looks down to where the River Kelvin winds from the university past the museums and botanical gardens. A major port with a shipping history back to the 18th century, Glasgow has a wealth of museums and collections. The art galleries and museums of Glasgow are never without examples by Charles Rennie Mackintosh - there is even a church designed by him in the city! Discover more at www.glasgowguide.co.uk

Active route: Edinburgh Quay and Return – 64 miles, 6 locks, 22 hours total
Only suitable to complete over a 4 night midweek break. Follow the ‘intermediate' short break route to Ratho (via Linlithgow) shown above, then continue cruising east into central Edinburgh. Moor at Edinburgh Quay, which is free of charge for up to 24 hours – the staff will direct you to available moorings. Edinburgh has a treasure trove of interesting places to visit including Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Crown Jewels; Holyrood Palace and Arthur's Seat; the Old Town and Princes Street; Greyfriars Kirkyard and St. Giles' Cathedral. Turn here and return to Falkirk.


Weekly Route Suggestions:

Relaxed Route: Edinburgh and Return - 64 miles, 6 locks, 22 hours total
Spread your boating holiday over 7 nights to allow you more time to visit the main attractions or to experience one of the many Festivals that take place in the City.
Begin your journey by navigating the Falkirk Wheel and travel down the Union Canal, which was originally used as a commercial waterway to transport coal before its closure in 1930. Your cruise will then take you over the magnificent Almond Aqueduct, which is 420 feet long and carries the Union Canal 76 feet above the River Almond. Your journey takes you through the villages of Linlithgow and Ratho. Linlithgow is an ancient royal burgh, which lies south of two famous landmarks, Linlithgow Palace and Linlithgow Loch. Linlithgow Palace is arguably Scotland’s finest surviving late medieval building and was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. The grounds are home to a beautiful public park known as The Peel, which is perfect for picnics. Linlithgow Loch is popular for water sports and is also a notable spot for bird watching. It is three quarters of a mile long and contains a fishery. Ratho is home to the Edinburgh Canal Centre; this popular stop has two restaurant boats and the much-loved Bridge Inn. If you head into Edinburgh, moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay. There are many incredible attractions to seek out and most famous of these is the stunning Edinburgh Castle which overlooks Royal Mile, the oldest section of Edinburgh and home to a number of important landmarks, tourist shops and lots of ghostly tours. If you have time, tour the Scotch Whisky Experience and enjoy the amazing optical illusions that are a feature of Camera Obscura – both attractions are close to the castle. A short list of other popular landmarks includes the National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill, the Scott Monument at the Prince Street Gardens and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Intermediate route: Glasgow (Bowling Basin) and Return - 60 miles, 48 locks, 32 hours total
About 5 hours a day. The Forth & Clyde Canal follows the Clyde Estuary all the way down to the old ship-building village of Bowling - a pleasant boating haven with a couple of hotels serving food. The route has a rich mix of industry old & new, stunning views of the Clyde and relics of the ship-building era.

Active route: Edinburgh Quay, Port Dundas (Glasgow) & return – 110 miles. 19 locks. 41 hours total
Follow the short break route to Ratho (via Linlithgow) above, then continue cruising east into central Edinburgh. Moor at Edinburgh Quay, which is free of charge for up to 24 hours – the staff will direct you to available moorings. Edinburgh has a treasure trove of interesting places to visit including Edinburgh Castle and the Scottish Crown Jewels; Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat; the Old Town and Princes Street; Greyfriars Kirkyard and St. Giles’ Cathedral. Turn here and return to Falkirk, passing over the amazing Falkirk Wheel and continuing to Port Dundas Basin, which is 5 minutes by taxi or 22 minutes’ walk to Glasgow Centre.  The canal takes you through splendid scenery and villages such as Auchinstarry – the site of a Roman fort, and Kirkintilloch, which dates back to the 13th century. Finally, you'll pass through the picturesque Cadder Village and to Glasgow. Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, is a stylish centre with great shopping, nightlife and world famous art collections. Buchanan Street is one of Britain’s finest for high-street and designer fashions and leads to the Gallery of Modern Art on Royal Exchange Square – an oasis of calm after a retail overload. There are several magnificent museums and galleries in Glasgow, including the School of Art, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the People’s Palace. Turn around and return to Falkirk.

Active route: Linlithgow, Glasgow (Bowling Basin) and Return - 82 miles, 54 locks, 40 hours total
Upon leaving the Falkirk Wheel, cruise along the Union Canal and over the magnificent Almond Aqueduct, which is 420 feet long and carries the canal 76 feet above the River Almond. Next, head through Linlithgow and stop off to see Linlithgow Palace, arguably Scotland’s finest surviving medieval building and birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. The palace grounds house a beautiful public park known as The Peel, which is perfect for picnics. Head back towards Falkirk and descend the Wheel to join the Forth and Clyde Canal. Follow the Clyde Estuary all the way down to the old ship-building village of Bowling - a pleasant boating haven with a couple of hotels serving food. This route has a rich mixture of industry old & new, stunning views of the Clyde and relics of the ship-building era. The canal follows most of the above route, through splendid scenery and villages such as Auchinstarry and Kirkintilloch; finally passing through Cadder Village and Glasgow – plenty to keep you going!


Fortnight Route Suggestions:

Relaxed route: Edinburgh, Glasgow (Bowling Basin) and Return - 111 miles, 94 locks, 60 hours total
Follow the active week above but spread it over 2 weeks, with a lot more time to stop and explore. Extend the cruise into Edinburgh if you wish (see the week relaxed route above for information about Edinburgh) or on the way back from Bowling drop down into Glasgow (see the intermediate short break route above).

Intermediate route: Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Kelpies - 132 miles, 60 locks, 62 hours total
A combination of the above routes. Cruise to Edinburgh first, then return and descend the Falkirk Wheel towards Bowling and Glasgow, saving The Kelpies for the last bit. Spend a couple of days in Edinburgh and Glasgow and half a day for the Kelpies.

Suggested Guidebooks