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.
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.
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!