Forth and Clyde Canal Pathway

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Forth and Clyde Canal Pathway
Along the canal pathway
Length 106 km (66 mi)
Location Scotland
Trailheads Bowling, west of Glasgow
Lochrin, Edinburgh
Use Hiking, cycling

The Forth and Clyde canal pathway runs between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde and is a 106-kilometre (66 mi) long footpath and cycleway that runs across Scotland, between Bowling, west of Glasgow, and Lochrin Basin (Edinburgh Quay) in Edinburgh. The path runs on the towpaths of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals and is entirely off road. The path is well maintained and its surface is generally good, although there are some stretches particularly between Falkirk and the outskirts of Edinburgh where wet weather leads to muddy conditions unsuitable for road intended bicycles. It is well used by walkers and cyclists. Accessing the path is very easy since there are railway stations close to the path for its entire length. The path is best followed from the Clyde to the Forth because the prevailing wind is from the south west.

Route of the path[edit]

Following the path west to east, it begins at Bowling Basin where the Forth & Clyde Canal enters the Firth of Clyde. The canal runs east through Clydebank, Boghouse Locks, Clobberhill Locks, Temple Locks and Maryhill Locks. It passes close to the former Singer Sewing Machine Works which once employed 19,000 people and exported sewing machines all over the world, including many to pre-Revolutionary Russia. At Stockingfield Junction near Maryhill is the 'Glasgow Branch' a spur which originally connected to the Monkland Canal (which connected with Port Dundas, close to the city centre of Glasgow. This branch however is not part of the path network.

From Stockingfield Junction the canal path runs north east, through Bishopbriggs, Kirkintilloch and Kilsyth, to Falkirk where the Forth & Clyde Canal joins with the Union Canal. A branch of the Forth & Clyde Canal runs from Falkirk to the River Carron, near Grangemouth. This branch is not part of the path.

The Falkirk Wheel allows water craft to move between the Forth & Clyde and Union canals. It replaces the eleven locks that used to allow boats to traverse the 110 feet (34 m) height difference between the two canals.

The path continues along the towpath of the Union Canal, through Linlithgow, past the red shale bings which are all that remains of Scotland's oilshale industry, and through the outskirts of Edinburgh. Unlike the Forth and Clyde Canal with its many lock systems, the Union Canal is a contour canal and there is only one lock [near the Falkirk Wheel].

View of Edinburgh Quay. A school party can be seen using the towpath on the left.

The path ends at the canal port at Lochrin Basin, Edinburgh Quay, near Tollcross, in the centre of Edinburgh. If desired the pathway can be extended a further one to two miles (3 km) through the centre of Edinburgh and down to Leith and Leith Docks.

Railway lines run close to the path for most of its length. Bowling Station, on the line from Glasgow, is close to the start of the path. Both Glasgow main line railway stations are in the centre of the city, only a few hundred yards apart. The line which has run close to the path from Bowling to Glasgow passes through Glasgow Central Station low-level. The railway line which runs close to the rest of the path runs from Glasgow Queen Street Station to Edinburgh Haymarket Station. Trains are frequent on both lines. In Croy, Falkirk and Linlithgow the canal is only a few hundred yards from the railway station. Edinburgh's Waverley Station and Haymarket Station are only a short distance from Lochrin Basin.

The path can be completed in three, roughly equal, sections.

  1. Bowling Basin (Bowling Station) to Auchinstarry Basin, Kilsyth (Croy Station)
  2. Auchinstarry Basin to Linlithgow Canal Centre (Linlithgow Station)
  3. Linlithgow Canal Centre to Lochrin Basin (Haymarket and Waverley Stations)

Places of interest along the path[edit]

The canal, seen beyond the M8 motorway, deviates northwards just south of Broxburn, West Lothian.
  • The Slateford Aqueduct on the outskirts of Edinburgh takes the canal over the Water of Leith.
  • The Avon Aqueduct is west of Linlithgow and is 250 metres (810 ft) long and 26 metres (86 ft) high. It is the second largest aqueduct in Britain.
  • At Broxburn on the Union Canal the path runs between a number of red shale bings. The world's oil industry was started near here by James 'Paraffin' Young who build an industry to extract oil from shale. The bings are the remains of an industry which once employed 10,000 people in the area. Some of the bings have been removed to provide foundation material for motorways, but many remain.
  • The Almond Aqueduct is west of Ratho and takes the canal 23 metres (75 ft) above the River Almond.
  • The Falkirk Wheel
  • The Falkirk Tunnel is the oldest and longest canal tunnel in Scotland. It is 631 metres long, 5.5 metres wide and 6 metres high.
  • The burgh of Kilsyth, with Colzium estate and park
  • The Antonine Wall, which is an ancient Roman fortification and wall, best seen at Barr Hill near Twechar
  • The Kelvin Aqueduct in Glasgow is 120 metres (400 ft) long and 21 metres (70 ft) high.

Maps and guides[edit]


Alternative coast to coast route[edit]

Sustrans have devised an alternative coast to coast route. This starts at Gourock on the Firth of Clyde and then goes to Bells Bridge in Glasgow, via Paisley. It then goes to Edinburgh via Airdrie, the Bathgate Railway Path, the Water of Leith Walkway and the Union Canal towpath. This route is longer at 171 miles (275 km) and only 98 miles (158 km) of the path are off road.