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The Forth and Clyde Canal

The Forth and Clyde Canal

Postby janeysdey » Sun Dec 12, 2010 11:31 pm

Route description: Forth & Clyde and Union canal towpath

Date walked: 03/06/2009

Distance: 56 km

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The Forth and Clyde Canal is 35 miles/56km long and runs across Scotland, from Carronshore on the Forth to Bowling on the Clyde and was constructed between 1768 and 1790. This might seem like a very long time but no work was carried out between 1778 and 1785 due to lack of finance and Britain's preoccupation with the American Revolution. When that was out of the way work recommenced, financed in part with money raised by selling off Jacobite estates forfeited after the 1745 rebellion

Another reason construction took so long was that the canal and its locks were to be wide and deep enough to accommodate the seagoing vessels of that era, avoiding the need for a long trip round the coast. It was also used by barges to transport the coal, fireclay, and timber produced in Central Scotland, as well as a regular passenger service. A branch canal joined it at Stringfield near Maryhill to take traffic into Glasgow, terminating at Port Dundas, and the Union Canal joined it at Falkirk to carry traffic to and from Edinburgh,

Like all the other British canals, it went into decline with the introduction of railways, and was sold to the Caledonian Railway Company in 1853. It was nationalised with the railways in 1948, and finally closed in 1963. It was restored to mark the Millenium and reopened in 2001and the restoration included two structures unique to this canal. This walk may be overshadowed by the more popular Caledonian Canal and the Great Glen Way but it is an interesting trip as I found when I walked it west to east in three stages in 2009,

Stage 1. Bowling to Glasgow
01 Bowling Harbour .JPG
The canal starts at Bowling Harbour on the river Clyde, below the Kilpatrick Hills, and soon passes under the Erskine Bridge with views of the Erskine hospital across the river.
02 Erskine Bridge.JPG
Shortly after reaching Clydebank the first of the unique structures mentioned above is met at Dalmuir where the canal passes under a major road only a metre or so above water level. The problem of getting boats under this bridge was resolved by building the worlds first drop lock, where the lock and the boats in it drop below the road, pass under, and are raised again at the other side.
03 Dalmuir Drop Lock.JPG
A mile or so further along the canal passes through a trading estate containing another self proclaimed unique structure, but I cannot recommend the cuisine!!
04 Clydebank.JPG

Leaving Clydebank the canal enters Glasgow, with some fine views as it passes through Drumchapel, Garscadden, and Temple
05 Locks26&27 Dawsholm.JPG
, before crossing the Kelvin aqueduct to the locks and basins at Maryhill.
06 Maryhill.JPG
Just past this point is Stockingfield Junction, and the branch into the city centre which I followed. The canal goes through Firhill, passing behind the football stadium, and offers good views of Glasgow University to the south west before reaching Woodside and turning down to Speirs Wharf at Port Dundas. The former bonded warehouse with its sandstone facing overlooking the city has been converted to residential and commercial use and beside it sits an equally fine building, the Canal Superintendent's House and the end of this stage.
09 Speirs Wharf.JPG
10 Canal House.JPG

Stage 2 Glasgow to Kilsyth
11 Stringfield Junction.JPG
This stage of the walk starts at Stockingfield junction in Maryhill, and passes through Cadder and Lambhill before reaching
12 Possil Nature Reserve.JPG
the Possil Loch Nature Reserve and the city boundary, then skirts Bishopbriggs. The open country offers good views of Torrance and the Campsie Hills to the north.
15 Torrance.JPG
Kirkintilloch is the next town on the walk.
20A Kirkintilloch Joe's Wharf.JPG
Since it is so far inland I was surprised to learn that shipbuilding was once carried out here, mainly canal boats but also some of the puffers which used to ply the Clyde and the Western Isles. The town now has a well designed marina, again built as part of the restoration project.
21A Kirkintilloch Marina.JPG
After Kirkintilloch the canal pretty much follows the line of the Antonine Wall, indeed parts of the Wall were first uncovered when the canal was excavated. The next point of interest on the walk is Auchenstarry basin at Kilsyth, also the end of this stage.

[b]Stage 3 Kilsyth to Carronshore[/b]
37A Auchenstarry Basin.JPG
Leaving Auchinstarry the route passes Croy Hill to the south and soon passes under the A80 at Castlecary then through Dennyloanhead into Bonnybridge, famous for UFO sightings.
14A Bonnybridge.JPG
Just before the route reaches Camelon it passes the Falkirk Wheel, the second feature unique to the canal, The Wheel is a rotary boat lift,raising vessels some 24 metres to meet the Union Canal,
16A Falkirk Wheel.JPG
The site has visitor and exhibition centres and offers a barge trip on the Wheel to both canals. The two canals had originally met at Lock 14 in Falkirk but a stretch of the Union Canal in the town was filled in and built over after its closure in 1963, necessitating the new junction.
17A Union Inn.JPG
20A Locks @ Falkirk.JPG
The canal continues through the town terminating at the River Carron near Grangemouth, where a lock allows access to the tidal waters of the river and to the Forth.
26A Carron Lock.JPG
Last edited by janeysdey on Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Forth and Clyde Canal

Postby Phil the Hill » Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:50 pm

Nice walk. I did the canal by narrow boat with my mother back in 2005 between Glasgow basin and Edinburgh (via the Falkirk Wheel twice and Union Canal). I walked the last stretch down past the Falkirk locks to the tidal lock and back, which made a pleasant evening stroll. One point of interest that you didn't mention is that the chimney in your photo 20A is the former Rosebank distillery: a great whisky sadly discontinued because it didn't fit United Distillers marketing plans :( . I managed to pick up a bottle at the Falkirk Wheel visitor centre but don't know if they still have any stock.
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Re: The Forth and Clyde Canal

Postby robertian » Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:55 am

Smashing report and photos - looks like terrific weather .
Always wanted to canoe and camp along this route - maybe one day I might get around to it.
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Re: The Forth and Clyde Canal

Postby alfredo143 » Sun Jul 17, 2011 7:44 pm

Great photos and makes a change from hill walking reports. :D thanks once again. :lol:
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Re: The Forth and Clyde Canal

Postby gagfax » Sun Jul 17, 2011 9:05 pm

I walk along the falkirk/grangemouth end a lot as its only 100m from my house. A good walking and cycling route.


Re: The Forth and Clyde Canal

Postby maryhillmoose » Wed Aug 24, 2011 8:40 pm

Excellent report and pictures, Im lucky enough to live right next to the canal and am a regular runner on the Glasgow stretch, have been both ways to Bowling and also out to Falkirk which is exactly 22 miles from Firhill Basin...my longest marathon training run! Just a point of order, the junction where the Glasgow branch links to the canal proper is called Stockingfield not Stringfield. Great to know others are appreciating the canal as much as I do!!!!!
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Re: The Forth and Clyde Canal

Postby Colind4 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 8:23 pm

A great description - I am thinking of doing this - and you have inspired me! Might go on the Union to Edinburgh though!
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Re: The Forth and Clyde Canal

Postby janeysdey » Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:22 pm

Thank you, it's nice to know someone has read and enjoyed this report after all ths time!!
I walked the Union canal a couple of months or so after I'd done the Forth & Clyde, then walked the Caledonian Canal ,starting at Fort William, the following year. I was quite chuffed when I'd completed that leg, it had taken me nearly thirty years, to fit it all in but it was the final link in the walk from Bonnington Falls on the Clyde above New Lanark, to Inverness, via the Clyde Walkway to Glasgow, the Kelvin Walkway to Milngavie, the West Highland Way to Fort William, then up the Great Glen to Inverness.
If you enjoy walking along Canals, you can't miss the Crinan Canal. It's only about nine miles from Ardrishaig at one end to Crinan at the other with some lovely scenery in between, and if you're a photographer Autumn is the time to do it.
Here's a wee taster
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