The Forth & Clyde and Union Canal towpaths

The Forth & Clyde canal was designed by the eminent civil engineer John Smeaton and completed in 1790. Crossing the Scottish Lowlands at the narrowest part, the canal runs for 56km and provides a route for sea-going vessels between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth via a short stretch of the River Carron near Grangemouth in the east. Closed in 1963 to avoid the need to construct a motorway crossing, the canal became derelict.

Built between 1818 and 1822, the Union canal was designed by Hugh Baird and was originally used for transporting coal before competition from the railways caused it to close to commercial use in the 1930s. Described as a contour canal - following a 73 metre contour through cuttings and tunnels rather than making use of lock flights to change elevation - the only locks on the canal connecting it to the Forth & Clyde Canal at Falkirk were filled in and built over.

National Lottery funds were used to regenerate both the Forth & Clyde and Union canals as part of the Millennium celebrations in 2000 and the Falkirk Wheel, a unique boat lift, was completed in 2002 to provide a link between the two canals and allow boats to travel from the Clyde or Glasgow to Edinburgh. The towpaths of the two canals make possible a straightforward walking route between Bowling on the Clyde west of Glasgow, and Lochrin Basin in Edinburgh.


The route follows towpaths and provides good walking conditions throughout. The walk is also well served by public transport, making it easy to complete the route in sections.


The route passes through the suburbs of Glasgow and Edinburgh and through Scotland's densely-populated central belt, so there is a great deal of accommodation and services available near the canals.

Try the following links: Glasgow Hotels, Falkirk Hotels, Edinburgh hotels.


The towpath is well served by public transport, with links to the start and end of each stage as mentioned in the description. It is also possible to use public transport to break the journey at many intermediate points.

Full timetables for the routes can be found on Traveline Scotland.

Users' walk reports for the Forth & Clyde and Union Canal towpaths

There are 266 Walkhighlanders who have completed the Forth & Clyde and Union Canal towpaths. To record if you have completed the route, you must register and be logged in. Our users have contributed 8 public walk reports for the route. These are ordered below with the most popular ones first.

Title AuthorDate walked Likes
The Forth and Clyde Canal  janeysdey 03/06/2009  4
Canals are flat  nordika23 21/05/2017  3
Union Canal - Ratho to the Wheel  nigheandonn 28/10/2023  2
Union Canal - Lochrin to Ratho  nigheandonn 21/06/2020  2
Full canal walk over 3 different days  Robbiemo10 13/01/2024  1
Forth and Clyde canal - Banknock to Stockingfield Junction  nigheandonn 16/12/2018  1
Forth and Clyde canal - the Kelpies to Banknock  nigheandonn 26/11/2018  1
Forth and Clyde canal - Port Dundas to Bowling  nigheandonn 22/12/2018  0

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Walking can be dangerous and all walkers must take personal responsibility for their own safety. You should always carry a backup means of navigation and not rely on a single phone, app or map. Walkhighlands strives to provide accurate information but cannot accept responsibility for changes, errors or omissions.