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Forth and Clyde Canal

Forth & Clyde Canal at Falkirk
©2016 Gazetteer for Scotland

Forth & Clyde Canal at Falkirk

Stretching 35 miles (56 km) from the village of Bowling on the River Clyde in the west of Scotland to the large town of Grangemouth on the River Forth, the Forth and Clyde Canal was built during the later part of the 18th Century (begun on 10th June, 1768) and operated until 1st January, 1963. The canal was re-opened by HRH Prince Charles in 2001, having been the subject of a major restoration as part of the Millennium Link project. The centre-piece of this project is the Falkirk Wheel, a spectacular boat-lift built to transfer barges between the levels of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals at Falkirk.

The Forth and Clyde was the first canal built in Scotland, linking its two major waterways for trade and transport and providing an additional three-mile (5 km) branch to central Glasgow at Port Dundas. Created to accommodate sea-going boats, its 39 locks are over 18m (60 feet) long and nearly 6m (20 feet) wide; its highest point of 48m (156 feet) is between Banknock (Wyndford Lock) and Glasgow (Maryhill). The engineers who built the canal included John Smeaton (1768-73), Robert MacKell (1773-79) and Robert Whiteworth (1785-90), with no work carried out in the period 1777-85 during much of the American Revolution. The first steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas, carried out trials on the canal in 1802, and the Forth and Clyde was also one of the first canals to carry vehicles such as carts and railway wagons. In 1868 it was bought by Caledonian Railway, passed to the British Transport Commission on the nationalisation of the railways in 1948, to British Waterways in 1963 and to Scottish Canals in 2012.

The eastern end of the canal enters the tidal River Carron, and traffic uses this river to reach the Forth. In 2012-14 a half-mile (1 km) extension was constructed to a new sea-lock further downstream on the Carron, overcoming the problem of restricted access to the canal with unfavourable tides.

The Forth and Clyde Canal links Grangemouth, Falkirk, Bonnybridge, Castlecary, Twechar, Kirkintilloch, Lenzie, Maryhill (Glasgow), Clydebank, Erskine and Bowling.


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