Our Canals
Kayaker doing tricks on a Scottish Canal

A safe and enjoyable paddle

Your safety on and off the water should be your most important consideration. Take some time to read our important safety information when planning your trip.

Important Safety Advice for Paddlers
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Paddling on the Forth & Clyde Canal

Don't forget to read our Important Safety Advice for Paddlers!

Enjoy canoeing and kayaking on the Forth & Clyde Canal, in the heart of Scotland. Paddle from coast to coast or spend the day exploring a short stretch of the canal.

The flat water of the Forth & Clyde Canal  is becoming a popular spot for paddlesports and with new facilities and improved canal banks, is ideal for beginners or enthusiasts alike.

Check our Canal Works & Boater's Updates page for details of current canal and towpath works along the Forth & Clyde Canal.

On the water

There are 39 locks on the canal, 20 on the west side, 19 on the east, plus bridges which are raised.  The locks come in about 6 groups and portage round them is the answer if you are in a kayak or canoe.  Whether kayaking or canoeing on canals, you are so close to the water, and the wildlife - you won't miss a thing!

Where to start

The most pleasant parts of the canal scenically are the east and central parts. The industrial areas around Falkirk have been transformed with canalside pubs and gardens. Auchinstarry Marina is an ideal place to start, with canoe and kayak hire available. As canoeing and kayaking in the UK become more popular the facilities are developing.

A long day out?

It is possible to paddle the 56km length of the canal in one long day, but most paddlers will prefer to plan their canoeing trip in easier stages.  There are some excellent staging posts along the way and you'll want time to take in the surroundings, discover the wildlife and relax along the route.

The Future of Paddle Sports in Scotland is here!

The new home of Scottish watersports reached a major milestone as the £3.25 million Pinkston Watersports centre is officially open and has been handed over to Scottish Canals and charitable body Glasgow Watersports.

Located in Pinkston Basin on the Forth & Clyde Canal, Pinkston Watersports is Scotland's first and only competition-standard, purpose-built paddlesports venue. Featuring customisable white water and canoe slalom courses - designed by London Olympics 2012 course designer Andy Laird - a clean water basin, canoe polo pitches, affordable club storage, classrooms for wet activity and changing rooms, the centre is scheduled to open later this month and expected to attract around 25,000 visitors a year by 2016.


To help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable paddle on the Scottish Canals, please take a look at some important safety advice


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Top tips

  • Do I need a permit?
    Yes. You can complete and submit the Paddle Registration Form online. Have a look in the Related Information section above.
  • Other water users
    Paddle on the right hand side of the canal and be aware of other water users. Give way to motorised craft and watch out for wake caused by passing boats. Let the lock keepers know you’re on the water so they can warn boaters you are there.
  • Can I paddle through locks and tunnels?
    For safety reasons paddlers should not use the locks or canal tunnels. Pack a stowable trolley to help portage round locks and lock flights, or through the tunnels on the Union Canal. Use authorised access and egress points.
  • Do I need a buoyancy aid when I'm on the canal?
    Always wear appropriate buoyancy aids when paddling on the canals.
  • Can I wild camp?
    Wild camping is not allowed on Scotland’s Canals. All our canals are Scheduled Ancient Monuments and are exempt from the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. However, some areas have been designated for informal overnight camping. Contact the local canal office for details.
  • Can I bring a group to the canal?
    A group is a party of 10 or more canoes/kayaks. Group organisers should contact the local canal office in advance of the trip. This helps with co-ordination between your group, other water users and our staff.
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