Over the last few years, Scottish Canals has invested heavily in the towpath infrastructure across the country and we’re pleased to see that this is bringing them into greater use.

The Edinburgh stretch of the Union Canal is a popular section of towpath with around one million users taking to it each year to enjoy the tranquil routes through the city. This increased usage brings with it some new challenges, from speedy cyclists to new users not being aware of our codes of conduct for boating and fishing. To ensure everyone is able to enjoy the routes, we’re keen to explore how we can plan for improvements to ease these issues whilst making sure the canal continues to be a safe and well-loved route.

Thanks to funding from Sustrans Scotland, Scottish Canals appointed HarrisonStevens Landscape Architects along with a comprehensive consultant team, to carry out a study to identify opportunities to improve the towpath along the Union Canal from Lochrin Basin to the Almond Aqueduct in Edinburgh.

As part of this study, we consulted with local stakeholders, organisations and members of the local community at two consultation events in May 2017 at Polwarth Parish Church, Edinburgh.

Our aim

The primary aim of the study is to look at solutions to ease congestion and resolve conflict issues with Union Canal towpath users. The improvements discussed at the consultation have identified the following key issues; towpath widening, solutions for bridge holes, code of conduct, alternative routes, improve accessibility and connection onto wider city cycle networks, wayfinding/signage and placemaking along the towpath. These points will now be addressed as part of the report.

Our study builds upon work conducted recently by Spokes, The Edinburgh Canal Strategy, as well as other consultant studies undertaken by Scottish Canals.

As well as undertaking this study, we are also delivering improvements on the ground in collaboration with our partners at City of Edinburgh Council and Sustrans Scotland. For instance, we are looking forward to completing new landscape improvements at Gibson Terrace, to improve the setting of the new Boroughmuir High School – increasing the available space to the towpath by Viewforth Bridge. Investment into physical improvements on the ground will continue as funding and opportunity allows and the outcomes of the current report will help us plan and prioritise this going forward.

We operated a stand with details of the Towpath Study at the Edinburgh Canal Festival on 17th June 2017 and very much welcomed your feedback, observations and ideas about the towpath. Download a PDF version of the stands that were on display at the event.

Towpath Usability Study

Thanks to everyone that gave up their time to help us refine and develop our thinking on how we improve this fantastic asset through Edinburgh. Your feedback and comments have been invaluable and we have enjoyed engaging in good creative discussions with you all.