Plan Your Trip

The Forth & Clyde Canal is approximately 35 miles (57km) in length with 40 locks to negotiate, and a minimum of 21 hours should be allowed for passage. The Union Canal is approximately 31 miles (51km) in length, and is a contour canal with only one moving structure at Leamington Lift Bridge in Edinburgh. A minimum of 12 hours should be allowed for passage.

Skipper’s Guide

Our Skipper’s Guides are your complete reference guide to boating on the Scottish Canals. Your guide includes important safety information as well as details of moorings and facilities and can be purchased on arrival (£4.50) or download your free copy of the Skipper’s Guide beforehand.

Transit & Short Term Visitor Licences

All powered craft using the Scottish canals require a licence, and we have a variety of short-term and transit licences available to suit your requirements. Licences are available to purchase at the Sea Locks or Canal Offices. Download the Transit & Short Term Visitor Licences for Leisure Craft to find out more.

Locks & Bridges

Staff will be on hand to assist at all locks and bridges, however craft should have sufficient crew to assist with lockings. See the Skipper’s Guide for full details.

Single-Handed Boaters

Single-handed transit is not recommended and can be subject to delays, however if it cannot be avoided, it may be arranged with a minimum of 48 hours advance notice, and subject to staff availability. Please call 07810 794467 to arrange passage.


Please note that you will need to demast for passage through the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. See the Skipper’s Guide for full details.

Forth & Clyde

  • LOA 19.2m (63ft). Maximum length of the inside of the smallest lock into which your boat including fenders, bowsprits, davits, tenders, rudders and any other extension fore and/or aft must fit. This can be reduced by retracting bowsprits.
  • Width/beam 6m (19ft 6in). Width of the boat including fenders.
  • Channel depth 1.83m (6ft). Boat depth below the waterline. Remember to adjust your draught for freshwater by adding 0.1m per metre of your draught..
  • Max headroom 3m (9ft 10in). Boat height above waterline.

Union Canal & The Falkirk Wheel

  • LOA 21.3m (70ft). Length overall including fenders, bowsprits, davits, tenders, rudders and any other extension fore and/or aft of the boat. This can be reduced by retracting bowsprits.
  • Width/beam 3.5m (11ft 6in). Width of the boat including fenders.
  • Channel depth 1.06m (3ft 6in). Boat depth below the waterline. Remember to adjust your draught for freshwater by adding 0.1m per metre of your draught.
  • Max headroom 2.7m (8ft 10in). Boat height above waterline.

Book Your Passage

You must book your passage through the locks and swing bridges between Falkirk and Kirkintilloch, and between Maryhill and Bowling. Call Scottish Canals on 07810 794467 to arrange.

Passage through the Falkirk Wheel is free to Scottish Canals licence holders. You must book your passage at least 24 hours in advance. Call the Basin Controller on 01324 676912. Summer operating hours are from 10am to 5pm. No boats will be taken out of hours. Please download and read The Falkirk Wheel Navigation Code before your passage.

Operating Hours

From Friday 23 March a pilot scheme will be in place from Maryhill to Bowling (Locks 21 – 38), with operation on a four day week, Friday to Monday. This will allow us to carry out increased dredging along the Lowland Canals.

While most transits on this stretch take place over the weekend, a new and additional service has been introduced to allow you to call and book manned assistance from Scottish Canals staff. This service will be charged at £60 and can be booked by calling 07810 794 467. Please note that this service requires at least 24 hours’ notice.

The Forth & Clyde Canal transit licence price will remain at £15.10 per metre (£11.95 return journey) and to assist with planning your journey we have doubled the number of nights covered by the transit licence on the Lowland Canals from 5 nights to 10 nights.

The savings made from mid-week opening will be re-invested in dredging key sites along the Lowland Canals and we will be prioritising high spots that have been identified by our boating customers.

Another key change, as a direct result of boaters’ feedback, is that we will be returning to a more flexible two-way transit system this season. This will help provide more flexibility on the four days western operation and will ensure boating customers experience a better level of service.

The summer opening hours on the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals are:

  • Forth & Clyde East (Lock 2, Grangemouth – Lock 20, Castlecary):  7 days, 8.30am – 5.30pm
  • Forth & Clyde West (Lock 21, Maryhill – Lock 38, Bowling):  4 days (Friday to Monday), 8.30am – 5.30pm
  • Bowling and Carron Sea Locks:  7 days, 8.30am – 7.30pm
  • Leamington Lift Bridge (Edinburgh):  7 days, 8.30am – 6.00pm
  • The Falkirk Wheel:  7 days, 10.00am – 5.00pm
  • Road Bridges (Bonnybridge etc):  7 days, 9.00am – 5.30pm

Please note:

Last locking is half an hour before closure. (At The Falkirk Wheel you should allow 1 hour for transit between the Union and Forth & Clyde Canals).

Please note opening restrictions apply to the road bridges during periods of heavy road traffic.

Watch those oars on the Union Canal!

Some navigation restrictions apply between September to June between Harrison Park and Slateford Aqueduct to ensure safe shared use by both powered and unpowered craft on this popular stretch of the canal. Full details can be found within the rowers section in the Skipper’s Guide.

Canal Works & Updates

Check our Canal Works & Updates pages for details of current works along the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals.

Your local waterway office

Scottish Canals
Canal House
1 Applecross Street
G4 9SP
T: 0141 332 6936