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

A review of boaters’ patterns of using the Lowland canals shows that certain days and times are more popular than others and that if we refine our customer service we can free up our staff to undertake much needed maintenance work on the canals.

With 50 sea to sea transits last year on the Lowland canals and the temporary suspension of Bonnybridge and Twechar lift bridges affecting navigation, it makes good business sense to trial a different way of operating this year. This forms part of wider review of the way Scottish Canals can best meet customer demand with the resources available to us which also includes the proposed move to user operations on the Lowland canals in 2019.

The new operational times and method of operating for each area, effective from 1 May 2018, are listed below.

On the days and times that are green on the timetable a member of staff will be available to provide the range of customer services at that location. In 2019 we plan to introduce a web-based booking system which will make it easier for customers to book in advance.

We will operate this as a trial for the 2018 season, reviewing and adapting, where suitable, in line with boater feedback. Outwith the times shown on the schedule, we will do our best to accommodate extraordinary requests, for example vessels that wish to attend a canal festival or flotilla but this will be done with the resources available.

We believe we have reflected customer demand in the times and days that are listed below. However, if you think the times proposed for this trial do not accurately reflect historic patterns of customer use in your location, please let us know by emailing Paula Carson via

Download a printable PDF of the updated operational hours here.

Winter Operating Hours

1st November 2018 to 31st March 2019

  • Monday to Thursday: 8am – 4pm
  • Friday: 8am – 3.30pm
  • Saturday & Sunday: by arrangement 48 hours in advance

Carron Sea Lock and Bowling Basin: 8am-4pm every day (except Christmas and New Year). Auchinstarry Basin and Edinburgh Quay: please check with local office to confirm operational hours.

Please note you must complete your last locking/ bridge movement 30 minutes before closing time above.

Please give at least 48 hours’ notice of your arrival or your plans to make transit along the canal – call us on 07810 794 467. Call this number to arrange passage and check for any updates.

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