Passage through the Forth & Clyde Canal

The Forth & Clyde Canal is 57km (31 nautical miles, 35 statute miles) from the River Carron Sea Lock on the Firth of Forth, to Bowling on the Firth of Clyde, and there are 40 locks to negotiate.

Forth & Clyde Canal connects directly with the Union Canal and you can boat through both of them on one go. If you’re planning to boat through the Union Canal, please allow a minimum of 12 hours for this part of the waterway. For more detailed Information about how to navigate the Union Canal, see the Union Canal Skipper's guide

Skippers should allow a minimum of 21 hours underway, divided approximately as follows (east to west):

  • Carron Sea Lock (no 1) to Lock 16 - 6 hours
  • Lock 16 to Auchinstarry Basin  - 3 hours
  • Auchinstarry Basin to Lock 27  - 6 hours
  • Lock 27 to Bowling Sea lock  - 6 hours

Sufficient time should be allowed for passage from Port Edgar and negotiation of the River Carron to the Sea Lock.


Maximum channel dimensions

The depth of the canal is circa 1650mm which means we generally accept a draft of circa 1400mm.

All measured from the water surface. 

Add 10cm (4inches) to your sea water draught to compensate for reduced buoyancy in fresh water, and allow for the weight of extra equipment, fuel and water which may increase your draught.

Leave a safety margin for underkeel clearance and for fluctuating water levels, which may affect channel depth and headroom. 

The headroom at the railway bridge below Lock 9, and at Merer’s Bridge between Locks 7 & 8, may be reduced due to increases in water flows from locks in operation upstream.

Forth & Clyde:

  • Max. Boat Length: 19.2m (63ft)
  • Width / Beam: 6m (19ft 6in)
  • Channel Depth: 1.65m (5ft 4in)
  • Maximum Headroom 3m (9ft 10in)

*Slightly longer vessels, depending on their hull shape, may be accommodated. Contact 07810 794 467 when planning passage.

Forth & Clyde Canal, Glasgow Branch:

  • Max. Boat Length: 19.2m (63ft)
  • Width / Beam: 5.02m (16ft 6in)
  • Channel Depth: 1.4m (4ft 6in)
  • Maximum Headroom: 3m (9ft 10in)

Helix Cut & Sealock:

  • Max. Boat Length: 20.47m (67ft)
  • Width / Beam: 5m (16ft 4in)
  • Channel Depth: 1.65m (5ft 4in)
  • Maximum Headroom: 3m (9ft 10in)

Union Canal & The Falkirk Wheel:

  • Lock Length: 21.3m (70ft)
  • Width: 3.5m (11ft 6in)
  • Channel Depth: 1.06m (3ft 6in)
  • Maximum Headroom: 2.7m (8ft 10in)

The Falkirk Wheel Locks:

  • Channel Depth 1.5m (5ft)
  • Maximum Headroom: 2.7m (8ft 10in)

Golden Jubilee Lock: (Lock 3: F&C into basin)

  • Length: 21.30m (70ft)
  • Width / Beam: 3.83m (12ft 6in)
  • Channel Depth: 1.5m (5ft)
  • Max headroom: 2.74m (9ft)


Locks and bridges

Scottish Canals staff will be on hand to assist at all locks and bridges on the Forth & Clyde Canal, but craft must have sufficient crew to assist staff with lockings. Faster progress will be made if each craft has more than one spare person available to work ashore.

We are unable to guarantee assistance to single-handed boaters, so please ensure you have sufficient crew onboard to handle your ropes. Single-handed boaters are likely to experience delays.

If you require further information on the working and manning of locks, please contact the Waterway Office. See the Bowling and River Carron sailing instructions for further information on assistance in the approaches to the canal and in the Sea Locks.

Main opening bridges

Erskine Ferry, Sylvannia Way Footbridge, Old Basin Bascule Bridge, Hillhead, Twechar, Kerse Road Bridge and Bonnybridge bridges are hydraulically operated by Scottish Canals staff. Bridge openings will not take place during peak road traffic times on week days. Automated road bridge operation is expected to take in the region of 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the number of vessels.

Use of locks by portable craft

Portable craft, including canoes and kayaks, must portage round locks for safety and water economy reasons. Where unpowered and portable craft are considered too large to portage round locks, they may transit through the locks. They must be warped through on ropes with no-one on board.

Using locks



Aquatic weed on the canal takes a number of forms - from small floating leaves which can interfere with “raw” water cooling systems or long flowing weeds which tangle around propellers.  Aquatic weed is seasonal and is mechanically harvested from the canal to keep the channel clear. 

Canal boats by design have skegs and cutting propellers which protect the propeller and provide a cutting action to avoid weed entanglement.  

They are also generally fitted with hatches in the engine bay which give access to propellers to remove any entanglement. Canal boats also have closed cooling systems, i.e. onboard cooling which does not draw water from the canal so avoiding uptake of weed or floating sediment.

Any vessel transiting the Forth & Clyde Canal should consider the capability of its propeller, skeg or driveline to manage aquatic weed entanglement and consideration should also be given to resilience of “raw” water cooling systems and heat exchangers to manage uptake of aquatic weed.  

Advice on navigation and aquatic weed burden should always be sought from the Boat Movement Team in advance of each transit as aquatic weeds bloom at different periods over the summer season. 

A monthly Navigation Condition Report, detailing the likelihood to encountering aquatic weed and the next scheduled cut, is located under Ongoing Work accessed through the link below.

Download Skipper's Guide

Our Skipper's Guide contains maps and important contact details you’ll need for your transit.

3000723 BW Scottish Canals A4 Web Version of Lowland Skippers Guide WEB compressed [10225 kb]
Opening hours
Main Season: 1 April – 31 October
7 days a week
08:30 – 18:00
First locking will be at 09:00 and last locking at 17:30.
Get a licence

For prices and information on licenses and purchasing them please refer to our moorings and licences section.

Licences & moorings


See all the moorings options for the Forth and Clyde Canal

Long term moorings

Ongoing work and network disruptions

Ongoing work

Important contact numbers

Scottish Canals Head Office

Canal House, 
Applecross Street, 
Glasgow G4 9SP

T: 0141 332 6936

Lowland Canals Customer Service

4 Strathkelvin Place
G66 1XT

Customer Service: 07920 802628

Boat Movements 24hr advanced booking/ Winter – 48hr advanced booking

T: 07810 794 467

Bowling Sea Lock

T: 01389 877969

Carron Sea Locks 1 and 2

T: 01324 483034 or 07810 794468

Falkirk Wheel Basin Controller

T: 01324 676912

Emergency contact

In the event of an emergency summon assistance by whatever means is available – such as mobile phone, public telephone, or by enlisting the help of others.

Emergency Number (inc Coastguard) 999
Emergency Out of Hours Contact 0800 072 9900

Please do not call these numbers for boat movement

Emergency Number (inc Coastguard) 999 or Emergency Out of Hours Contact 0800 072 9900

To report an issue that is not an emergency, please use this guide