The historic Forth & Clyde Canal will spring to life this weekend as a floating festival of more than 70 steamboats, Clyde Puffers and coastal rowboats take to the water to celebrate the re-opening of the canal to coast-to-coast boat traffic for the first time in more than year.
Organised by canal custodians Scottish Canals in partnership with various canal-focused voluntary bodies, the Canal Carnival is the largest flotilla of vessels to ever travel the Forth & Clyde. A trio of public events is also being held on the banks of the canal at The Falkirk Wheel, Auchinstarry Marina in Kilsyth, and Kirkintilloch in East Dunbartonshire – the ‘Canal Capital’ of Scotland – to cheer on the vessels.
The Carnival, inspired by the award-winning events held to celebrate the tenth anniversaries of the opening of the Forth & Clyde Canal and The Falkirk Wheel, recognises the success in attracting additional Scottish Government funding to repair and upgrade Bonnybridge and Twechar lift bridges. The bridges were previously closed to boat traffic in early 2018 when routine inspections raised concerns over the safety of their mechanisms.
Works to modernise and repair the bridges, made possible thanks to £1.625 million additional funding from the Scottish Government, are now complete, with the Forth & Clyde Canal fully reopened. The Canal Carnival is being held to thank all those who helped make the case for additional funding.
Catherine Topley, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said: “The re-opening of the Forth & Clyde Canal to sea-to-sea traffic is a momentous occasion and there’s no better way to celebrate it than with a flotilla featuring the huge array of users who enjoy using the historic waterway.
“The Canal Carnival will showcase our vibrant, thriving waterways and the fantastic destinations along their banks. The event will pave the way for similar events in 2020 during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters and again in 2022 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal and the 20th anniversary of The Falkirk Wheel.
“The Carnival shows that, even more than two centuries after it was first carved through the heart of Scotland, the Forth & Clyde Canal continues to play a vital role in communities on its banks. Thanks to Scottish Government funding, we’re delighted to re-open it to boat traffic.”
As well as the works at Bonnybridge and Twechar, Scottish Canals also undertook a wider programme of maintenance, improvements and repairs across the canal network. Projects include the replacement of lock gates on the Caledonian Canal and the installation of new water monitoring systems on the Crinan Canal.
Undertaken thanks to £5.35 million additional funding from the Scottish Government, the programme is informed by Scottish Canals’ Asset Management Strategy, which sets out how the organisation will manage, care for, and prioritise works on the infrastructure of the nation’s 250-year-old waterways between now and 2030.