The Scottish canals are enjoyed safely by walkers, joggers, boaters, canoeists and cyclists all year round.
With colder weather creeping in however, there’s more reason to take care near the canals, particularly on icy and frosty days. Towpaths, bridges and lock-sides can be particularly slippery during the winter months and snow can conceal trip hazards such as boat mooring rings close to the water’s edge. Don’t attempt to drive your boat through ice, as this is a hazard to your own boat and others.
Frozen waterways, whilst incredibly picturesque, can also be very dangerous and visitors should never attempt to walk on the canal. The ice can be very thin in places, with freezing cold water moving in currents beneath the surface. Be careful of ledges and water channels. Children in particular should always be accompanied by an adult when they visit the canals and should be made aware of the potential hazards. Obstacles can lurk just below the surface and even experienced swimmers can easily get into difficulties.
Pets should also never be followed out onto the ice. Animals are far more likely to make it back onto dry land safely and owners only jeopardise both themselves and their pets by stepping onto the ice.
Cycling on our canals this winter? Be #CanalCareful and definitely don’t copy Daft Duck.
Meet Helena, a fitness-obsessed hedgehog who carefully avoids icy patches on her daily towpath treks.
Using our canals this winter? Be #CanalCareful like Kind Kingfisher and respect other users!
Top tips for using the canals in winter
Anyone taking to the towpaths is encouraged to read Boats, Bikes, Boots and Beyond that sets out guidelines and safety tips for everyone from horse riders and anglers to cyclists and walkers.
Boating customers can find information on winterising your boat on RYA Scotland’s website here
Runners and joggers
Keen joggers and runners might find these winter running tips from Runnersworld useful.
Severe winter weather
Please note that we will be operating a reduced level of service across Scottish Canals in the event of severe winter weather.
During freezing conditions customers and users should exercise extreme caution and only access the towpaths, car parking areas, pedestrian bridges and pontoons etc if absolutely necessary and safe to do so.
We will endeavour to keep clear/grit locations which we have identified as being priorities due to their heavy usage or proximity to major public services, medical or community facilities. However, we cannot guarantee access and customers use at their own risk. All other areas will only be treated as resources allow.
Please note that salting and gritting will not prevent ice build up in extreme conditions and users should take account of prevailing weather and conditions underfoot. In particular, gritting effectiveness is significantly reduced below c. -5°C.
Users are reminded to stay off the ice at all times as weak spots can still be present even during prolonged periods of freezing.