The Scottish canals are enjoyed safely by walkers, joggers, boaters, canoeist 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.
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. Children in particular should always be accompanied by an adult when they visit the canals and should be made aware of the potential hazards.
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.
Meet Helena, a fitness-obsessed hedgehog who carefully avoids icy patches on her daily towpath treks.
Top tips for cycling in winter
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.
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.