How to enjoy our canals safely this winter

In winter, the drop in temperature and lack of daylight means that the conditions on and around our canals are not as ideal as in the summer months. However, there’s no reason that you can’t enjoy our canals by boat, bike or boot this winter.

Here are some of the benefits of visiting our blue and green spaces in winter:

Vitamin D

Our main source of vitamin D is sunlight, which isn’t always easy to come by in Scottish winters. By going for a walk, jog or sail on our canals in daylight hours, you can increase your Vitamin D, which is needed to support bone and muscle health.

Improved moods

Natural daylight helps lift serotonin and helps regulate our body clocks. Not only that, a 2013 study on happiness in natural environments found that marine and coastal areas were found to be the happiest locations by some distance. So just by getting out and about on our canals, whether walking, cycling or sailing, you’ll be happier.

Mental and physical health

As well as our waterways making people happier just by being near them, our towpaths and canals are great places for physical exercise. This can also help improve mental health. No matter your level of fitness, there are plenty of access routes along our canal network, offering the opportunity to walk, jog or cycle our towpaths all year round. On the water, there’s opportunity to canoe, kayak or SUP though extra caution should be taken in winter.


Winter wildlife

Our canals are home to some beautiful wildlife all year round. In autumn and early winter, you might find red squirrels on the Crinan Canal, whilst in the Highlands and more rural areas you may come across deer at this time of year. Here are some of the other wildlife you might spot along our waterways.


And here are some tips enjoy our canals safely:


Dress for the weather

A famous Scottish comedian once said that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Make sure you wrap up warm for cold temperatures and wear any applicable winter clothing for your chosen activity, from wetsuits and waterproofs to hi-vis jackets and head torches.


Check the forecast

Whilst you can certainly dress for the weather, there will be times where exercising or entering the water may not be advisable. Check the weather forecast in advance for ice, snow and storms which might impact your visit to our canals.


Be #canalcareful

Watch our videos and read our advice on using our canals in winter here.

Check your local group or body for more safety information

For instance if you’re an avid cyclist you can read some useful information from Sustrans on how to winterproof your ride.

Boaters can find information on winterising your boat on RYA Scotland’s website here, whereas keen joggers and runners might find these winter running tips from Runnersworld useful.

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