Scottish Canals has reopened the canal network across the country following one of the largest winter work programmes of recent years seeing more than £16.5m spent on improvement works on canal infrastructure and operational equipment.

Scotland’s canal network, which welcomes almost 22 million visitors per year, has reopened to the boating community after a winter of major improvement works seeing the most significant investment in 20 years. Works included major investment from replacing lock gates on the Caledonian and Crinan Canals to restoring the Union Canal following a breach in August 2020 and renewing the coating on the world’s only rotating boat lift, The Falkirk Wheel.

The annual winter improvement works are carried out in accordance with Scottish Canals’ Asset Management Strategy to maximise the benefit provided by the canals. The works, which are carried out in the winter, ensure impacts to boating movements are minimised whilst allowing the public body to maximise the value derived from the investment in creating opportunities for tourism and commercial activities to flourish.

“Our mission at Scottish Canals is to deliver world class waterways and the completion of winter works across our network ensures that our canals remain open, vibrant and able to welcome 22 million visits each year.

Our improvement works ensure that Scotland’s canal network is not only fit for purpose but also enables future investment in tourism and businesses across the country safeguarding local economies.”

Catherine Topley, CEO of Scottish Canals

On the Forth & Clyde Canal which stretches from Grangemouth in the east to Bowling in the west, the ongoing £13.7m Stockingfield Bridge project funded by Sustrans and Glasgow City Council has taken centre stage. The bridge, connecting the three communities of Gilshochill, Maryhill and Ruchill will complete the missing link of the active travel route offering seamless uninterrupted off-road travel along the canal’s towpath. Due to the ongoing works at Stockingfield Bridge there will be limited navigation around the area until the 28th of May.

The Union Canal, from Lochrin Basin at Fountainbridge in the nation’s capital to The Falkirk Wheel, has seen reinstatement works and the start of a series of climate change resilience interventions through the £6.5m Scottish Government funding package following the breach in the canal last August as a result of extreme weather conditions. The resilience works will contribute to protecting the structure of the canal for years to come as climate change becomes a real threat to the inland waterways.

In addition, a series of access improvement works have taken place across both the Forth & Clyde Canal and the Union Canal which were funded by Sustrans. Almost 100 prioritised sites have undergone improvements ensuring that the canal towpath is accessible to walkers and wheelers alike, as part of the National Cycling and Walking Network.

In the coming months Scottish Canals will also be opening new destinations across the Forth and Clyde Canal including the Claypits urban nature reserve in North Glasgow in June and The Bowline at Bowling Harbour, a linear park based on the New York Highline in Summer. The opening of The Bowline and renovations of the archways at Bowling Harbour will unlock the potential of the area as a hub of investment and opportunity.

Following the completion of winter works on all four of Scotland’s navigable canals the Caledonian, Crinan, Forth and Clyde and Union Canals are now open to navigation. Limited navigation will take place on the Forth and Clyde Canal.