Public invited to explore the depths of the Union Canal

Scottish Canals is offering the public the chance to learn about the engineering, history and wildlife of the Union Canal and catch a glimpse of the waterway as they’ve never seen it before – without water.

As part of its wide-ranging programme of winter maintenance, the canal custodians will be reducing the water level of over five kilometres of the 200-year-old waterway at Linlithgow between the 9th of January and 16th February. In total, around 30,000 cubic metres of water will be drained from the canal.

This project will allow Scottish Canals’ engineers to undertake a detailed study of the canal embankments to inform future maintenance of the historic waterway.

As part of the project, two open days will offer the public the chance to come along and see the centuries-old world that is usually hidden beneath the waterline, with Scottish Canals’ engineering, environment and heritage experts on hand to talk visitors through the hard work that goes into caring for the incredible infrastructure and varied habitats of the Union Canal.

On the 17th of January, visitors will be able to see the fish that call the Union Canal home being temporarily moved from the sections due to be drained; explore the wide variety of wildlife and habitats on the waterway with Scottish Canals’ environment team; and see the elegant engineering of the canal first-hand.

On the 4th of February, visitors can hear from Scottish Canals’ engineering team about how they’re working to safeguard the Union Canal’s rich heritage for future generations to enjoy; take a trip into the history of the waterway with a time-hopping tour of its construction with the organisation’s resident heritage expert; and have a look at the canal’s 200-year-old infrastructure as it exists below the water.

“The 200-year-old Union Canal is a much-loved asset that attracts more than 10 million visits each year from everyone from boaters and cyclists to joggers and walkers. However, many of them visit the waterway without ever seeing all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, and below the waterline, to look after the heritage, engineering, and habitats of the Scheduled Monument.

“The project we’re undertaking at Linlithgow is a fantastic chance for the public to see the scale of work that goes into caring for the incredible infrastructure of the Union Canal; glimpse the craftsmanship of the waterway’s 18th century design as it exists below the waterline; and take a tour of the canal’s history, engineering, and habitats led by the people who know it best – our passionate and knowledgeable engineers, environmental scientists, and heritage experts.

Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure at Scottish Canals

“We may be their custodians, but these canals belong to the people of Scotland and are there for everyone to enjoy. I’d encourage everyone to come along to the open days to see the Union Canal as they’ve never seen it before and learn more about the hard work we undertake to care for the built and natural heritage of this amazing asset.”

The open days will be held between 13:00 and 15:00 on the 17th of January and 4th of February, with visitors asked to meet at the Linlithgow Union Canal Society’s Mel Gray Centre at Manse Road Basin, Linlithgow, EH49 6AJ. Teas and coffees will be provided.

More information can be found here

Find out more about the history of the Union Canal

Notes to Editors

  • Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of five Scottish canals as well as the surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel. See or follow @ScottishCanals for more information
  • The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands, together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness
  • Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles
  • Today Scottish Canals is utilising these 18th century assets along with innovative technology to tackle modern problems. Through working with partners to create pioneering systems, Scottish Canals is helping to combat flooding and driving positive transformation in some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas
  • The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22million visits per year. See for more information

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