Scotland’s answer to the New York Highline has been unveiled at Bowling Harbour in West Dunbartonshire with the transformation of a disused railway viaduct into a state-of-the-art linear park and walking, wheeling and cycling route at the western gateway to the Lowland canals.
The Bowline, the jewel in the crown of a £10m regeneration programme at Bowling Harbour, backed by funding from Transport Scotland, opened to the public yesterday (Friday 24th September 2021).
The Bowline connects the Forth & Clyde Canal towpath to the wider National Cycle Network (NCN), providing virtually uninterrupted off-road access from Glasgow to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
The fully accessible linear park boasts breath-taking views over the historic canal to the River Clyde and beyond. A new, high-quality access ramp has also been installed, allowing everyone walking, wheeling and cycling to access the National Cycle Network route for everyday and leisure journeys.
To mark the opening, active travellers, including a unicyclist, cyclist, child bouncing on a space hopper and mobility scooter user, made the inaugural trip across The Bowline, cheered on by newly appointed Active Travel Minister, Patrick Harvie MSP, project funders and local residents.
The latest addition to National Cycle Network Route 7 means everyone, regardless of age or ability, can walk, wheel or cycle between Loch Lomond, Dumbarton and Glasgow on a virtually traffic-free route.
The harbour will benefit from the growing number of people choosing to walk, wheel and cycle across the nation, as more people give up the car and take to active travel.
In 2019 alone, active travellers made over 145 million trips along the National Walking and Cycling Network (NWCN), which includes the National Cycle Network, Scotland’s Great Trails and the canal towpath network, spending almost £2billion and supporting around 27,000 jobs.
John Lauder, Deputy CEO of Sustrans said: “The Bowline is a great example of how we are working with partners across the country, with support and funding from Transport Scotland, to improve the National Cycle Network.
“Increasing the number of walking, wheeling and cycling journeys is a win-win for society: improving air quality, reducing noise, improving public health and reducing carbon emissions.
“As we face the climate emergency together, it’s vital that we work together to make it easier, safer and more attractive for people to walk, wheel and cycle by delivering high-quality projects like the Bowline.
The Bowline is the latest addition to Bowling Harbour, which has undergone significant investment to restore the age-old railway archways into commercial space for local businesses to flourish. The harbour is now home to several successful businesses including a gift shop, cycle workshop and a fan favourite café, all contributing to the local economy.
In the coming months more commercial spaces will open within the harbour including a flower shop in one of the railway arches and the reopening of Customs House, the once feared tax man’s collection point on the canal, as a holiday accommodation.
Catherine Topley, CEO at Scottish Canals said: “The opening of The Bowline marks a new era for Bowling Harbour, one built upon sustainability that everyone can enjoy.
“Active travellers making their way along National Cycle Network Route 7 can now take full advantage of the harbour’s regeneration. Our renovated railway arches host a variety of local businesses transforming the area into a hub of activity, creating new jobs and opportunities. It’s a special destination and one that is well worth a visit.”
The investment in Bowling Harbour will not only promote tourism, help tackle health inequalities and fight climate change by promoting carbon neutral travel, but act as a catalyst for further investment around the area.
Rob Dickson, Director of Industry and Destination Development at Visit Scotland said: “The opening of The Bowline is a fantastic addition to the region’s tourism offering. The hard work and investment by Scottish Canals and partners in the regeneration of Bowling Harbour will play a significant role in supporting Scotland’s economic recovery.
“Walking and cycling in such stunning scenery can help to sustain mental and physical health of visitors. Tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the well-being of everyone who experiences it.”
On its opening weekend The Bowline will welcome its first event when hundreds of people will pass over the newly opened structure as part of The Scottish Kiltwalk which will take place on Sunday 26th of September 2021.
Elaine Paton, local business owner said: “As a business owner that has made a significant investment in the Bowling Harbour across the past 6 years, I am very excited to welcome the long awaited opening of The Bowline and we are looking forward to welcoming lots of new visitors to the destination”.
The wider regeneration of Bowling Harbour was funded by; Scottish Canals, Sustrans Scotland, West Dunbartonshire Council, Coastal Communities Fund (administered by the Big Lottery), Historic Environment Scotland, The Scottish Government, Forth Valley & Lomond LEADER Programme (through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development).