Scottish Canals is celebrating 20 years of transforming the Forth & Clyde Canal for the 21st century.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Forth & Clyde Canal re-opening as part of the £83.4m Millennium Link Project, one of the largest canal restoration projects ever to take place in Britain.

In the last 20 years the canal has welcomed the world’s first and only rotating boat lift – The Falkirk Wheel, and the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures, The Kelpies, along with millions of visitors who have enjoyed the canal by boot, boat or bike.

“The work that has gone into the Forth & Clyde Canal over the last 20 years has been incomparable. At the turn of the century we began works to reconnect the Union and Forth & Clyde canals from sea to sea, with the knowledge that these underused and derelict waterways could be harnessed and turned into something much greater and more meaningful to the communities surrounding them.

Over the last 20 years we have and directly ensured the investment of £500m into the canals of Scotland and seen over £1.5bn of regeneration occur along the banks, transforming these once abandoned waterways into national assets with a purpose for the 21st century and beyond.”

Richard Millar, Chief Operating Officer of Scottish Canals

Major ongoing projects along the Forth & Clyde Canal include the construction of the £13.7m Stockingfield Bridge in North Glasgow and the Bowline at Bowling. The development of the Stockingfield foot and cycle bridge will provide an important new connection between the communities of Ruchill, Gilshochill and Maryhill, improving access between these communities and also open up routes to the leisure and employment opportunities in the west end and city centre.

Scottish Canals’ framework contractor Mackenzie Construction has supported on a number of key canal regeneration products, most recently at The Claypits Local Nature Reserve and on works at The Bowline at Bowling. 

Contracts Director, Mark Wilson, said: 

“We’re proud to have been involved in many of the major canal regeneration projects that have opened up key spaces for local communities.

We’ve been working alongside Scottish Canals for many years now and are always looking at new and innovative ways to upgrade the historic canal networks to better serve the public and benefit the environment around us. We’ve seen some great results, from carbon friendly water monitoring technologies to enhanced climate change resilience and are excited to see what the next 20 years of canal innovation will bring.”

The Highline at Bowling – called The Bowline – will see the development of Bowling’s historic viaduct; transforming the former railway line into a fully accessible linear park and pathway that directly links the Forth & Clyde Canal towpath and the National Cycle Network route towards Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

Grace Martin, Director at Sustrans Scotland added: 

“The Forth & Clyde Canal towpath is a key route along the National Cycle Network, and we are delighted to join our partners at Scottish Canals in celebrating the anniversary of this well-loved walking, wheeling and cycling route reopening.“We want to see a National Cycle Network of consistent and accessible paths for everyone, used and loved by every community that they serve.

With support from Transport Scotland, our ongoing partnership with Scottish Canals has already seen transformative projects delivered along Route 78 (Caledonia Way), Route 754 (Central Canals) and Route 7 (Lochs and Glens Way), improving accessibility and experience for everyone choosing to walk, wheel and cycle.

We look forward to continuing our work to deliver more accessible, consistent and attractive walking, wheeling and cycling opportunities along Scotland’s canal network together.”

Supporting the outcomes of past and ongoing regeneration works, a global first study led by Glasgow Caledonian University in 2020, it was revealed there is a faster rate of decline (3% annually) in mortality rates in urban areas close to canals that have undergone major transformation and regeneration, compared to areas further away.

The research, which looked at the impact of regeneration along the Forth & Clyde Canal in North Glasgow highlights the significant physical and mental wellbeing benefits that can be achieved from investing in regenerating urban waterways globally.

The recognition of the 20 years since the Millennium Link Project began kicks off two years of anniversary celebrations which will see Scottish Canals mark the 200th anniversary of the Union and Caledonian Canals in 2022.