Scotlands History

Forth and Clyde Canal

The earliest of four canals built in the Lowlands, the Forth and Clyde Canal was designed by John Smeaton, and opened from sea to sea on 28 July 1790.

At 56km, with 39 locks, it is the longest Lowland canal, connecting Bowling on the Clyde estuary with Grangemouth on the Forth. In its heyday, before the arrival of the railways, the Forth and Clyde Canal was one of Scotland’s busiest canals. It was heavily used by local collieries and ironworks.

The Forth and Clyde Canal connected with two other waterways: the Union Canal linked with Edinburgh to the east, and the Monkland Canal served parts of Glasgow and North Lanarkshire.

The canal was used between 1789 and 1803 for steamboat trials, including the Charlotte Dundas. In 1853 it went into railway ownership; in 1948 it was taken over by the British Transport Commission; and in 1962 it was abandoned and then passed to the British Waterways Board.

In 2000, as part of the Millennium celebrations, the Forth and Clyde Canal received lottery funds for canal regeneration. The Falkirk Wheel, a revolutionary boatlifting device, was built to re-connect the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal 25m below. The spine of a fish skeleton inspired the Wheel’s organic design.

  • A photograph of the Forth Clyde Canal.
  • photograph of a barge

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