Union Canal Short Break

Falkirk Narrowboat Short Break

Locks: 4

Cruising Time: Around 16hrs return

How to Book: Choose the Base Falkirk, Scotland and either the weekend or midweek option under Length of Holiday.

This relaxing short break from our narrowboat hire base in Falkirk provides an enjoyable three days to explore the Union Canal in Scotland.  You can enjoy three full days from either Saturday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon, or from Wednesday morning to Saturday morning.

Your trip to Ratho, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, will include a ride on the Falkirk Wheel. Once you’ve passed through the top two locks, you’ll be lock-free. You’ll then cross the Almond Aqueduct and pass through pretty canal centres like Linlithgow, before arriving at Ratho.

Falkirk short break canal route
Falkirk Wheel
Linlithgow Palace
Avon Aqueduct, Scotland

Falkirk to Ratho Cruising Route

The Falkirk to Ratho canal boat route is a beautiful and relaxing way to see some of the best scenery in Scotland. The route is 26 miles long and takes about 8 hours to complete (one way), with cruising times as follows:

Falkirk to Linlithgow: 4 hours
Linlithgow to Almond Aqueduct: 3 hours
Almond Aqueduct to Ratho: 1 hour

Total cruising time: 8 hours

The route starts at the Falkirk Wheel, a unique boat lift that connects the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal.

You do not need to book your outgoing passage through the Falkirk Wheel as your passage will be booked by the Falkirk marina staff as part of your handover. As soon as you are ready to leave, they will guide you to the first lock which is just around the corner.

Once through the lock you are in the Wheel basin, from there you will be directed to cruise into the bottom gondola of the wheel. The wheel closes at 6.00pm in June, July and August, 5pm at other times on a Monday to Friday. Once you are in the gondola you need to tie off at both the bow and stern and then remain on the boat whilst the wheel turn. There’s plenty of time to admire the views! Staff will tell you when to leave the gondola when you reach the top of the Falkirk Wheel, twenty two metres up.

The canal leaves the wheel on a modern aqueduct which passes above a lovely park and continues to the the newly built Roughcastle Tunnel. This tunnel takes the canal a short distance under woodland before coming out to a sharp left turn and going immediately into a two lock flight which are the only locks found on the Union Canal. All locks on the Scottish canals are manned, so you do not need to get off the boat to open and close these.

You’ll continue on to the Falkirk Tunnel, which is 640 metres in length before continuing on along the route out of Falkirk. You can moor up anywhere along the canal side (away from water points and bridges), and past the tunnel is a good place to stop and restock of supplies from nearby shops, plus eat at canal side pubs.

The route becomes more rural as the canal heads eastwards away from Falkirk past Brightons and Polmont and you’ll soon come across the twenty-six metre tall twelve arched Avon Aqueduct, the second longest in Britain. Boaters will be relieved to know that, unlike the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal that only has railings on one side and a heart-stopping drop on the other, there are railings and brickwork towpaths on both sides of this impressive structure as it carries you high over the valley floor below.

There is a short journey towards Linlithgow from here, and this is a lovely place to stop and explore and restock on provisions.

Linlithgow is famous for its palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. The palace was one of the principal residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries and is now a recommended visitor attraction in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. There is an entry fee to visit, but it’s relatively low and good value.

Other attractions in Linlithgow include the Church of St Michael, which was built in the 15th century and is one of the most complete surviving late medieval churches in Scotland and the Linlithgow Museum, which is free to enter and tells the story of the town’s rich history.

The canal meanders on in a south easterly direction past Linlithgow towards Broxburn, another place to stock up on supplies, before continuing out of town through picturesque farmland.

Another feature on the Union Canal is the Almond Aqueduct which, although smaller than the Avon Aqueduct it is still an impressive 128 metres long and twenty-eight metres high with a five arched construction. Once over this you head into Ratho, a rural village on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

If you have time, you can continue on to Edinburgh, which is another two hours cruising.

Highlights of the route:

The Falkirk Wheel
Avon Aqueduct
The Almond Aqueduct
The villages of Falkirk, Polmont, and Ratho

To book this route, choose the Falkirk hire base in the availability search box, choose the dates and amount of people travelling you and you can check which boats are available for your dates.


If traveling from Falkirk a rover ticket will be charged by Scottish Canals for use of the canals. This will be a flat charge of £25 for any holiday over three nights. Use up to three days will be charged at £15. This ticket will be administered by Scottish Canals through their website and office. Payment will be taken on the first day of the holiday at the office in Falkirk.

Other routes from this base

Glasgow & Edinburgh canal boat holiday

136 Miles
14 Locks
1 Week Cruise
6 hours per day

Edinburgh and return canal boat holiday hire

66 Miles
6 Locks
1 Week Cruise
6 hours per day

Falkirk Short Route

22 Miles
6 Locks
Short break
4 hours per day