Exploring Scotland from the water
A narrowboat holiday in Scotland offers stunning scenery with a more ‘hands off’ approach, as all the locks and bridges are managed by the Scottish Canal staff.
From our narrowboat hire base at Falkirk, you can enjoy a relaxing boating cruise between Falkirk and Glasgow or head in the opposite direction on the Union Canal to Edinburgh. If you want to visit both of these cities then book a one or two week canal boat trip and enjoy both of these stunning places at your leisure.
Originally created to transport coal, the canals in Scotland are now mostly used by leisure craft for luxury canal boat holidays and offer a great variety of scenery on your route in comparison to other UK canals, including tunnels, the tallest aqueduct in Scotland over the River Avon and swing bridge locks.
Boating holidays in Scotland are tremendously popular, with routes such as travelling on the Forth and Clyde canal being a great way to enjoy the beautiful Scottish scenery.
One of the highlights of a canal boat holiday in Scotland is the Falkirk Wheel. This feat of modern engineering is quite breathtaking to see in action. It was created to rejoin the Forth and Clyde and the Union canal which had been split following the demolition of an 11 lock flight. Standing at 115 feet high, the Wheel is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift and was opened by the Queen in May 2002.
Canals in Scotland for Boat Holidays
Forth & Clyde
The Forth and Clyde Canal, an iconic waterway in central Scotland, was completed in the late 18th century. This ambitious canal stretches approximately 35 miles, linking the east coast of Scotland at the Firth of Forth with the west coast at the Firth of Clyde. It served as a crucial transportation route during the industrial revolution, allowing goods to be transported efficiently between the bustling cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The canal’s historic significance is mirrored in its architecture, featuring a remarkable series of locks, bridges, and aqueducts. In recent years, the Forth and Clyde Canal has been revitalized and transformed into a recreational and leisure amenity, providing a picturesque route for walkers, cyclists, and boaters to enjoy Scotland’s stunning landscapes and cultural heritage.
You can enjoy a canal boat trip on the Forth and Clyde from our hire base in Falkirk.
The Union Canal stretches approximately 31 miles, between Edinburgh and the town of Falkirk. It played a pivotal role in the transportation of goods and passengers during the early days of the industrial revolution, facilitating trade and travel between these two important locations. The Union Canal is renowned for its innovative engineering, including the famous Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift that connects it to the Forth and Clyde Canal.
You can enjoy a canal boat trip on the Union Canal from our hire base in Falkirk.
The Falkirk Wheel stands as a marvel of modern engineering and a symbol of innovation in Scotland. This unique rotating boat lift, which opened in 2002, connects the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal, reestablishing a vital link in the nation’s waterway network. Unlike traditional locks, the Falkirk Wheel uses a revolutionary design that lifts boats gracefully from one canal to the other through a 180-degree rotation. This extraordinary piece of engineering not only serves a practical purpose by facilitating navigation but also has become a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world who come to witness this incredible feat of design and enjoy the picturesque surroundings.
You can enjoy a canal boat trip on the Falkirk Wheel from our hire base in Falkirk.
The Crinan Canal, often referred to as “Scotland’s most beautiful shortcut,” is a picturesque waterway located in the west of Scotland, slightly north-west of Glasgow. Stretching just over nine miles, this man-made canal connects the village of Ardrishaig on Loch Gilp with the village of Crinan on the west coast, providing a stunning passage through the heart of Scotland’s Argyll and Bute region. The canal was constructed in the early 19th century to serve as a shortcut for maritime traffic, allowing vessels to bypass the treacherous journey around the Kintyre Peninsula. Today, the Crinan Canal is not only a vital transportation route but also a popular destination for leisure boating and a haven for nature enthusiasts who come to admire its scenic beauty, historic locks, and tranquil waters, making it a hidden gem in Scotland’s landscape.
The Caledonian Canal is located to the north of Glasgow and Edinburgh in the Scottish Highlands. The canal spans approximately 60 miles and connects the east and west coasts of Scotland, from Inverness in the east to Corpach near Fort William. This man-made waterway was designed by the renowned Scottish engineer Thomas Telford in the early 19th century. It threads its way through a breathtaking landscape of lochs, mountains, and forests, including the famous Loch Ness. The canal’s intricate system of locks and waterways allows vessels to traverse the challenging terrain, making it a vital transportation route for both commercial and leisure boats. Today, the Caledonian Canal is not only a testament to Scotland’s engineering prowess but also a popular destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts who come to admire its natural beauty, hike along its scenic towpaths, and, with a bit of luck, catch a glimpse of the elusive Loch Ness Monster!
The now-abandoned The Monkland Canal, situated in central Scotland, holds a significant place in the country’s industrial history. Constructed in the late 18th century, this remarkable canal was designed primarily for transporting coal from the rich mining areas of Monklands to the bustling city of Glasgow. Stretching over 12 miles, it featured a series of locks and innovative engineering solutions for its time. With the introduction of the railways, the canal lost business and eventually fell into disuse, being abandoned for navigation in 1952. Some parts of it are now preserved as a heritage site, and it still supplies water to the Forth and Clyde Canal but other parts have been filled in and urbanised.
TOP TOWNS TO VISIT IN SCOTLAND
GLASGOW | A Scottish holiday would not be complete without a visit to Scotland’s biggest city. Glasgow ranks as one of the world’s top tourist destinations according to the Lonely Planet guide and once you delve into its long history you soon start to discover why. You can enjoy a boat cruise here on your boating holiday in Scotland from our hire base at Falkirk to Glasgow on boats available to travel along the Forth and Clyde canal.
Coming to prominence in medieval times, Glasgow became a major shipbuilding city and port with links all over the world. Now, it makes for a stylish Scottish holiday with its great shopping, nightlife and world-famous art collections. Buchanan Street is one of Britain’s finest for high-street and designer fashions and leads to the Gallery of Modern Art on Royal Exchange Square – an oasis of calm after a retail overload. There are several magnificent museums and galleries in Glasgow, including the School of Art, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the People’s Palace – plenty to keep you going!
Across the year Glasgow becomes host to many festivals including the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Glasgow International Jazz Festival, Celtic Connections, Glasgow Fair, Glasgow Film Festival, West End Festival, Merchant City Festival and the World Pipe Band Championships.
EDINBURGH | On your canal holiday to Edinburgh, you’ll cruise the Union Canal up to Ratho, which is home to the Edinburgh Canal Centre; a highlight for canal holidays in Scotland. A popular stop, you’ll find a choice of places for shopping and dining. From here it’s an easy bus ride into the centre of Edinburgh where you can easily while away the day exploring this lovely part of Scotland, visiting all the lovely attractions. Most famous of these is the stunning Edinburgh Castle, sitting high on volcanic rock and overlooking the Royal Mile, the oldest section of Edinburgh and home to a number of important landmarks, tourist shops and lots of ghostly tours. If you have time, tour the Scotch Whisky Experience and enjoy the amazing optical illusions that are a feature of Camera Obscura – both attractions are close to the castle. A short list of other popular landmarks includes the National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill, the Scott Monument at the Prince Street Gardens and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Don’t forget you also have the famous Edinburgh Festival which takes place every year over the last three weeks in August. The city comes to life with every nook and cranny becoming a theatre venue, with live music and street theatre bringing real vibrancy to every part of the area. Early booking is advised at this time, as this is a very popular time to holiday in Scotland, especially for Scottish boating holidays. If you are looking for accommodation for the Edinburgh Festival then boat rental with Black Prince could be an option.
TOP NATURE SPOTS
LINLITHGOW LOCK | Popular for water sports and is also a notable spot for bird watching. It is three quarters of a mile long and makes a nice walk if you are in need of stretching your legs. Dominated by Linlithgow Palace, the loch is a spectacular place to fish with stocked rainbows released weekly throughout the season.
TOP SMALL TOWNS YOU MAY NEVER HAVE HEARD OF BUT SHOULD VISIT
On the Edinburgh canal boat route, your journey will take you through the ancient village of Linlithgow. This royal burgh lies south of two famous landmarks, Linlithgow Palace and Linlithgow Loch. Linlithgow Palace is arguably Scotland’s finest surviving late medieval building and was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. The grounds are home to a beautiful public park known as The Peel, worth a visit and a stop off for a picnics.
Heading towards Glasgow you should make time to stop off at the village Auchinstarry to explore it’s Roman fort, and then Kirkintilloch, which dates back to the 13th century.
TOP VIEWS ACROSS THE COUNTRYSIDE
If you cruise along the Union Canal towards Glasgow you’ll cross the magnificent Almond Aqueduct, which is 420 feet long and carries the canal 76 feet above the River Almond. Great views to be had across the beautiful Scottish countryside here.
TOP CANAL ATTRACTIONS
One of the highlights of holidays on the Scottish canals is the Falkirk Wheel. This feat of modern engineering is quite breathtaking to see in action. It was created to rejoin the the Forth and Clyde and the Union canal which had been split following the demolition of an 11 lock flight. Standing at 115 feet high, the Wheel is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift and was opened by the Queen in May 2002. You can go onto the Falkirk Wheel with a boat rental from Black Prince.
TOP KIDS ATTRACTIONS
The Water Activity Zone underneath the Falkirk Wheel offers canoeing sessions and fun with waterwalkerz – the giant inflatable balls that kids love to climb inside and try to walk in!
There is also a Children’s Activity Zone by the Wheel where the little ones can run off some steam in the play park and nature trail. The new Mini Canal and Water Play Area will give children and adults alike a really vibrant, hands-on connection with The Falkirk Wheel and the Scottish canals.
Visiting Scotland from overseas
If you are looking to enjoy a boating vacation in Scotland, then you’ve come to the right place! Each year we welcome visitors from all over the world, from the USA, Canada, Australia, all over Europe and elsewhere to enjoy this canal boat trip.
Many of our overseas guests enjoy either a short break or longer vacation in Scotland. You can choose a three or four-night break which you could easily tag on to the end of another holiday here in the UK, or boost the holiday to a week or more.
A seven-night canal boat vacation would allow you to visit both Edinburgh and Glasgow, if you wanted to spend a couple of days exploring each city then we would recommend a ten-day break.
You can reach our hire base at Falkirk either by public transport or by car. The nearest airport is Edinburgh and the nearest train station is Falkirk, you can easily get a taxi from either the airport or the train station. We provide free car parking at the hire base.
Dog / Pet friendly Boats and Boating Holidays
Dog-friendly boating holidays offer a fantastic way for pet lovers to enjoy a relaxing and memorable vacation while including their furry companions. Whether cruising along tranquil canals or meandering down scenic rivers, these holidays provide a unique opportunity for dogs and their owners to bond in the great outdoors.
Black Prince offers pet-friendly canal boat options, ensuring that your four-legged friend and other types of family pet can join in on the adventure. Your first pet travels free, there is a small charge an extra pet. We recommend no more than two dogs per boat as space for dog beds etc. starts to become limited. If you would like to take another type of pet other than a dog, please call our team to ensure that we can cater for it on board our pet-friendly boats.
Short Breaks for Lowland Canals Narrowboat Hire
If you’re looking for a short break on a luxury canal boat, then take a look at these suggestions for a three or four night break boat rental.
Falkirk to the Kelpies | Take the Falkirk Wheel trip rotation (approx. 2hrs) and then cruise east on the Forth & Clyde Canal (approx. 4 hrs). Meet the boat movement team at a prearranged time at lock 16, transit down through the 15 locks to the Kelpies before morning up and staying overnight at the base of the Kelpies. You then return on the same route. Please note that all locks are manned and booking is required for the transit down and up the 15 locks to the Kelpies.
Falkirk – Auchinstarry (West on F & C) Approx 4hrs | Meet the boat movement team at a prearranged time at Bonnybridge Lift Bridge to start your canal holiday (approx. 30mins cruising from Falkirk) and continue cruising through locks 17 – 20 (all manned) and up to Auchinstarry.
Falkirk – Kirkintilloch (West on F & C) Approx 6.5hrs | Meet the boat movement team at a prearranged time at Bonnybridge Lift Bridge (approx. 30mins cruising from Falkirk) continue cruising through locks 17 – 20 (all manned) and up to Auchinstarry. Once past Auchinstarry there are another 2 bridges that have to be opened for you Twechar & Hillhead Bridge.
DOES SCOTLAND HAVE CANALS?
Yes! Scottish canals are the Caledonian Canal , Crinan, Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals which are operated by The Scottish Canals. In total, there is a 137-mile canal network that The Scottish Canals maintain. If you’re looking for a unique boating holiday and top-rated week cruising rings, Scotland is an excellent choice.
CAN I HIRE A CANAL BOAT IN SCOTLAND?
Yes, Black Prince offer canal boat hire from Falkirk in Stirlingshire, so you can enjoy everything from a holiday on the Lowland Canals – the Union and the Forth and Clyde Canal.
WHY WERE CANALS BUILT IN SCOTLAND?
By the middle of the 18th century, the expansion of trade had developed so significantly that a new way of transporting goods was needed. The rivers in Scotland were difficult to navigate and land across land was slow and unreliable. The Union Canal, for example, running from Falkirk to Edinburgh, was constructed to bring minerals, especially coal, to the capital.