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Canal Boat Holidays in Scotland

Exploring Scotland from the water

If you’re looking for a lovely place to cruise, a narrowboat holiday in Scotland is the ideal destination for boat hire. Choose to spend a relaxing week cruising between Falkirk and Glasgow on boat trips, or alternatively you can explore Scotland in the opposite direction, heading east, on the Union Canal between Falkirk and Edinburgh for unique city breaks by boat. If you fancy a more strenuous short break you can reach one of these cities and return, or alternatively many guests enjoy a two-week trip here to take in both of these sights.

  • Falkirk Wheel, Scotland

Canal boating in Scotland offers you the opportunity to make the most of the beautiful Scottish countryside together with visits to the historical cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Originally created to transport coal, the canals in Scotland are now mostly used by leisure craft for 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.

Short Breaks for Caledonian Canal Boat Hire

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.

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 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.

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.

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 Childrens 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.

FAQ’S

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 Caledonian to 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.