- Distance: 55 miles. The total distance along the canal towpath from Bowling to Fountainbridge is 62 miles.
- Time needed: 8 - 10 hours
- Classification: Challenge
- Type: Traffic free, mixed surface
- National Cycle Route: 754
- Cycle hire: Lots in Edinburgh and Glasgow
A dedicated page lists any major route closures and diversions for the National Cycle Network in Scotland.
The ride is usually best done from west to east as this is the direction of the prevailing wind. To follow the full length of the canal, start on National Route 7 at Bowling, where the Forth & Clyde Canal enters the Clyde but note that this adds 4 miles to the distance given above. Pass through Clydebank, where Route 7 heads off alongside the River Clyde towards the centre of Glasgow and Route 754 continues on the canal, passing the imposing Maryhill Locks. Alternatively, if starting from central Glasgow, you can follow the branch canal north from Port Dundas for two miles until it meets the main canal at the Stockingfield Junction. Along this elevated section there are fine views right across the city.
Please note - it’s particularly easy to get your route-finding wrong at Stockingfield canal junction. If not paying attention you may completely miss that you are at a canal junction, and continue alongside the water not realising that you’ve joined a different section of canal. In particular to continue east you need to leave the canal, passing through a short tunnel (on road), and climb back to the towpath on the other side. If travelling toward Glasgow from Falkirk you won’t so easily miss the junction. A bridge is planned to solve the problem here.
After Stockingfield, you reach Glasgow Road bridge, a bustling boating, eating and drinking centre. From here, you shortly come to the beautiful Kelvin Valley with the Kilsyth Hills to the north and soon reach the Falkirk Wheel. Follow the path up beside the wheel until you pass through a short tunnel onto the Union Canal. Take care through the Falkirk Tunnel which can be damp and slippery, although it is now well lit. A bit further, on watch out for the Laughin’ and Greetin' bridge.
After crossing the River Avon, with fine views of the Bathgate Hills to the south, you reach Linlithgow where there is a boating centre. Continuing towards Edinburgh, look out for the steps up to the magnificent Edinburgh International Climbing Arena in Ratho where you can sit in the café and watch the climbers, or have a go yourself!
You enter Edinburgh through Wester Hailes where the canal was infilled, but was reopened as part of the Millennium project.
At Slateford, you join Route 75 which follows the canal for another 2.5 miles to its end at Edinburgh Quay at Fountainbridge. Continue on Route 75 for another mile to reach the Meadows and the centre of Edinburgh. As this is a multi-use path, please take care of other users and make Scottish Canals to remove or upgrade these barriers. The route isn’t signed at present and this is something else we will be working on, but once you get onto the canal, it’s hard to get lost!
Things to see and do
- The Falkirk Wheel
- Linlithgow Palace
- Laughin' and Greetin' Bridge
- Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, Ratho
- The Antonine Wall
This area map shows the National Cycle Network and local routes in this area.
Following discussions between Sustrans and British Waterways, the canal towpath between Clydebank and Edinburgh is now officially part of the National Cycle Network with adopted number National Route 754. The towpaths of the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal form a reasonably direct, almost flat and completely traffic free route between Scotland's two great cities.