Celebration planned for canal reopening

A floating festival to celebrate the re-opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal to coast-to-coast boat traffic will take to the water this May. Pic: Peter Sandground
A floating festival to celebrate the re-opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal to coast-to-coast boat traffic will take to the water this May. Pic: Peter Sandground

Work to repair the lift bridge at Twechar will be completed this spring in time for a celebration to reopen the Forth and Clyde Canal.

The canal has been closed since early last year after routine inspections of the bridges at Twechar and Bonnybridge raised concerns over the safety of their mechanisms.

In July First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government would provide just over £1.6 million to enable Scottish Canals to repair the two bridges and carry out work at Ardrishaig pier.

Once the work is finished the Forth and Clyde Canal will spring to life this May as a floating festival to celebrate its re-opening to coast-to-coast boat traffic takes to the water.

Organised by Scottish Canals in partnership with various canal-focused voluntary bodies, the Lowland Canal Carnival is intended as a way to thank all those who helped make the case for additional funding.

It will see a flotilla of steam boats, yachts, narrowboats, rowing boats, canoes and kayaks travel through the canal over the Bank Holiday weekend of May 24-26.

Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley said: “The re-opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal to sea-to-sea traffic is a momentous occasion and there’s no better way to celebrate it than with a flotilla featuring the huge array of users who enjoy using the historic waterway.

“The flotilla will pave the way for similar events in 2020 during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters and again in 2022 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal and the 20th anniversary of The Falkirk Wheel.”

A trio of public events will also take place on the banks of the canal at The Falkirk Wheel, Auchinstarry Marina in Kilsyth, and Kirkintilloch.

The flotilla will gather at The Falkirk Wheel on the evening of May 24 for a festival of food, drink and music.

The next morning it will travel to Auchinstarry for another gathering, before setting off on May 26 to Kirkintilloch, and the final event of the flotilla.

Ronnie Rusack, chairman of the Canal Carnival steering group, said: “The Scottish Lowland Canals are there for all to use, whether on the bank or on the water, and I’d urge everyone to join us in celebrating our waterways at the carnival.

“It’s set to be a great weekend and is the perfect excuse to get out on the calm waters and traffic-free towpaths of your local canal, dress up and have fun, and join the hundreds of volunteers who work tirelessly to safeguard this wonderful asset and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.”

Boaters, kayakers, canoeists and paddlers looking to take part are asked to email robinhedf@hotmail.co.uk for further details.