Forth & Clyde/Union Canal Towpath

  • Water play area at The Falkirk Wheel
  • Upgraded towpath by the Union Canal, Falkirk
  • Boats on the Union Canal
  • The Kelpies, Falkirk
Distance (km) Ascent (metres) Number of days
106 158 4 - 6
Start: Bowling Finish: Edinburgh (Lochrin Basin)
Linked to other Scotland’s Great Trail(s):
John Muir Way

Route type/direction

Linear: Bowling to Edinburgh

Going from west to east may put the prevailing wind behind you, but the route works well in either direction.


This trail follows the towpaths of two historic canals, the Forth and Clyde (completed in 1790) and the Union (completed in 1822), connecting urban and rural landscapes between Scotland’s two largest cities. It takes in the unique Falkirk Wheel, which bridges the 35 m/115 ft vertical gap between the two canals, and passes near the world-famous Kelpies. The Forth and Clyde Canal follows a similar line to the Roman Antonine Wall, sections of which are still visible, and originally had 39 locks. The Union Canal follows a contour line (at 73 m/240 ft above sea level) and has no locks at all.


Be aware

  • on narrow sections and under bridges, cyclists must slow or dismount for the safety of other users
  • some sections can be very busy with commuters, walkers, cyclists, dog walkers, anglers and others

The challenge

The route is mostly level, on well-made surfaces so it is relatively undemanding.  Most of it is equally suitable for walkers and cyclists, with some sections that are appropriate for horse riders – here is some guidance for cyclists.

The Forth and Clyde towpath follows the canal from the West Coast at Bowling, to the centre of Glasgow and Eastwards on to Falkirk, where it joins the Union Canal at the famous Falkirk Wheel.  From the Falkirk Wheel, it’s possible to visit the Kelpies, before heading on towards Scotland’s capital city, where the Union Canal leads directly into the city centre. Some of the route also forms part of the John Muir Way.


There is a range of accommodation options in the settlements along the route for walkers, cyclists and paddlers. You can find out more about these from VisitScotland.

Support services

Local taxi companies may be able to offer a luggage transfer service between accommodation stops.

Public transport

There are good public transport links to the start and end of the route and to most settlements along the way.

For details, visit Traveline Scotland, or, for the entire UK, Traveline. For travel from anywhere to anywhere, try Rome2Rio.


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