“There’s a canal in Edinburgh?” asked my bewildered flatmate upon hearing about my weekend walk. Why yes, yes there is and it’s quite the hidden gem. Union Canal is 32 miles long and stretches from Edinburgh to Falkirk where it’s linked to the Forth & Clyde Canal via the famous Falkirk Wheel, a boat lift and engineering masterpiece.
In Edinburgh, the canal’s Lochrin Basin can be accessed very easily from the West End, just off Fountainbridge, behind a bar called Cargo. Ironically, you’ll see banners outside advertising Union Canal as Edinburgh’s best kept secret. Residents of Polwarth and other canalside neighbourhoods have many other routes to choose from as well.
Once at the canal, the canalside path on the right hand side can be walked or cycled all the way to Falkirk with plenty to see and do along the way. Along the few-mile stretch of the canal from the West End to Slateford you’ll find two cafe boats for refreshments, many greedy ducks to feed, benches for admiring the wildlife and passers-by and a couple of rowing and canoe clubs. If you’re lucky, you can also watch the beautiful old Leamington Lift Bridge in action, letting barges pass through.
Many commuters use the route to get to and from work on foot or by bike, families teach kids to cycle and row here, and ramblers come out at weekends to stretch their legs. Edinburgh University boat club practices here too. Union Canal path is quite the happening place!
In Slateford, the canal crosses the Water of Leith so you can pop into the Water of Leith Visitor Centre or choose to venture along the river path instead of the canal if you’d rather stay within the confines of Edinburgh city.
If you do make it to Falkirk in a day, trains run regularly between the town and Edinburgh. Or you could look into renting a barge for the return journey.
Alternatively, if you start your walk in Falkirk, you can check into the Four Sisters Boatel at the end of the day. The boatel is moored at Lochrin Basin and boasts rave reviews on Trip Advisor.
What else is there to do and see along the way? Do tell.