The historic Forth & 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 canal custodians Scottish Canals in conjunction with various canal-focused voluntary bodies, the Lowland Canal Carnival will see a flotilla of steam boats, yachts, narrowboats, rowing boats, canoes and kayaks travel through the canal over the Bank Holiday weekend of the 24th to 26th May 2019.

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 in East Dunbartonshire – the ‘Canal Capital’ of Scotland.

The Carnival, inspired by the award-winning events held to celebrate the tenth anniversaries of the opening of the Forth & Clyde Canal and The Falkirk Wheel, recognises the success in attracting additional Scottish Government funding to repair and upgrade Bonnybridge and Twechar lift bridges. The bridges were previously closed to boat traffic in early 2018 when routine inspections raised concerns over the safety of their mechanisms.

Works to modernise and repair the bridges, made possible thanks to £1.625 million additional funding from the Scottish Government, will be complete by spring 2019. The Canal Carnival is intended as a way to thank all those who helped make the case for additional funding.

Catherine Topley, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals, said: “The re-opening of the Forth & 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 Canal Carnival is the ideal way to showcase our vibrant, thriving waterways and the fantastic destinations along their banks. 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.

“The canal is as relevant today as it was when it was first carved across the heart of Scotland 250-years-ago and continues to deliver lasting health, social, and environmental benefits for the communities on its banks. Ensuring continued usage by boats is a vital part of protecting that legacy into the future. 

“I’d encourage everyone, whether they travel on our canals by boat, canoe, kayak or pedalo, to get involved and help us celebrate the reopening of the incredible Forth & Clyde.”

The flotilla will gather at The Falkirk Wheel on the evening of Friday May 24th for a festival of food, drink and music. On the morning of Saturday May 25th they will travel to Auchinstarry for another gathering, before setting off on Sunday May 26th to Kirkintilloch – the ‘Canal Capital’ of Scotland – and the final event of the flotilla.  

 

Ronnie Rusack, Chair 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 in the event are asked to email robinhedf@hotmail.co.uk for further details.

Updates on the event will be posted on Scottish Canals’ website and social media channels as plans progress and RYA SCotland will share updates on our own channels.