About the Canal
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History of the Canal

A quick history of the Forth & Clyde Canal.

When the Great Canal - as it was once called - opened in 1790, it was the biggest single venture undertaken in Scotland up to that time and a source of great national pride. It provided vital trade and transport links, with over 3 million tonnes of goods and 200,000 passengers being transported each year by the mid 1800's. Glasgow's Canal was at the heart of this boom, spawning industries such as timber mills, glass works and foundries.

Thirsty Work

Breweries and distilleries also sprang up along the banks of the canal in Glasgow, with Port Dundas being the largest distillery in the world at one time.

Trumped by the train

It wasn't long before the canal was overtaken by power and speed of the railway and sunk into disuse and disrepair. In 1963 the canal ceased to be a navigable waterway.

Millennium Link

The canal was reopened in 2001 as part of the £78m Millennium Link - the largest canal restoration ever in Britain. The project incorporated the construction of the iconic Falkirk Wheel which reconnected the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals for the first time in over 70 years.

A symbol of regeneration

Now the Glasgow branch of the Forth and Clyde Canal stands for the renewal of communities in North Glasgow.


historic boat on the Forth & Clyde canal

Related Information

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Top tips

  • Why was the canal built?
    It was built to join the Firth of Clyde on the west coast to the Firth of Forth on the east. Building a canal through the narrowest part of Scotland meant avoiding the risky and time-consuming sail around the north coast.
  • How long did it take to build?
    Constructed between 1768 and 1790. Work stopped in 1777 due to a lack of money, but started again in 1785. The canal was closed in 1963 when the rights of navigation were extinguished by parliament, but reopened in 2001 as part of Britain’s largest ever canal restoration project.
  • Who used the canal?
    Joining with the Monkland and Union Canals, a whole lowland waterway network was created. Cargoes of timber, coal, clay and sand were transported along the canal, and there was also a regular passenger service. The advent of steam brought paddle steamers and puffers to the canal.
  • Who uses the canal today?
    Yachts, cruisers, narrowboats, holidaymakers, canal societies, walkers, runners, cyclists can all be seen enjoying the Forth & Clyde Canal today.
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