4 reviews of Union Canal in English
Starting in Lochrin Basin at Fountainbridge (just behind Cargo Bar and Tesco express) and stretching all the way to Falkirk and on to Glasgow, the Union Canal is a hive of activity. The canal itself is used by canal boats, rowers, kayakers and fishermen/women as well as ducks, swamp hens, geese, swans and seagulls of course! The tow path is a popular commuter route for cyclists, and is used by walkers, joggers, parents with strollers and dog-walkers alike. Solar powered lights have just been installed on the towpath from Lochrin Basin to south-western end of Harrison Park).
For tourists, this makes a good stroll away from the city centre, with the opportunity to see plenty of wildlife (birds mostly, including ducklings, goslings and cygnets in spring) and flora. There are a number of good pubs and parks close to the canal, so it may be a nice way to combine a pub lunch or picnic with a scenic walk. YOu can connect from the meadows via Bruntsfield Links and Leamington Terrace or Viewforth. The canal and towpath are kept reasonably clean these days (except perhaps in one small area near Longstone where the rubbish bin seems to be rarely emptied).
I've been a cycle commuter on this route for a couple of weeks now (through the summer) and have not had any real issues. There are stretches of cobbles (mainly under bridges where the path narrows and across the viaduct by the Water of Leith visitor centre), so the ride can be a bit bumpy, and there a few blind spots as you pass under bridges, so a bell is a necessity. Bridges make a good place to shelter if you're caught out in unexpected rain, and it often leads to some enjoyable social banter with other cyclists and pedestrians also waiting out the shower! You do not need a cycle permit to use the canal tow path in Scotland.
I have used this route often as a runner and highly recommend it -- A good 10 km loop can be made by starting and finishing at Fountainbridge/Lochrin Basin, following the canal to where it meets the Water of Leith and the following the Water of Leith to Murrayfield/Roseburn, along the road to Haymarket and back to Foutnainbridge... though it is perhaps best to wait till the cycle commuter rush hour is over.
The tow path surface is in various places asphalt/tarmac, concrete, cobbles and shingle/loose metal, but is generally smooth so suitable for sturdy strollers. Near Lochrin Basin the surface is very good, so would be fine for wheelchairs. Be prepared for a few midges, small green flies etc.
Access to the canal is at a number of points, generally at most road bridges that cross the canal (except at Yeaman Place in Polwarth, there is no access from there).
Although having tranquil walking paths on both sides, the canal is not as popular as in the past. the Union Canal connects the two biggest cities in Scotland - Edinburgh and Glasgow, but not many people feel happy mentioning it. Among the constructors of the canal in eighteenth century were the notorious Burke and Hare, two poor Irish men, whose story is often told by tour guides on a casual tour around the grassmarket area. Burke and Hare plotted a plan for body snatching - they would make drunk visitors of the city, strangle them with a pillow and sell their bodies to the local Medical School against a big reward. Despite of the dark history behind, the Canal is frequently used for canoeing or rowing.
Landscapes featuring water are always tranquil. So imagine the degree of tranquillity when the water stretches for nearly 32 miles?
The Union Canal, one of Scotland’s two Lowland canals, took 4 years to construct, and is now popular with everyone from walkers, joggers, cyclists and canoeists, to diners on floating restaurants! It meanders from central Edinburgh all the way to the Falkirk Wheel. 240 feet above sea-level it follows the natural lie of the land – there are no locks. This flatness makes for an excellent cycle run – and is easy on anyone pushing younger sightseers in a buggy.
Along the way there are Scotland’s only canal tunnels, all manner of backdrops from woods to railways lines to bridges, and furtive wildlife – ducks, herons, water voles.
The canal begins at Lochrin Basin, a stone’s throw from the Grove Street tenements where a certain Sean Connery was brought up. This whole area is undergoing complete re-development as property once owned by Scottish and Newcastle Brewers and the North British Rubber Company make way for the housing and commercial premises of Edinburgh Quay. Strolling along you’ll pass the waterfront that will make a wonderful location for dining by Spring 2008.
Further along there is the Zazou – a unique restaurant hosted on a barge. Quarter of an hour’s walk from here you’ll come across 2 aqueducts, the Prince Charlie, and the larger Slateford Aqueduct rising 600 feet above the Water of Leith. Here you can step down to the Water of Leith heritage centre, or cross over Slateford Road to the Tickled Trout for great pub grub. Back up on the canal there are many other landmarks to encounter, including a 12-foot sculpture of Burke and Hare. These were the Irish navvies who helped build the canal, but became more widely known for providing fresh corpses for dissection to unscrupulous 19th century anatomists.
The canal runs past Wester Hailes to the city boundary, and eventually to Ratho, site of an impressive climbing centre.
This walkway provides a gentle stroll through the heart of Scotland’s capital. Whether you’re walking, biking , canoing or dining, the drifting currents will soon put you at ease.
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