Castlecary to Linlithgow

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Continuing the tradition of doing canal walks in July Jazz and I were doing the middle bit of the Central Belt’s canal network.  We were dropped off near the Castlecary arches and quickly reached the canal.  It was at about this point we discovered that the map was still in the car currently heading west. Well, we were on a canal and the John Muir Trail (JMT) that is sure to be well sign-posted: what could possibly go wrong…?

Canal-path garden

Canal-path garden

This section to Falkirk goes through places like Bonnybridge and I didn’t have high hopes of scenic splendour. This turned out to be mostly true except for one lovely spot where a local resident had spent a lot of time and money creating a canal-side garden. Sadly he recently died but his neighbours erected a memorial: I hope the garden is maintained as it was a highlight.

Lock 16, Falkirk

Lock 16, Falkirk

Local hero sculptures, Falkirk

Local hero sculptures, Falkirk

Culvert near Falkirk

Culvert near Falkirk

Soon we are at the Falkirk Wheel and its tourists.  It is an impressive piece of engineering connecting the two canals. However, my aversion to tourists and a lack of map and good signs here meant I took the canal less travelled by that headed into Falkirk.  We had lunch at Lock Sixteen with its sculptures of local heroes and an interpretation board with a map which kindly pointed out we were on the wrong canal.  So a bit of improvised bashing of the streets of Falkirk later and we rejoin the JMT in the lovely Callendar Park and then through a narrow culvert onto the Union Canal.

Union canal

Union canal

Jazz crossing the Avon Aqueduct

Jazz crossing the Avon Aqueduct

Viaduct over the Avon

Viaduct over the Avon

The Union Canal is the poorer relation to the Forth-Clyde Canal but has the advantage of having almost no cyclists.  The disadvantage is that it now goes through eyesores like Polmont, so let’s rejoin it at the next good stretch as we head for the Avon Aqueduct.  This is an amazing structure carrying the canal high over the Avon river: luckily it has a nice high fence so I could enjoy the view down and away.  At the end of the aqueduct the JMT parts company with the canal and heads down the woods beside the Avon.  It was here I realised that although the canal walk is fine, you can’t beat a real river for interest.  It also helps that the path goes under another of our friend Thomas Telford’s little creations: the long viaduct carrying the railway over the Avon.  This area certainly isn’t short of stunning civil engineering.  And so with a final confusion due to no signs, we are in Linlithgow Bridge with a convenient pub to help us cool off.  So it is possible to do it without a map – just not recommended!

Previous section of JMT: Kilsyth to Castlecary
Next section of JMT: Linlithgow to South Queensferry
Distance:26km
Effort:
Scenery:
Do It Again:
Duration:5 hours