A chance trip recently to the Forth & Clyde Canal in Scotland’s central belt revealed long sections of freshly laid tarmac on the towpath. On further investigation, it seems Scottish Canals has masterminded a project, with the financial help of Sustrans, to resurface many miles of towpaths on both the Forth & Clyde Canal, between Falkirk and Kilpatrick, and also the Union Canal, from Edinburgh to Falkirk. With a great deal more smooth tarmac on the towpath, it makes cycling the 60 miles between Scotland’s two largest cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh a delightful prospect. Until now, although some sections of this traffic-free route were smooth there were also many miles of stony, gravelly and gritty surfaces that made it difficult to ride on a road bike. Instead, many people chose a hybrid or mountain bike to complete the popular route.
However, with the new tarmac, this route is now easily passable on the smooth, narrow tyres of a road bike. The 60 miles will go by far faster (although there is a code of conduct when cycling on towpaths) and travelling between the two cities and attractions such as the Falkirk Wheel will be a much more attractive option for all types of riders. A spokesperson from Scottish Canals said: "We have attracted £4million of investment to upgrade many sections of the canal towpaths across Scotland. These are mainly in areas of high cycling and commuter usage. "Our aim is to increase accessibility to the canals for sustainable transport like cycling. We are working with Sustrans who have provided the funding and we are delighted by the progress so far." See Scottish canals Cycle Route
Scottish canal route – just like Europe
As I cycled the super smooth path between Kirkintilloch and the canal basin marina at Croy it occurred to me that, finally, Scotland could join the European stable of traffic-free canal and river cycling routes. I have enjoyed a few, including the Canal du Midi and the Canal de Garonne in France, and read about the River Danube and the River Moselle cycle paths. have always thought that if the canal towpaths in Scotland had the same smooth surface it would be a great thing.
Cycling a canal or river path usually adds up to an easy-going and enjoyable tour on mostly flat and smooth surfaces. Most also have good signposting and waymarking so you do not need to navigate, rather you can simply pedal your bike and take in the views. Now Scotland has its own high-quality canal city-to-city cycling route, too, and it has put a big smile on my face.