Straight Ahead

LETJOG – Day 42: Monday 28 June – LINLITHGOW to KILSYTH (20 miles)

Irises and water lilies, on the Forth and Clyde Canal . . .
. . . and a family outing

As 20-mile walking days go, today has been as straightforward a stroll as it is possible to enjoy, with all but a couple of miles at either end being along the metalled towpaths of the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. Variety though was ever provided throughout the walk by the diversity and antics of the water fowl, and by the abundant growth by the towpath, particularly in the 2/3-metre ‘wildlife strip’ running between the towpath itself and the waterway. Along most of today’s canal stretch this corridor has been left to flourish, un-mowed, providing a haven for insects, birds and small mammals, as well as a much-utilised opportunity for a diverse range of flowering plants, grasses and reeds.

Starting out along lanes, my route passed through Whitecross village for a sight of Almond Castle, before joining the Union Canal towpath. Views northwards on this section provided an interesting contrast of the far-off hills against the Grangemouth oil refineries, all as a backdrop to the rolling farmland between the towns and villages of this central region.

Almond Castle, adjacent to a former industrial site, and in need of some care!
Looking northwards from the Union Canal towards Grangemouth, the view framed by the distant hills

The Forth and Clyde Canal, that my path followed from Falkirk, was opened in 1790 as a 35-mile conduit for large seafaring vessels transiting between the respective firths on the east and west of Scotland. It’s initial importance was eroded by the advent of the railways in the 19th century, leading to eventual abandonment as far as commercial navigation was concerned. The Union Canal opened rather later, in 1822, mainly to link Falkirk with Edinburgh for the transport of minerals and coal. The latter waterway includes an impressively-engineered 630-metre tunnel near Falkirk, whose rock walls and ceiling nevertheless formed a rather dank section of my morning walk. The link between the two canals, the Falkirk Wheel, is an equally-august piece of 21st century engineering, and a popular destination for sight-seers and day-trippers.

The Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift linking the higher-level Union Canal with the lower Forth and Clyde Canal, is a unique construction that was opened in 2002 as a British Waterways millennium project – prior to 1933, when the waterways were closed to traffic, the 33-metre height difference between the two canals was handled by a flight of 11 locks
Cow parsley, my ever-present wayside companion along the canal-sides today, imparting a subtle and pleasing ‘summertime’ aroma to my walk . . .
. . . and a typical stretch of my afternoon path along the Forth and Clyde Canal

Reaching my hotel, The Coachman in Kilsyth, a little earlier than planned allowed time for some route planning and accommodation booking for the next few days along the West Highland Way. With the hills already in sight to the north, this next chapter of my LETJOG journey promises to be one of the most memorable!

2 thoughts on “Straight Ahead

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s