click here to return to the Millennium Link Resource Home PageThe Union Canal
8th September 2001

With the Wester Hailes section of the canal open, we decided to spend the day exploring the canal by bike.

We left the car behind and cycled the 2.5 miles to Haymarket station in Edinburgh, where we got the train to Linlithgow.
The Dumblane train had space for bikes, and fold-up seats for Hamish to rest up before the adventure

Linlithgow Station, we disembark. For a complete journey from the Falkirk Wheel you should start on the Union Canal extension (30th September 2001). In August we had cycled from Linlithgow to the Glen Tunnel. At this time the towpath has not been upgraded in parts of this section, so it is the least enjoyable stretch of the canal. Anyway, this section covers the rest of the Union Canal, from Linlithgow east to Edinburgh.
We started out cycle at the busy moorings of the Linlithgow Canal Society.
Heading out of Linlithgow we met a family in a kayak, then…
British Waterways moving 5 barges…
with one very small tug…
at slower than walking speed!
Our progress was then slowed by a puncture, we stopped at Priest Inch, I changed the tube, Hamish watched the trains…

less than a mile east, just before Winchburgh was this marker post which marked the "fare stage" or "division" in the canal.
On through Winchburgh to this slip just outside Broxburn for lunch. There was lots of activity on this section of the canal by workers increasing the capacity of the fiber-optic link that runs under the towpath. They were having lots of fun finding their manhole access points that had been buried by the recent towpath upgrading.
The new bridge that replaces the culvert on the B8020 in Broxburn.
Just south of Broxburn British Waterways were clearing weeds…

With the re-opening of the canal the British Waterways depot at Port Broxburn has become a busy little place.

Looking east to the new M8 bridge. The canal used to go straight on, but now turns right to gain sufficient clearance.
Looking back west at the M8 bridge, and below the bend in the canal from the east side.
The bridge itself is just round the corner in the distance.
Just before Lin's Mill Aqueduct, this water level mechanism is located at tow-path level. If the canal is full, you get wet feet!
Lin's Mill: This original Mile Post shows 10.5 miles to Edinburgh, and 21 miles to Falkirk…

The water level control on Lin's Mill Aqueduct itself, and below 3 pictures of the structure…

The last picture, and the following, were taken from the non-towpath side of the canal on the 29th September 2001.
The Ratho based "Princess" on the Aqueduct. On the right just after the Aqueduct is the main water supply for the canal, the course of this lade can be traced here, as a deviation from our main route east to Edinburgh.
After Lin's Mill Aqueduct, we passed Clifton Hall then the first of the 3 new Aqueducts built on the Union Canal, this one from 1976 when the M8 was built.
Concealed nearby were the wooden shutters used to isolate the canal at this Aqueduct.
A boat trip from Ratho heads west at Wilkie's Basin.
As we approached Ratho, one of the numerous "rests" with information about the canal located near the Ratho Inn and the Edinburgh Canal Center.
Another area of much activity on the canal, Ratho and the Bridge Inn.
This display at Ratho details the Industrial and Environmental heritage of the Union Canal.

Just past Ratho, another "division" in the Canal.
As we approach Edinburgh, two typical examples of Union Canal Bridges, now fully restored. Bridge 10 (above) and 9 (below)…

The Scott Russell Aqueduct then carries the Canal over the Edinburgh City By-pass. This was built in 1989, and could so easily have not been included in the plans, making it virtually impossible to re-join the losat section of canal through Wester Hailes...
The aqueduct named after the man whose soliton wave experiments made this section of the canal famous.
The Canal in Wester Hailes has only been open for 2 weeks, and people are enjoying being on the water and towpath.
Some of the wooden sculpures commissioned for the re-opening of the Wester Hailes section of the canal…

A bit of a tight squeeze, the canal nicks through where once only the road went.
As we continued through Wester Hailes we were stopped by a research company working for British Waterways conducting a survey of canal users.
I believe this faceless building was the pumping station for the canal when it was piped through Wester Hailes.
Further east the new bridge at Kingsknowe Railway Station from the east.
...and a few hundred metres further the lowest bridge of the lowland canals takes the main railway to Carstairs across the canal. The headroom is less than the picture makes it look because of the way the girders holding the railway thicken in the middle above the canal.
Looking down from the Slateford Aqueduct to the Slateford Viaduct and the Water of Leith Walkway, now also open, and increasing the connectivity for non-vehicle transport in Edinburgh.
Earlier in the year (February), before it was open to the public, this shot shows the new walkway from road level, including the Visitor Center at the right hand side.

The old (Viaduct on the right) and the very old (Aqueduct on the left) at Slateford. The Water of Leith walkway crosses under both at the bottom of the picture. After this the canal crosses the Lanark road by the last "new" aqueduct on the course, the Prince Charlie Aqueduct, built in 1937. This picture is a composite, taken on the 22nd June 2002.

Again, this shot, around New Year 2001 shows the canal frozen at the Aqueduct. No wonder the canal didn't make money in the winter!
Continuing further into Edinburgh city center, new housing developments ajoin the canal at Polworth.
Finally a few hundred metres from the Lochrin Basin terminus, the Leamington Lift Bridge, the only obstruction where work has still to start.
this picture taken in February 2001 shows the lack of progress!

Finally Lochrin Basin, the end of the journey. Within the last month the gates have been welded shut and the Edinburgh Quay development has started. The large red shed that used to be at the end of the basin has been reduced to a pile of rubble. In time all of this area including the large concrete office on the left will be replaced.

Details of the Edinburgh Quay development, a joint initiative between British Waterways and Miller Developments, can be found at

P.S. we still had 3 miles to cycle home…


Photographs: James Gentles