Falkirk Canal Anniversaries

Falkirk sits at the heart of Scotland’s central belt and is celebrating two anniversaries in 2022 associated with the canal network in the district: 200 years for the Union Canal and 20 years for the Falkirk Wheel. With the opening of the Union Canal in 1822, Falkirk became a transport hub, as the new canal joined with the Forth and Clyde Canal, linking together the main cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Falkirk Wheel project opened in 2002, part of a larger project revitalising the two canals, as well as re-establishing the link between them. The infographic highlights the key engineering feats that can been seen in the district of Falkirk: Scotland’s longest canal tunnel; Scotland’s largest aqueduct; and the world’s first and only rotating boat lift.

Click on the infographic to enlarge it.

Falkirk canal anniversaries infographic

Union Canal 200th anniversary (1822-2022)

The Union Canal covers 31 miles, from Edinburgh in the east of Scotland through to Falkirk, and was the last of the major canals to be constructed in the country. It was known as ‘The Mathematical’ as it followed the contour of the land. This meant that the canal was level and easy to navigate, as no canal locks were needed until it reached Falkirk, where 11 locks were added to make the connection with the Forth and Clyde Canal.

The main purpose of the Union Canal was to transport coal into Edinburgh and products for agricultural use out of Edinburgh, as well as to provide passenger services. However, the commercial success of the canal was relatively short-lived: the opening of the Glasgow and Edinburgh Railway in 1842, which linked the east and west coast via Falkirk, quickly put a stop to these passenger services and also initiated the gradual decline in the canal’s commercial use. Finally, the flight of 11 locks in Falkirk that linked both canals was dismantled in 1933 and the canal was officially closed to navigation in 1965, with several parts being filled in and built over.

As the Union Canal followed the contour of the land, engineering works were needed to go under hills and cross rivers so that the canal remained level. Two engineering marvels were built to get the canal through and over major obstacles in the Falkirk area: the Falkirk Tunnel and the Avon Aqueduct.

When it was built in 1822, the Falkirk Tunnel was the only one in Scotland. With more recent canal restoration works, others have been added. Nonetheless, the Falkirk Tunnel is still the longest by far, at 630 metres. Three aqueducts were built along the Union Canal, the longest being the one that crosses the River Avon. The 12 arches of the Avon Aqueduct span 247 metres and stand just under 26 metres high, making it the largest in Scotland and second largest in Britain.

Falkirk Wheel 20th anniversary (2002-2022)

The Millennium Link project completely restored both the Union and the Forth and Clyde Canals. Part of the project involved re-establishing the link between both the canals by means of the engineering innovation that is the Falkirk Wheel. The Wheel, opened by the Queen in 2002, is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift and is 35 metres tall, taking five minutes to rotate the gondolas carrying the boats and barges from the Union Canal into the basin.

Find it in Falkirk

These three engineering feats, the Falkirk Tunnel, The Avon Aqueduct and the Falkirk Wheel, can all be found in Falkirk and the surrounding area. The tunnel is just a few minutes’ walk from Falkirk High train station, with the Wheel further west, about 30-45 minutes’ walk along the canal towpath. The aqueduct is right on the eastern boundary of the district, at Muiravonside Country Park, between Polmont and Linlithgow.





This infographic appeared in JONO Design e-news. The e-news is published once every couple of months and each issue contains a specially designed infographic.

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Find it in Falkirk
Union Canal 200 years

Scottish Waterways for All asked for permission to use the 'Falkirk Canal Anniversaries' infographic to promote the Flotilla 200 events marking the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal.

The infographic appeared on the back page of the events programme and on social media platforms.

Flotilla 200 social media example

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