Canal Carnival set to make a splash at the Falkirk Wheel

An armada of boats will descend on the Falkirk Wheel for a special celebration carnival in May.

The Bank Holiday weekend event will mark the end of the year-long blockage to boat traffic on the Forth and Clyde Canal caused by broken bridges at Twechar and Bonnybridge.

The owners of steam boats, yachts, narrowboats, rowing boats and canoes will be celebrating the return of coast-to-coast canal access, and events will also be staged at Auchinstarry Marina at Croy, and Kirkintilloch in East Dunbartonshire.

Work began earlier this week to reinstate faulty lift bridges at Twechar and Bonnybridge, which have been out of commission on safety grounds.

Scottish Canals had argued cash restraints were responsible for the delay to repairs, and last year a £1.625m bail-out from the Scottish Government finally allowed the work to proceed.

Completed repairs will be tested on both bridges in early spring, ahead of the newly-announced festival on the weekend of May 24 to 26.

Scottish Canals says its carnival, supported by voluntary bodies, is inspired by the award-winning events held to celebrate the tenth anniversaries of the opening of the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Falkirk Wheel.

It also recognises the success in attracting Scottish Government funds to restore the bridges to full working order - and is a thankyou to those who made the case for the cash grant.

Catherine Topley, chief executive of Scottish Canals, said: “The reopening of the Forth & Clyde Canal to sea-to-sea traffic is a momentous occasion and there’s no better way to celebrate it than with a flotilla featuring the huge array of users who enjoy using the historic waterway.

“The Canal Carnival is the ideal way to showcase our vibrant, thriving waterways and the fantastic destinations along their banks.

The flotilla will pave the way for similar events in 2020 during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters and again in 2022 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal and the 20th anniversary of The Falkirk Wheel”.

She added: “The canal is as relevant today as it was when it was first carved across the heart of Scotland 250 years ago, and continues to deliver lasting health, social, and environmental benefits for the communities on its banks.

“Ensuring continued usage by boats is a vital part of protecting that legacy into the future.

The flotilla will gather at The Falkirk Wheel on the evening of Friday May 24th for a festival of food, drink and music.

On the morning of Saturday May 25 the boat action moves to Auchinstarry for another gathering, before setting off on Sunday May 26 to Kirkintilloch.

Ronnie Rusack, chairman of the Canal Carnival steering group, said: “The Scottish Lowland Canals are there for all to use, whether on the bank or on the water, and I’d urge everyone to join us in celebrating our waterways at the carnival.

“It’s set to be a great weekend and is the perfect excuse to get out on the calm waters and traffic-free towpaths of your local canal, dress up and have fun, and join the hundreds of volunteers who work tirelessly to safeguard this wonderful asset and preserve it for future generations to enjoy.”

Boaters, kayakers, canoeists and paddlers looking to take part in the event are asked to email [email protected] for further details.