Celebrating 200 years of the Union Canal

A group of adults and children on the Union Canal towpath, 1920.A group of adults and children on the Union Canal towpath, 1920.
A group of adults and children on the Union Canal towpath, 1920.
A line-up of events is being developed to celebrate the Union Canal’s bicentenary next year.

Edinburgh Council, Scottish Canals and partners will join to mark the 200th anniversary of the 16km waterway, which links Edinburgh with The Falkirk Wheel in Tamfourhill, and onwards to the Forth and Clyde Canal.

On Thursday, members of the Transport and Environment Committee agreed to take forward a programme of projects celebrating the history of the Union Canal, as well as renewing the vision for its future and accelerating landmark initiatives along the route. Members also approved recommendations to co-fund a fixed term post, along with Scottish Canals, to take forward the programme.

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Amongst activities proposed for 2022 are the refresh of the Edinburgh Union Canal Strategy, commemorating the canal’s heritage through various events including a special edition of the Edinburgh Canal Festival in June 2022 and work to secure a new future for the Lockharton Bridge Boat House.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “It’s wonderful that we’re going to be able to celebrate the Union Canal and its rich historical and social significance. Not only does it shed light on our industrial past but now serves as a haven for boating, walking, cycling and spending time.

“Over the coming months I’m looking forward to getting to work with Scottish Canals, Edinburgh Union Canal Society, our Canals Champion Councillor Gavin Corbett and other partners to finalise plans fitting for this iconic route.”

David Blair, Revenue and Regeneration Director at Scottish Canals, said: “Scottish Canals are delighted to be working in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council to celebrate the bicentenary of the Union Canal in 2022.

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“The Union Canal has a rich history, once powering the industrial revolution in the city, it has been transformed for the 21st century, and almost 200 years on from its opening it remains a hub of activity.

"The anniversary will not only celebrate the heritage of the network but will also create new and exciting opportunities for canal side communities to learn more about the canal's past as well as its present use.”

The Union Canal, which is managed by Scottish Canals, stretches from the Lochrin Basin in Fountainbridge to The Falkirk Wheel in Tamfourhill and was originally opened in 1822 as a means of transporting goods. It was closed in 1965 with the advent of freight trains and heavy goods vehicles but was reopened in 2001 as part of the Millennium Link project.

Other potential projects to mark the bicentenary are the formation of a canal-based ‘Blue-Green’ community development trust, launching a citizen science programme with nearby schools to promote biodiversity and completing the WaveGarden at Ratho.

While the programme will focus on the Edinburgh section of the Union Canal, discussions would be held with other communities along the route such as Broxburn, Linlithgow, and Falkirk.