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Discovering the fun of Scotland’s famed Union Canal because it celebrates its 2 hundredth anniversary

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Marking its 2 hundredth anniversary this 12 months, the calmly winding Union Canal provides a smooth route for narrowboats to navigate — but there have been choppy waters in its history.

The canal opened in 1822 and was used to haul coal to Edinburgh along a 31-mile course that starts in Falkirk. For 20 years, it enjoyed a boom time, then disaster struck: the approaching of the railway.

The opening of the Edinburgh and Glasgow line in 1842 forged doubt on the necessity for the Union Canal and, eventually, after staggering together with limited services for years, business operations ceased in 1933.

Serene: Tom Chesshyre explored Scotland’s historic Union Canal by boat, sailing from Falkirk to Edinburgh. Pictured is a bit of the waterway near the village of Ratho (file photo)

Locks were filled in and the canal was silted up. Then a miracle happened: £32 million from the National Lottery-funded Millennium Commission plus further fundraising resulted within the clearing of the waters and the creation of a unprecedented mechanical link, often known as the Falkirk Wheel, to exchange a series of steep locks.

The Union Canal was back in business. But as an alternative of coal, the cargo nowadays is tourists. You learn all this and more on the waterside Canal Museum at Linlithgow, on the path to Edinburgh.

An eight-minute walk away is Linlithgow Palace, created by James I in 1424 as a ‘pleasure palace’ — slightly than a castle with fortifications — to impress his nobles and assert his authority. It’s halfway between Edinburgh and Stirling and sits beside a picturesque loch.

The Union Canal was transformed with the creation of an extraordinary mechanical link, known as the Falkirk Wheel (pictured), to replace a series of steep locks, Tom reveals

The Union Canal was transformed with the creation of a unprecedented mechanical link, often known as the Falkirk Wheel (pictured), to exchange a series of steep locks, Tom reveals 

Tom stopped at Linlithgow to explore Linlithgow Palace, where Mary, Queen of Scots was born in 1542.'There’s a statue of her (above) at the front,' he says

Tom stopped at Linlithgow to explore Linlithgow Palace, where Mary, Queen of Scots was born in 1542.’There’s a statue of her (above) on the front,’ he says

His scheme worked, with future kings also having fun with its effect: James IV welcomed the Spanish ambassador there, while James V built a grand gateway with a view to make the doorway to the royal court much more impressive.

This was where the kings and queens of Scotland within the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries got here to play.

Mary, Queen of Scots was born on the palace in 1542, and there’s a statue of her on the front.

Sadly, within the seventeenth century the palace was kind of abandoned and it’s now a shell of its former self.

To succeed in its fenced-off stays you walk down a hill from the canal and thru the center of Linlithgow — a square often known as The Cross.

This meeting place has seen markets, public proclamations and executions through the years. On one side was once the Golden Cross Tavern, where the poet Robert Burns attended a gathering of the local Masonic Lodge in 1787.

All that is still of this today is a carved stone pediment fixed to a contemporary constructing. But there are many other inns — the 4 Marys serves decent ales and hearty haggis-and-potato pies. It’s named after 4 ladies-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots and the constructing dates back to the 1500s.

Linlithgow Palace, pictured, was created by James I in 1424 as a ‘pleasure palace’ — rather than a castle with fortifications — to impress his nobles and assert his authority, Tom explains

Linlithgow Palace, pictured, was created by James I in 1424 as a ‘pleasure palace’ — slightly than a castle with fortifications — to impress his nobles and assert his authority, Tom explains

Pubs are inclined to be an enormous feature of journeys along the Union Canal, as narrowboat holidaymakers will confirm. We actually found this to be true once we took to the water on our boat the Madeleine, a feisty 62 ft vessel from the well-run Black Prince rental firm.

There isn’t any shortage of advantageous hostelries here. The boisterous and welcoming MBK Canalside inn on Redding Road tells on one in every of its partitions the story of a tragedy in 1923 on the nearby Redding Colliery, where 40 men died when the mine flooded from old workings.

Meanwhile, the Tally Ho at Winchburgh serves excellent fish and chips, and The Bridge Inn at Ratho has great canalside views.

A part of the enjoyment of the Union Canal is the virtually complete absence of locks, aside from a pair near Falkirk. So it’s an important alternative for narrowboat novices (as we were).

There’s also a pleasurable learning curve in steering with the tiller, mooring, clearing the ‘weed hatch’ each morning and checking that the metal vice above the hatch was tightly secured.

‘Without that, you could possibly sink the boat,’ said the cheerful (and wry) Scottish Canals worker before we set off. ‘That may not be a great situation.’

But what really makes the Union Canal is the arrival into Edinburgh.

Would the canal founders from 1822 imagine their eyes in the event that they saw the waterway winding beneath bridges carrying dual carriageways, sliding between housing estates and ending up beside the gleaming modern apartments by Leamington Lift Bridge, with Edinburgh Castle obscured up above on its hill? Hardly.

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