Biking the Forth and Clyde Canal

May 3, 2012

After a bit of a sleep-in we got the mountain bikes out of the garage, having decided to cycle along the canal to the Falkirk Wheel. We weren’t certain of how far that would be, but Neil had given us directions from their place to the old Strathspey railway line to Kirkintilloch, where we would find our way to the Forth and Clyde Canal towpath.

The morning started out very cold and overcast, so despite thermal shirts, fleece vests, and Gore-Tex we were both still not warm. Riding along the old railway bed was very pleasant as it went through woods and fields. When we reached Kirkintilloch we found our way through some back streets and up to the canal towpath, where we turned right. The canal was quite busy in this section so riding along it was fun. Each time we stopped to take a photo a canal boat would pass us, then we would start riding again and pass the same boat. There was a family of ducks with babies, who scurried for the bank as the boat approached.

When we reached Cadder we stopped at the church and went looking in their graveyard. Some of the gravestones which we could read had dates going back to the 1600’s. There was also a metal coffin sitting on the grass; Neil told us that it was formerly used to forestall medical students from the Glasgow universities who would go to the churchyard by night and steal bodies for use in their research. While we were there Paul looked at the GPS and noticed that we had turned the wrong way when we joined the canal, so now we were heading into Glasgow. Oops! So we turned around and retraced our path to Kirkintilloch – a 10-kilometer detour.

The canal path continued on all the way to the Falkirk Wheel, passing several nesting pairs of Mute Swans, an osprey plunging into the canal, and numerous fishermen. After quite some time we finally reached Lock 20, and then only a few other locks before we arrived at the wheel. This wheel joins the Union Canal to the Forth and Clyde Canal, and it’s basically a high-tech canal lock which lifts boats up and down the significant height distance between the two. We had a bit of lunch while watching it operate, then headed back.

By the time we finally got back to Neil and Christine’s it was 6 pm and our butts were really sore. (We had ridden 65 kilometers.) We had dinner and spent the evening chatting, then off to bed we went.

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