Cycling Permits No Longer Required for Scottish Canals

Posted by chdot on September 13, 2006

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You probably didn’t know you were supposed to have one! At one time it wasn’t possible to get a permit for the Union Canal at all, as the towpath was considered unsuitable. Since then free permits have been available – but not many people bothered to apply for them.

One reason that British Waterways retained the permit schemes was that it wanted to make sure cyclists were aware of its Waterways Code. Most towpath users (walkers and cyclists) are careful and considerate, but there are still some (who usually look old enough to know better) who expect to be able to speed and assume other people will get out of the way.

So feel free to explore the lovely Lowland Canals (Union Canal, Forth & Clyde and Monkland Canal) and the Caledonian and Crinan Canals.

The wonderful Millennium Link project improved the towpath AND restored several sections of canal (notably through Wester Hailes) so it’s possible to go by boat from Tollcross to Bowling (via the Falkirk Wheel). Even more improvements along the Union Canal are expected over the next year.

It is also possible to cycle from sea to sea through the Great Glen, using a combination of the Caledonian Canal towpath and Forestry Commission tracks (this route is only suitable for mountain bikes). British Waterways is currently working with the Scottish Executive and SUSTRANS to develop a coast to coast route suitable for touring cycles and hope to have this on the ground sometime next year.

The towpath on the Crinan Canal was upgraded a couple of years ago and is (for the majority of its length) in good condition for touring cycles. In addition there are many cycle routes managed by the Forestry Commission mainly for mountain bikes and plenty of quiet roads.

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