We’ve decided to take the plunge this year and go for something a little more adventurous - the long drive up to Scotland and the prospect of the Falkirk Wheel and a wide canal has always seemed a little daunting, but there is a boat available so we’re going to go for it!
We set off from Worcester in the Midlands at around 9am, we think it will take us around 6 hours to get there with a half hour break. It’s pretty straight forward driving until lunch, when we reach Tebay services. These are no ordinary services, here you can find freshly cooked food and even a farm shop on site. Navigating through the glorious Lake District is really giving us a taste of the lovely scenery to come.
We arrive at almost exactly 3pm and walk down to the reception area to meet Gail – who enthusiastically greets us and takes us down to the wharf side and unloads our luggage onto the little trolleys provided. My husband, Simon, and I, then head on to our boat, ‘Lochan Ora’, one of the Capercaillie Cruisers boats, where we have a very comprehensive handover by the lovely Allan. He gives us a very useful map called the Skipper’s Guide – all boats departing from Falkirk are given this map and whoever does your handover, will very kindly write on it where certain points are.
We were apprehensive about the Wheel, but it turned out to be really straightforward. Once we’re at the Wheel Basin level, the lock gates are opened for us and we have to cruise straight into the bottom gondola. Simon is steering and I’m at the front taking pictures so I get the easy bit.
We are gestured out of the gondola first by the trip boat, and so we make our escape and complete the aqueduct that joins the top of the Wheel with the Union Canal via a short tunnel. There are then 2 locks in quick succession. Both locks are deep and leak quite a bit, but we get through them in no time at all and are away – no more locks now until we return. Next up is the Falkirk Tunnel – this takes around 10 minutes to get through – make sure you read the instructions before entering. The end is in sight, it’s about an hour and a half to where we plan on mooring tonight which is by a pub called the Canalside Pub and Grill – I can say we ate there on our way back and it was lovely.
We plan on going to Linlithgow today, only a couple of hours cruise away but we’ve heard it’s pretty and interesting so want to visit it properly. We cruise through really lovely countryside, just outside Reddingmuirhead!
Linlithgow is a Royal Burgh, in England this would be Borough, steeped in history – Linlithgow Palace is where James V and Mary Queen of Scots. Surrounding the Palace is a large and pleasant green area known as The Peel, and beyond that is the Loch where you can fish for Rainbow Trout, or try windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing and even a spot of sailing. There are numerous water fowl around – coots were building their nests when we were there and I imagine it would be a fantastic spot for the keen ornithologist.
That evening, having passed several promising bars and restaurants, we decided to eat out at The Four Marys. We have a delicious meal – I would thoroughly recommend it. Then it was back to the boat and a game of scrabble before bed.
We plan to cruise a full day today and get to Edinburgh in around 8 hours. Today the weather has improved and although still windy and cool, the sun is attempting to come out and that puts a whole new perspective on everything. We cruise slowly along, passing though wooded areas and open fields. We pass Shale Bings which are enormous, varying in height from between 30 and 90 metres.
We cruise in a large horseshoe shape so that eventually we can see the Bings we passed earlier in the far distance. We cruise into Ratho and moor up for some lunch. Soon we will be approaching Harrison Park, where we plan to fill up with water and it is here that we need to phone Edinburgh Quay to tell them we are half an hour away and will need the Leamington Lift Bridge raising to get into the quay.
The Quay is buzzing with atmosphere and it’s a lovely sunny evening, so we sit on the front deck. The next morning, unfortunately its pouring with rain, so we decide that the best thing to do is head for the castle and centre and get on one of the Tour buses.
I would highly recommend this as even on a nice sunny day, it’s an ideal way of getting round and learning a bit too – you can choose a recorded commentary that you listen to using head phones but we preferred the live commentary done by real natives of Edinburgh. This one just does the city – but there are others that take you out further and also include fast track entrance to the Castle, Palace of Holyrood House and the Royal Yacht Britannia.
We spend a fabulous day in Edinburgh – walking the Royal Mile, seeing the sights, buying whisky and tartan scarves and generally doing the tourist thing! Wednesday night we spend at Linlithgow again and then leave on Thursday lunchtime. Friday morning, we set off in time to be at the Falkirk Wheel for 10 o’clock. After we emerge from the Falkirk Tunnel – it was all very straight forward. We come down the wheel and then through to Lock 16 on the Forth and Clyde to turn the boat around to end up back at Falkirk Marina to moor.
It’s 3 ½ hours cruising from Falkirk to Kelpies, 1 hour to transit Wheel and Top Locks,4 hours from Top Locks to Linlithgow, 4 hrs from Linlithgow to Ratho and finally another 4 hours from Ratho to Edinburgh Quay.
We thoroughly enjoyed our week, have already made plans to come back to visit Scotland and would recommend this trip and Falkirk to anyone.
Marina: Falkirk Boat: Lochan Ora | Blog written by Becky.