TAKING public transport to the start of a walk can be problematic – some main roads in Scotland are served by infrequent bus services and many areas are nowhere near a railway station.
However, when it comes to walking along the two canals which pass through Falkirk (and the town’s iconic feat of civil engineering which links them) it’s easy to let the train take the strain.
After getting off one form of transport you can very quickly follow another artery which once carried goods across the Central Belt. The Union Canal is now a place of tranquillity and its tree-clad banks – interspersed with views across Falkirk to the Ochil Hills – soothe the senses.
In 2002, the Queen opened the Falkirk Wheel, a huge Meccano-like structure which links the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal. This is the world’s only rotating boat lift and stands more than 100ft tall.
While it might sound a bit industrial, the Falkirk Wheel is well worth a stop, or even taking a boat trip up it. A return on foot leads along the Forth and Clyde Canal before an altogether more modern road links you back to the Union Canal.
The walk is perfect for young families as it is broken in the middle by the wheel, its visitor centre and a café, meaning tired legs can have a rest.
DISTANCE 4 1/2 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 120ft.
TIME 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 65.
PARK Falkirk High railway station is the start point of the walk, so the best way to arrive is by train.
IN SUMMARY Leave Falkirk High railway station by the west end of Platform 2 (where trains from Edinburgh arrive) and follow a green sign for the Union Canal down a surfaced path. Instead of going through a subway below the train tracks, bear left to cross a grassy area and reach the canal.
Go right, along the towpath, and follow it for nearly two miles to reach Roughcastle Tunnel. This 180-metre tunnel is lit and has a handrail to stop people falling in the water, so there is no need to be scared of the dark. At the far end is the Falkirk Wheel, and the canal itself leads to the top, from where boats are carried down to the Forth and Clyde Canal.
For those on foot, bear right to drop down to a path which leads to the visitor centre. At the bottom, cross a turning circle and follow a short path down to the Forth and Clyde Canal. Cross a bridge over the water and turn right to follow the towpath.
On reaching a series of locks – with the Union Inn on the other side of the canal – cross over the water via a road bridge and follow a road going right (not a small road leading to the pub).
Ignore signs pointing right for the Falkirk Wheel and keep going up the main road. Once under a high railway bridge, follow a track on the left, up to the Union Canal. Go left along the towpath to retrace your steps to the start.
REFRESH There is a cafe at the Falkirk Wheel visitor centre.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA Boat trips are available at the Falkirk Wheel (www.thefalkirkwheel.co.uk).