Canal Carnival Armada floats in to Falkirk

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Scores of vessels of many different types are at the Falkirk Wheel stretch of the Forth and Clyde Canal this morning, in what promises to be a great free Canal Carnival.

But if you wondered what all the fuss is about, this picture tells the story.

Taken yesterday, it shows boats triumphantly passing under the lift bridge at Bonnybridge, which for more than a year was out of order - along with the bridge at Twechar.

Among the passengers was Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson, the Scottish Government’s transport secretary, who was delighted such an important local tourism and leisure asset is up and running again.

The blockage had prevented sea-to-sea boat travel on the canal network, which was claimed set to have a major effect on leisure visits to the area around the Falkirk Wheel.

Thanks to a £1.625m funding boost from the Scottish Government both bridges have now been fixed, and today’s carnival (with lead elements of the “fleet” due to arrive at Bonnybridge around now) is to thank the many groups and individuals who made the case for the extra cash needed to get boat traffic moving again.

Today’s spectacular will see events continuing until 6pm, and boats through Auchinstarry and on to Kirkintilloch.

Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley said: “The reopening of the Forth & Clyde Canal to sea-to-sea traffic is a momentous occasion and there’s no better way to celebrate it than with a flotilla featuring the huge array of users who enjoy using the historic waterway.

“The Canal Carnival will showcase our vibrant, thriving waterways and the fantastic destinations along their banks.

“The event will pave the way for similar events in 2020 during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, and again in 2022 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Union Canal and the 20th anniversary of The Falkirk Wheel.

“The Carnival shows that, even more than two centuries after it was first carved through the heart of Scotland, the Forth & Clyde Canal continues to play a vital role in communities on its banks.

“Thanks to Scottish Government funding, we’re delighted to re-open it to boat traffic.”