A colourful cavalcade of boats of many different kinds will launch tomorrow’s Canal Carnival spectacular in Falkirk.
From 10am crowds will gather to cheer on more than 70 craft ranging from coastal rowboats to kayaks, steamboats and Clyde Puffers - in the largest flotilla of vessels ever to ply the waters of the Forth and Clyde.
By 11am many of those boats will be heading towards Bonnybridge, and by lunchtime they’ll have reached Auchinstarry.
The landmark event is being staged to celebrate the reopening of the canal to coast-to-coast boat traffic for the first time in a year.
Until now the original purpose of the huge effort which rescued the old canal from dereliction has been frustrated by two defective lift bridges - at Bonnybridge and Twechar - which have now been repaired.
The Scottish Government stepped in with a bonus grant to pay for the work, which some critics complained had become stuck in a queue of other canal-related repair jobs across Scotland.
As frustration mounted, Scottish Canals explained in a strategy document how it was struggling to meet multiple commitments across a sprawling, antiquated network.
Now, says Scottish Canals chief executive Catherine Topley, the Carnival is being staged to thank all those who made the case for the additional £1.625m funding required to expedite the repairs.
She 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.”
Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson, who is Scottish Government secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, said: “Access to Scotland’s canals are important for our economy and for the many communities that benefit from boating traffic.”
“I’m sure the Carnival will be a fantastic event which recognises the importance of our historic canal network and the communities who value and benefit from our treasured and celebrated waterways.”
For more information, visit www.scottishcanals.co.uk or follow @ScottishCanals on Twitter.