The trail will start at the iconic Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boatlift which links the Forth & Clyde and the Union canals and has attracted global acclaim as an iconic piece of 21st century engineering.
Visitors following the route will then take in the National Mining Museum Scotland in Midlothian to learn about the country’s historic industrial heritage.
The newest attraction on the trail is Scotland’s first solar meadow, a field of around 2,500 panels launched earlier this year to power Edinburgh College’s Midlothian campus at Dalkeith and allow researchers to study how nature affects cutting-edge renewables technology.
The college has invested £40,000, which is expected to be match-funded by Heriot-Watt University, to pay for a research post for a professor to produce a range of teaching materials for the trail and public information for a dedicated visitor centre, due to be built at Dunbar in East Lothian.
The regional council and other local authorities hope to attract new technology businesses to join the trail as it develops, with the aim of bringing both jobs and increasing the numbers of visitors. Supporters hope that the trail will also be expanded to include existing attractions across the Central Belt, with Glasgow’s Riverside Museum already expressing interest.
Professor Steve Tinsley, vice principal of corporate development at Edinburgh College, said: “We already have significant existing projects for the trail, which will start at the Falkirk Wheel and include the mining museum. It will also feature the solar meadow, which has been sparking a lot of interest locally and overseas where we anticipate hundreds of students coming to see it.
“It ends at Dunbar, where the local councils’ strategic plans aspire to develop renewable energy projects and tourism.”
Scottish Canals, which runs the Falkirk Wheel, said the new trail would build on growing interest in technology.
A spokesman said: “We believe there is a great opportunity to use Scotland’s canals creatively and are interested in exploring ways that they can help roll out cutting edge technology. The Falkirk Wheel already attracts around 500,000 visitors a year and, as the world’s only rotating boat lift, is very popular with students.”
The National Mining Museum Scotland is home to the historic Lady Victoria Colliery and a new attraction entitled the Energy Lab which features innovative engineering in energy including a model of Salter’s Duck, the pioneering wave-power device invented by Professor Stephen Salter.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “Recent visitor figures have shown that attractions that have a scientific element to them, such as the Falkirk Wheel, Riverside Museum and National Museum of Scotland continue to whet the appetite of visitors, and another initiative such as the Solar Meadow might offer visitors interested in this field a further opportunity to see science in action.”