Canal Cultural Heritage

Did you know the entire canal network in Scotland is designated a scheduled ancient monument? Our canals play an important part in Scotland’s history and are over 200 years old. To help protect and conserve them, we ran three projects:

  • Canal Works – working with volunteers to care for the historic canal environment
  • Canal School – inspiring young people about our canal history
  • Canal Life – engaging people with the cultural heritage of the canals


Canal Works

There are an incredible 137 miles of canal in Scotland – dotted with historic structures including bridges, lock gates, cobbled towpaths, lock-keepers’ cottages, customs houses, distilleries and breweries. These are all over 200 years old and need constant care to conserve our rich cultural heritage for generations to come.

Through Canal Works, groups of volunteers worked with us to look after, enhance and improve accessibility to our canals’ historic environment:

  • Vegetation management to protect the canal banks and towpaths from erosion
  • Drystone wall repairs
  • Re-pointing of walls and bridges using traditional lime mortar
  • Rust removal and painting of bridges, bollards and lock gates
  • Graffiti removal from historic structures

This programme was run in partnership with Scottish Canals and linking with Archaeology Scotland. 

“It’s just really nice to be out here working on the canal. I’ve lived here my whole life and never knew anything about it.” 

Canal Works volunteer, June ‘18

Canal School

To protect the canals for future generations to enjoy, it’s vital to inspire young people about their cultural heritage.

Using the canal as a canvas for learning, we ran outdoor canalside programmes for schools and youth groups to discover and celebrate the cultural gem that is on their doorstep or runs through the heart of their community.

Topics included:

  • Investigating the construction and operation of the canals over 200 years ago and discovering the great feat of engineering that they were of their time.
  • Uncovering the history of the all the canals and the story behind the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s only rotating boat lift.
  • Bringing the historic environment of the canal alive through story-telling
  • Discovering canal artefacts through our Heritage Boxes which are filled with all sorts of objects found along the canal, from old tools and instruments to signage.

“I loved making the animation. It’s really helped me to remember the story of the canal.”

Primary School Pupil, October ‘18

Canal Life

Through Canal Life, we encouraged people to explore everything the canals have to offer. Our activities touched on all sorts, including archeology, family history and engineering.

Our canal walks were a good way for people to get active and improve health and wellbeing while meeting new people and discovering new things about the canals.

“So much interesting information, not just about the canal but about the role it played in Scottish history!”

Talk participant ‘18

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