Canal cultural heritage

Canal cultural heritage

Do you want to know more about Scotland’s rich canal history or would you like to play a part in looking after this national treasure? Then get involved in one of our canal cultural heritage projects. Our projects build life skills, inspire people to get active, and protect and conserve our historic waterways.


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 work with us to look after, enhance and improve accessibility to our canals’ historic environment. As a volunteer, you can learn a variety of practical skills including:

  • 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 is run in partnership with Scottish Canals and we have strong links with Archaeology Scotland. There are activities year-round and we are always happy to welcome more volunteers. To find out more about Canal Works, please get in touch.

“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 run 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 include:

  • 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.

If you are a teacher or youth group leader who would like to know more, please email us.

“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 encourage people to explore everything the canals have to offer.

Would you like to know more about our canals’ history and heritage? Then come along to one of our guided walks, talks or events.

Our activities touch on all sorts including archeology, family history and engineering and they’re a great way to get up close to the water, the banks and the towpaths.

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

We also run events as part of Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Doors Open Days and local and national festivals, giving you a glimpse behind the scenes into the life of the canal.

Contact us to find out about upcoming events on the Forth & Clyde Canal, Union Canal, Monkland Canal, and Crinan and Caledonian 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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