Closed as late as the mid-1960s, less than 40 years later this vital sea-to-sea route was open again for the Millennium. Few boaters visit with their own craft, but hire-boats are available to explore a very different waterway to any in England or Wales.
It passes through a highly mixed landscape: pleasant countryside alongside the Antonine Wall on the 15-mile summit level; former industrial land and a fine flight of locks around Falkirk; the suburbs of Glasgow, with the impressive Kelvin Aqueduct and lock flight at Maryhill; and the Clyde Estuary at Bowling.
Plenty of largish locks (and a unique but remarkably slow drop lock) would be hard work were it not for the assistance of Scottish Canals staff who also operate moveable bridges, of which there are a wide variety, including a pair within the new Clydebank shopping centre.
A 2-mile branch canal takes boaters towards the centre of Glasgow at Spiers Wharf, high above the M8 motorway, but plans to extend navigation through to the former Monkland Canal basins have recently stalled. At the little-visited eastern end below Falkirk Locks, the spectacular Helix Park, featuring the giant Kelpies, opened in 2014 – offering a unique waterway experience.
Most hirers combine a visit to central parts of the F&C with the full length of the Union Canal to Edinburgh.