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Coast to coast

Inland waterways; Millennium Link

Engineer John Smeaton's 39 lock, Forth & Clyde Canal, completed in 1790, was the world's first coast to coast ship canal. Flat bottomed puffers, many built in the canal's own half dozen inland boatyards, shipped coal from Glasgow's mines to fuel Grangemouth's ironworks. Timber arrived from the Baltic and whisky was shipped just about everywhere. By the 1860s, more than 200,000 tourists visited its 57km route - many no doubt day tripping up Falkirk's flight of locks to sail the Union Canal to Edinburgh.

This younger 1822 rare contour canal follows - to an accuracy of 25mm - the 73.14m contour level, so contains no locks - just 62 masonry overbridges. Built by Hugh Baird, its prime role was to extend the coal run 51km to Edinburgh.

The F&C was closed in 1962 when engineers opted to save £16,000 by routing the A80 at low level across the canal near Kilsyth. The Union followed two years later, severed by the M8 west of Edinburgh.

'It was a shame,' claims Ballinger. 'Another five years and both would have been saved, as their wider potential was already being realised.'

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