I started my last day along the canal not at the junction where I had left it, but at the end of the branch line into Glasgow, at Port Dundas.
For a place I’d never known existed this isn’t far at all from the city centre – quarter of an hour’s walk north of Queen Street station, but on the other side of the various ramifications of the M8.
Regeneration around the Port Dundas basins was one of the things that the Millenium project which reopened the canals would have liked to do but couldn’t get funding for – the basin was reconnected to the rest of the canal, after having been cut off by the construction of the M8, but it’s just a quiet ghost at the back of various company’s yards – some of what’s here has been filled in, and I think some of the original site is under the motorway.
Using the quiet water for watersports is quite a good bit of initiative, however!
The entrance to the basin does have a good example of the canal’s original bascule bridges, almost all replaced elsewhere.
When this was built, it would have been still slightly to the west of a city based around the old High Street and only just spreading west into the Merchant City.
The view towards the west end shows you just how high up above the city, and in particular the river, this is – there hasn’t been a lock since the summit of the canal, and there are long flights to descend before the canal reaches the river way to the west.
After the neglect of Port Dundas, it’s quite a surprise to come round a corner and find Speirs Wharf stretched out ahead – again, I never really knew this was here, and I’m not sure why not.
The first building was built around 1812 to house the canal offices, until they moved to Edinburgh when the Union Canal opened 10 years later.
The warehouses are a bit newer, maybe early Victorian rather than Georgian, although there had been storage buildings on the site since at least the 1820s.
Half a mile or so on again is the ‘Old Basin’ at Hamiltonhill, the terminus of this end of the canal for a time while the last section was built. The buildings here are the oldest remaining on any Scottish canal, but if it really still belongs to the canal authorities, as a sign here suggests, then they should be ashamed of themselves.
It’s another couple of miles to where the branch joins the main line of the canal at Stocksfield junction – somewhere up behind Maryhill Road, if you’re trying to get there by land.
When the canal was in use, a floating bridge at the junction took horses – and people – across from one towpath to the other, but these days you have to slip down to road level and through a tunnel under the canal, to climb back up at the other side.
The flight of locks at Maryhill was built with basins to allow boats to pass when the locks were busy. This is the first and longest of three main flights along this stretch, but there are other odd locks as the canal drops towards the sea.
The Kelvin aqueduct, although quite tame in comparison to later creations, was the largest in Britain (or possibly even Europe) when it opened in 1790, and sent ships sailing past 70 feet above the river, becoming a tourist attraction. It’s not easy to get a good view of it, because of all the trees along the river banks!
I made it to the end just as dusk was falling, so I’ll have to go back to Bowling some time for a better look at the old harbour – although I think that every time I go past Bowling on the Waverley, and haven’t managed it yet!