The spectacular Falkirk Wheel (right) makes it possible to sail from coast to coast again

City cruise

Getting away from it all doesn’t have to mean leaving the Central Belt, as Robin McKelvie discovers on a canal boat cruise between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

he reactions from friends

when I announced that l was embarking on a week cruising the canals between (ilasgow and lidinburgh ranged from raised eyebrows to concerns that there were parts of both where canal boats really shouldn't go. A week later I was a convert to a lifestyle that opens up unique perspectives ol‘ Scotland's big cities. l’ntil 2002 the journey was not eyen an option. What were once the main arteries between the cities. the liorth & (‘lyde and l'nion canals. were no longer connected and much of the waterway was infested with clogging weeds and that ubiquitous Scottish aquatic interloper. the shopping trolley.

That all changed with an influx ol

Millennium (‘ommission money. which helped not only to tidy up the canals. build new bridges and locks. but also to erect the lialkirk Wheel. the truly epic structure that now


40 THE LIST it re Aug; moi)

allows coast—to-coast trips.

Setting out west lt‘om l-alkirk on the l‘tH'Ilt & (‘lyde Canal. all doubts about the trip faded as a green cloak of trees and tields. which were to accompany most ol the journey. descended around our boat and we settled into a 4111])ll pace. There is something supremely relaxing about not only sharing the water with swans but being overtaken by them. and alter quickly mastering how to steer the boat. we eased into the sort ol‘ relaxation that modern lil'e rarely allows.

Next morning. alter a night in a local pub near Kirkintilloch. things took a surreal turn as we sailed through (ilasgow's outskirts. past

Mttt‘yltill‘s lowet' blocks and on to l-‘irhill stadium. before arriving in the city centre at our base for the night at the British Waterways HQ on Applecross Street. [p we popped like submariners for a curry

and a pint bel‘ore retiring to our

mobile home. with proper double beds. a stereo and TV".

lleading back east we took on the lialkirk Wheel. all Very impressive to look at but quite daunting when you are humbled right underneath.

Met‘cilitlly. British Waterways stall.

were on hand to do the hard work. and soon we were tip on the lock- l'rec l'nion (‘anal with only 32 miles between [is and lidinburgh. a marathon when you have overnight stops to enjoy in l.inlithgow and Ratho along the way.

On the linal run to lidinburgh. the greenery momentarily gave way to concrete bridges on the reborn stretch through \Vester llailes. but across the ‘l’rince (‘harlie Viaduct'

we were soon back in a world of

rowers. reeds and birdlil’e as we approached lidinburgh‘s West lind and the newly revamped l.ochrin Basin. Sitting proudly by our brightly painted boat at one of the new restaurants that line the waterfront. we were the talk ol‘ the lunching oll'lee workers who looked

on with more than a touch of jealously. as we eased alter the

swans heading back out on Scotland's l'orgottcn canal artery.


Black Prince clear 13.75)} to. yawn/nail)l;i<:lq)iint:o.(:o.tiki rents otit canal boats lf()ll‘ its base beneath the Falkii‘k Wheel. Boats (:atei il()ll‘ two to ten p; ssoiigjort; ‘.'.’llll initial ttiition and petrol included on all trips.

Saving money on travelling far afield means you’ve more to spend on a luxury hotel.

I GLASGOW Enjoy boutique opulence in the West End at the exclusive One Devonshire Gardens hotel. Each room is individually designed and contains all the mod cons you'd expect in a top class establishment. Just down the road is the accomplished No 5 restaurant. while for a more intimate setting. try the secret terraced garden at the back of the hotel. One Devonsni‘re Gardens. 0747 339 2007.

www. onedevonsni’regardens. com. From £135 per night.

I LINLITHGOW What is the point of splashing out on a delicious dinner at the Champany lnn if you can't indulge in something from its incredible wine list? And to solve the problem of who drinks and who drives. simply tumble upstairs to one of the sumptuous rooms where a comfy king size bed awaits. If you’ve still got space in the morning. yoo can sit down to a full Scottish breakfast then walk it off around the nearby loch. C/iampany Inn, l.inlithgow. 015306 834532.

www. cl rampany. com. From E,“ 105 per night.

I STIRLING Don‘t even consider this one unless you're feeling like celebrating a very very very special occasion. Cromlix l-loose is one of those unbelievable five star hotels in which you can dream of being a proper celebrity. With a proper soite to match. Best of all, there's a spectaCuIarly good restaurant. And boy. yOu can expect to pay for it. Cromlix House. 01786 822125. Surtes from E 755 per night.

I ST ANDREWS For golf lovers and fresh air enthusiasts. there's nowhere like St Andrews. The St Andrews Bay Golf Resort & Spa offers first class accommodation and facilities. including two golf courses. a spa and leisure centre. The hotel affords great Views of the sea and the lay estuary. and is in easy walking distance of the historic town. St Andrews Bay Go/f Resort 8 Spa, 0/334 83 7000. www. standrewsba y. com. From

S l90 for dinner, bed 8 breakfast.