Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail
A great project that I’ve been involved in recently has been the development of the Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail or G2E. I’ve been working with Scottish Canals for about 18 months to pave the way for this project to happen, and over the past four months or so I’ve been working with Donald Macpherson of Explore Highland to actually deliver the project.
The Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail is an 87 kilometre route on the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals and was officially launched on June 27th. As well as taking in these two canals and linking the two major cities, the canoe trail also includes the iconic Falkirk Wheel.
Long distance routes like the West Highland Way and Great Glen Canoe Trail are there for people who want to complete the whole route, as well as those who want to take in a short section of the route, and the Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail is very much aimed at providing these two contrasting types of experience.
Developing a canoe trail isn’t like developing a long distance path. For a start, the canals are already there and there is water in them. So, the work to develop a canoe trail isn’t about providing the water. I would argue that it’s more about providing the tourist information and making it easier to get onto the water.
For me, a canoe trail is about providing all the information you need to paddle the trail, in one easy-to-find place. Where can you park, where can you get on the water, where can you stop for lunch, what will you see along the way, where will you need to portage and where will you stay along the trail? If you can find the answers to those questions and physically get your boats on and off the water, then the infrastructure surrounding the trail should make it easier for you to get out there and enjoy it.
As well as developing the information that now sits on the Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail website, the other major part of the project was installing about 30 low-level pontoons and steps along the route, so that it is now much easier to get a canoe or kayak onto and off the canals. These canoe and kayak friendly pontoons and steps also have the canoe trail logo on them to let paddlers know they are for their use.
That is all about the development of the trail, but there is something else that I really fundamentally like about this trail. I see it as having three distinct user groups, and I see each of these groups using it in roughly equal numbers.
The first of those groups is local paddlers and local canoe clubs. There is already a lot of use of the canals by local clubs, but the introduction of the low-level pontoons will hopefully encourage even more use and enable beginners to get on and off the water much more easily.
The second group of users will be young people being introduced to canoeing and kayaking through schools, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, youth schemes and outdoor centres. The route starts and ends right in the heart of Scotland’s two largest cities, so getting young people from Glasgow, Edinburgh and right across the central belt onto the water will be that much easier now.
Thirdly, there is the tourism aspect. The trail will bring paddlers into the area to discover the charms of the canals, to see the cityscapes and scenic secluded spots, and to contribute to the local economy. A four-day trip along the trail will make an ideal short break and there are opportunities for companies to offer guided trips and for accommodation providers to offer canoe-friendly services.
Some trails would be skewed towards one or other of these groups, but the Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail should be a fair balance of all three, and that is a real positive that should be highlighted and celebrated.
That balance between three distinct user groups is also reflected in the funding partners that made the project possible. Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) funding is all about making central Scotland a better place to live and work, and one way of doing that is by providing recreational opportunities and promoting those opportunities. CSGN funding is also aimed at generating economic activity and increasing income from visitors to the area.
Legacy 2014 funding for the project was very much aimed at developing sporting facilities and opportunities, and encouraging people of all ages to take active recreation. The Legacy 2014 funding for this project is a contribution towards ensuring that the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow do leave a positive and lasting legacy for the health of the nation.
As the Games get underway this week, it is great to know that the Glasgow to Edinburgh Canoe Trail, with its web presence, pontoons and investment from funding partners is going to provide a high quality recreational resource that increasing numbers of people are going to enjoy over the coming years.
It’s been a pleasure to play a part in its development and I hope that it will be seen in years to come as a genuine contribution to the legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.