The Forth and Clyde Canal, completed in 1790, was by far the largest engineering project that had ever been seen in Scotland. It allowed coal and machinery to travel East and grain to travel West. Passengers could travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh in greater comfort than by stagecoach, and it produced employment along its entire route. But it required capital on a scale previously unknown; it required the collaboration of Edinburgh, Glasgow and London; it required new technology; and it encountered its full measure of constructional problems. It took 22 years to build.
The Forth and Clyde Canal enjoyed half a century of success before it was eclipsed by the railways. Although the passenger trade was lost, and much of the freight also, the canal struggled on for another century before the rise of road transport resulted in its decline. Now, after a long period of neglect, and sporting the spectacular Falkirk Wheel, it enjoys new life as an imaginative leisure resource.
Thomas J. Dowds tells the story of the rise, fall and rise again of this landmark in Scottish history.