Tam's Tall Tales

Review of Canals Across Scotland by Hamish Brown

Whitles Publishing - 136pp

Approaching the Falkirk Wheel

The excellent 'Canals across Scotland' is more than a dry history of the Union and Forth & Clyde canals which provide a link across the central belt of Scotland. The author has skilfully provided a plethora of information about the areas surrounding the various locks along the way, in a very readable format.

There is something here for birdwatchers, photographers, canoeists and as well as a tourist or anyone just wanting to go on an interesting walk.

There are plenty of non-technical facts and anecdotes. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh church at Queens Cross in Glasgow gets a mention (see graphic). There is an interesting story about the intrepid Italian balloonist who ascended over Kirkintilloch in 1785. These are just some of the nuggets that elevate this book from being a book of limited interest to canal enthusiasts (canalistes?) to a much wider audience.

A large percentage of the Scottish population will live within a few miles of the canals. I remember the excitement as the swing bridge over the canal at Temple, near Anniesland in Glasgow would open to allow a cargo to pass through the canal. As a young boy coming back from school, the delay to the bus was well worth the wait as the barriers rose gracefully to allow the barge through. Here's a link to details of the bridge Temple Bridge, Forth and Clyde Canal, Glasgow

The sawmill next to the Temple crossing are long gone and in a way that is a metaphor for the changing face of Scotland. Where barges once carried timber and other heavy goods, tourists now walk in search of a place with a view where they can enjoy a panini and a glass of chianti or whatever.

The author has a easy colloquial style which makes this book easy to read and its photos and maps are excellent. The book is small enough to slip into a jacket pocket, it is packed with information and succeeds in being a really good specialized guide book. It is a revision of the first version which came out in 1997. A lot has changed since then with the opening of the Falkirk Wheel in 2002 and the construction of the magnificent Kelpies in 2013, so the book's revamp is timely and I hope it does well. The author has put a lot into this little book and I hope others enjoy it as much as I have. The graphic here shows a Dutch barge at Hamiltonhill

Canal Pictures © Hamish Brown

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
November 2015

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