Most readers will be familiar with some of Scotland's canals viz. The Forth and Clyde, The Union, The Crinan, and The Caledonian Canal but may not realise that Scotland had many smaller canals now defunct. Many of them are canalised rivers but still interesting examples of a previous transport age in Scotland.
The town of Dingwall initially sat on the coast, but silting up of the Cromarty Firth over the years meant that boats had to be beached further and further from the town.
Records suggest that the first stage of work on the River Peffrey was carried out in 1777, but by the early 19th century more work was required and the council set aside a sum of £100 for improvements. Between 1815 and 1817 the river was diverted and a new canalised route excavated through which the river now flows. These works eventually cost over £4,000. The seaward end was reworked in 1861 and traces of wooden quays are still said to be visible there today. The Fox
Campbeltown Coal Canal
A book on the history of the area states that James Watt was asked to survey a route for the canal in 1773 and it was a going concern by 1783. Part of it is shown as "Track of old canal" on the OS map of 1869. It ran from the coal mines south of West Drumlemble (now simply called Drumlemble), continued east passing to the south of East Drumlemble and then round in an arc past a quay at the woollen mills of Lintmill, looped north again and then round to Campbeltown. It ended at the Coal Ree or depot behind the Albynn distillery. It was a level canal with no locks which made for a faster transit. The coal was carried in horse drawn flat bottomed boats. It ceased to function in 1856 and it was soon filled in.
RCAHMS list a bridge as still extant and a slight trace of the canal bed at West Drumlemble in 1967.
Much of the route was later followed by the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway.
The Glasgow, Paisley & Johnstone Canal
Initially known as The Glasgow, Paisley & Ardrossan Canal, it was started in 1807 and opened in 1810. Silting of the River Clyde was becoming a problem for ships trying to get to Glasgow, and Ardrossan was identified as a suitable port for Glasgow. However, by the time the builders had reached Johnstone and built Ardrossan Harbour, the money had run out.
The canal started at Port Eglinton, just west of Eglinton Street in Glasgow. The end of the basin was beside Canal Street, which was renamed Mauchline Street in the 20th century. The canal meandered round Pollokshields and Dumbreck before passing through Paisley and further to Johnstone, where it terminated in the area of the present primary school, just north of Johnstone railway station.
It was approximately eleven miles long and having followed the contours of the land was notable for having no locks. This made travelling the canal much quicker. There are few remains although there is a section of the canal in Paisley in an area of new housing that replaced Ferguslie Mills. This section seems to have been much changed by this development as pictures elsewhere show as it was when a working canal. Another section was reported in Linwood but reaearch of 19th Century maps revealed that this was in fact a lade built to supply water to a couple of mills.
When the Paisley Canal Railway line was constructed it was built on top of the canal from Glasgow to Paisley, although some of the tighter curves were smoothed out.
In 1842 a start was made on a short canal to allow steamers to bypass the bends and shallows of the River Falloch at the top of Loch Lomond and allow easy travel between Ardlui and Inverarnan where there was a drovers hotel. The weather was extremely wet and the winters extremely frosty. There were also many heavy snowfalls. The canal was not finished until 1844 despite only being 530 yards long terminating in a turning basin and landing stage 300 yards south of Inverarnan Inn. It closed in 1868.
The canal ran east from the Carron Ironworks parallel to the River Carron for a distance of about half a mile where it joined the river through a lock. This was at the highest navigable point on the river at the time. About halfway along the canal a small spur ran north west to a brickworks.
RCAHMS dates the construction at 1781. This came from an inscription uncovered during an archaeological dig in the 1990s prior to a housing development on the site. It is believed that this construction re-used stone from a nearby beehive-shaped Roman monument called 'Arthur's O'On' (Arthur's Oven), thereby destroying it. Drawings of this structure, believed to be a victory monument, appeared in the 1743 book "The Lands and Lairds of Dunipace". The date of the canal's abandonment is not known at this time but both are on maps dating to 1864.
The Carron Cut
This was also built by the Carron Ironworks in the second half of the 19th century. This canal, also about half a mile long joined the River Carron to the Forth and Clyde Canal at lock 3. Its purpose was to create a shortcut from the Forth and Clyde canal to the ironworks avoiding a journey down to Grangemouth docks and back up the river. A small section at the northern end can be clearly seen on aerial photography and the rest of the track clearly identified.
When the Forth and Clyde was re-opened in 2001 a new cut was made slightly to the east of the original cut as the section to Grangemouth was heavily built upon. This new section retains the name of the Carron Cut.
This canal, SE of Alloa ran from the wharf at Kennetpans on the river Forth to Kilbagie, a distance of approximately a mile. It was opened in 1780 and was built to transport grain to the distillery there. It seems to have been abandoned by the middle 1800s by which time a tramway had been constructed in a straightline between the two points. Examination of old maps suggests that the canal followed a circuitous route and was in fact a canalised burn.
The Forth and Cart Junction Canal
Nothing remains of this canal which ran between the Forth and Clyde Canal at Whitecrooks and the River Clyde opposite the River Cart. An Act was passed by Parliament in 1863 but when it was built is uncertain. It was closed in 1893.
The purpose of the cut was to allow canal traffic easier access to the docks at Paisley. It followed the line of the aptly named Cart Street and Argyll Road which is now the main access route to the Clydebank Shopping Centre.
The Monkland Canal
James Watt was the engineer for this canal and digging commenced at Sheepford near Coatbridge in 1770. The plan was to construct a level canal from Monklands to Glasgow to carry coal, however money soon ran out and work stopped. In the 1780s plans were drawn up to join it to the Forth & Clyde Canal at Port Dundas, and to extend it further east to Calderbank. The two canals eventually joined up in 1791.
The eastern extension necessitated two locks to raise the level by some 20 feet and the western extension a staircase of locks at Blackhill. The latter became a bottleneck and an inclined plane was constructed parallel to the locks. Both can be seen on 19th century mapping.
The canal was closed in 1942 having been derelict since the 1930s and although a couple of quite long sections remain in water (2007) much of it disappeared under motorways in the 1960s, including the inclined plane and locks at Blackhill.
In the 19th century the Monkland was the most profitable canal in Scotland. It was also where the first iron boat built north of the border (Vulcan) was launched in 1819.
The Aberdeenshire Canal
Designed by John Rennie, started in 1796 and opened in 1805, the canal ran from Aberdeen to Port Elphinstone to the south of Inverurie. It ran for 18 miles, contained 17 locks, and carried both passengers and freight. It was bought by the Great Northern Scottish Railway (GNER), closed in 1854, and had a railway track laid along most of its length.
The northern section was later adapted as a lade to supply water to a papermill, and is shown on current (2007) OS maps as disused canal. These maps show several other apparently dry sections to the SE of Inverurie.
St Fergus and North Ugie Canal
This canal which started from the coast just to the south of the present (2007) oil terminal ran to the Rora area inland from St Fergus. It was abandoned in 1800 and there is some doubt whether it was finished. Notwithstanding this, it does appear on old maps as a disused canal. It was apparently built by Admiral Fergusson of Pitfour who wanted to transport shell sand from the Scotstoun Head north of Peterhead to his estate probably to help drain the land. Some sections are identified on contemporary OS maps (2007).
The Fleet Canal
Gatehouse of Fleet was some distance up the River Fleet and as boats became larger it became more difficult to get them close to the town. In 1824 Alexander Murray of Broughton decided to dig a cut to the sea bypassing most of the obstacles in the river, and brought over men who were in arrears of rent from his estates in Donegal for the project. The cut was 1,440 yards long and ended at Port McAdam where the wharf was in use up to the 1930s. It has now been restored for leisure boating. The canal is shown on current OS Mapping (2007).
Beside the landing stage for the ferry at Renfrew is a small tidal basin, known as the Pudzeoch Basin. What is not well known is that a section of canal ran half a mile or so south from here beside Ferry Road. When it was constructed is unknown as it is not recorded in official records. By 1924, part of it had already been filled in and by 1939 all of it except the basin had been filled in. By this time the basin had also been widened.
Local folklore has it that it was intended to join up with the Glasgow to Ardrossan Canal. Its existence would seem to be verified not only by 19th century mapping, but also by a Renfrew Council report on plans to develop the river bank which refer to consolidating the ground beside the Pudzeoch Canal.
In the 18th century a number of coal pits were operating in the Stevenston area and most of their production was being exported to Ireland. In 1770 Robert Reid Cunningham inherited the local estate and decided to dig a canal to facilitate these exports. The canal started from a basin 600 yards from Saltcoats harbour and travelled south for about two and a quarter miles ending near Ardeer. It was completed in 1772. It had no locks and so was quite a fast canal. Several side arms were dug to service new pits as they opened. It was abandoned in the 1830s.
Tarbet Loch Long Canal
Whether this canal progressed from a planned development to any actual construction is not known. RCAHMS listing NN30SW36 gives little further information and indicates a site on the Tarbet Burn which in any case runs in a straight line at that point.
White Cart Canal
This is further described along with the White Cart Bridge.
In the 18th century the town of Borrowstowness or Bo'ness as we know it today was a major Scottish port and the local merchants wanted to build a canal from the Broomielaw to the town. However, they were forced to accept a junction from the Forth & Clyde canal end at Grangemouth instead. An Act of Parliament was raised in 1768 to allow a 7 mile 7 foot deep canal to be constructed. James Watt was commissioned to survey the route although it took until 1772 to do this and a further 10 years before subscriptions to pay for the construction were raised.
The cost of the project was underestimated massively and the initial money ran out within a year so a further Act was raised to allow funding for the completion. However by 1796 it was still not finished and the decision was taken to abandon the project. Maps from 100 years later show no sign of the canal at all so no visible signs are believed to exist today.
The first Carlingwark canal was dug in 1765 to join Carlingwark Loch near Castledouglas to the river Dee. It is still visible on current (2007) OS maps where it is called Carlingwark Lane despite being a waterway. As a result of this cut the water level of the loch was reduced allowing marl to be dug. Marl was a clay with a high lime content and used at the time as a soil conditioner. The marl was transported out on the canal.
Reports refer to a second canal being dug in 1768 to bypass a fast flowing section of the river. This section is still clearly visible just south of Glenlochar barrage and bridge, especially when the river is high. It is believed to have had at least one lock.
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