Cruise Scottish Canals with Hotel Boat Willow:The Lowland Scottish canals are quiet - with no queues at locks. They take us across Scotland, 'coast to coast', and link Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres - but in between the canals are largely rural, and often very scenic. Sometimes 'river like', wildlife abounds - we frequently see Roe Deer, Kingfishers, and occasionally Dabchick. This 'Cross Scotland' canal network consists of two canals - the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal, with the two routes linked together by the spectacular Falkirk Wheel. The routes are described only very briefly on this page, but described in proper detail, with maps and photos, further into this web site.
Charter Hotelboat Willow provides true private charter hotel boat holidays cruising on Scotland's lowland canals. If you come with us, you will be exclusively chartering Willow, along with your crew and hosts. There will be no other guests aboard. The guest accommodation is fully en-suite and all meals and cruise costs are included in the tariff - there are no hidden extras.
Our core business is the provision of full cruising holiday, short break, and 'weekender' hotel boat cruises (which include guest 'accommodation') but we can also supply 'One Day Charters' (ie Day Trips) from our moorings at the Falkirk Wheel. Typically such a Skippered Day Cruise would be to Linlithgow and back taking in passage up the Falkirk Wheel, some locks, the Falkirk Tunnel and the Avon Aqueduct. Lunch with morning/afternoon refreshments are all included. Click here for more details and the costs.
This first 'home page' of our website attempts to provide an outline of our service, all in one page, but can only do so in mere summary form. Perhaps a quicker way to get to the detailed information, is to glance down the menu topics on the left menu panel - and pick the information you want by menu heading.
Forth and Clyde Canal (in brief):The Forth and Clyde takes us from the Firth of Clyde (west coast) to the Firth of Forth (east coast). Over on the west side the main line of the canal passes to the north of Glasgow, but the city has its own 'canal branch' connecting it to the main line. The Forth and Clyde is deeper and wider than most UK canals, largely because it was designed for transiting sea-going vessels (avoiding the perils of a passage around the northern coast of Scotland). For much of its length it follows the line of the Antonine Wall and the Kelvin Valley, overlooked by the Campsie Fells just to the north. East of Glasgow, it seems to avoid most of the larger towns and is largely quiet - almost river like. Near to the east end of the Forth and Clyde canal we have the spectacular Falkirk Wheel.
The Falkirk Wheel is a unique piece of engineering which carries boats the 35m up/down to connect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. On the upper level the canal takes a short tunnel, literally through the Antonine Wall, and then up a two chamber 'staircase' lock to link in with the original course of the Union Canal.
Union Canal (in brief):The Union canal is mainly rural and a winding contour canal (following the 75m contour), often skirting hillsides with panoramic views overlooking the Firth of Forth and Ochils to the north and views of the Pentland Hills to the south. It features embankments alternating with wooded cuttings, high aqueducts, a grotto like tunnel, and strange features called 'Bings'. Passing through Linlithgow, the Union canal continues our route, west to east, directly into the heart of Edinburgh city centre (Edinburgh Castle and the 'Royal Mile' are a mere 15mins walk from the city centre moorings). For a professionally produced STV video clip about Edinburgh, click this You Tube Link.
With the Scottish canals there's loads of scope for attractive cruising, walking, and canalside visits, - not to mention the spectacular Falkirk Wheel and, of course, Edinburgh's marvellous city centre. Here is the page link again for the maps, fuller descriptions, and photos 'Cruise Routes.
The Private Charter Service:Because we are a private charter service, you the client can have a greater input as to the planning of your holiday cruise - both in terms of cruise duration and the routes taken. If you wish you can elect to make it a walking/activity holiday. Perhaps help us at locks, but only if that suits. Alternatively, you can do very little - just chill out and watch the canalscape glide by from our unique all weather centrally heated bow observation cabin. Remember all meals are prepared for you (and you won't need to wash the dishes).
Coming on a charter hotel boat holiday is very different to taking either a conventional hire boat holiday, or a traditional hotel boat option. We detail those differences and describe precisely the type of charter service we offer on our page 'What is Charter'.
Hotel Boat Willow's Guest Accommodation:On Hotel Boat Willow our guests have the exclusive use of our centrally heated guest suite. This consists of bedroom area with en-suite, and dining area with adjacent split level lounge. This guest suite is approx 30ft long occupying the whole of the front half of the vessel - with separate galley and crew quarters to the rear.
Have a look at our leather seated, all weather, glazed bow observation deck - it is pretty well unique (see the photos below the right marginal 'twitter panel'). So, even if it 'chucks it down with rain' or gets a bit chilly - guests can be comfortably seated in the dry and warmth whilst they watch the canalscape glide by. But in hot weather the bow observation cabin's side doors and overhead hatches can be opened to provide that 'airy feel'.
Of course the guest suite on Willow has 240v power facilities for charging laptops, and phones etc, TV, DVD, a quadraphonic music system, and a satellite mapping display in the bow observation cabin.
Before booking a canal based hotel boat holiday do check the facilities available and the accommodation offered (and compare it with the number of guests carried). We have a detailed layout plan of our guest suite (with linked detailed photographs) on our page 'About Willow'.
The Falkirk Wheel - Our new Scottish Base:So, after a decade of Hotel Boating on the English/Welsh canal network, we have brought Willow north to cruise Scottish waters.
Why we Moved North: The extensive English canal network had loads of cruising scope - but has sadly become very boat congested during peak times. With Summer Lock Queues of 3 hours or more now common on popular routes, and the problem of boats (usually privately owned) overstaying 'visitor mooring' limits at popular locations - our cruising business was in danger of becoming 'gridlocked'. So we've moved our operation north of the border. In contrast we recently cruised coast to coast on the Forth and Clyde canal and met only one other boat - and that was in August. It sometimes seems like cruising on a 'private canal'.
The Falkirk Wheel Base: The Scottish navigation authority, 'Scottish Canals' (previously 'British Waterways Scotland') have been very helpful with the transfer of our business north of the border. Currently we are the only licensed hotel boat cruising Scotland's Lowland Canal network and 'Scottish Canals' have provided us with an exclusive mooring within the main visitor complex at the spectacular Falkirk Wheel.
And spectacular it is - the design, structure, and engineering principles of the Falkirk Wheel are unique. After dark the 'Wheel' is illuminated with spectacular lighting effects - the reflections on the waters surface at our mooring can be stunning. The Falkirk Wheel forms the junction between the Forth and Clyde canal and the Union canal, so its location as a cruising hotel boat's base is not only attractive - but very convenient. Have a look at some of our cruising destinations (all of which involve at least one passage up or down the 'Wheel'), detailed on our 'Holiday Suggestions Page' .
The Falkirk Wheel is not just a spectacular method of moving boats the 35m up and down between the two canals - it has other attractions. There is of course the Visitor Centre itself, but less well known are the walks from our moorings through woodlands to the Roman Fort on the nearby Antonine Wall.
Car Parking etc:British Waterways (Scotland) have provided us with 'safe' car parking facilities at the Falkirk Wheel complex for our own and guest vehicles. If coming to the Falkirk Wheel by car (or taxi) click on this link for a Graphic/Map ( print off an illustrative 'pdf' document). The outer gates to the complex are locked each evening at 8pm and the complex enjoys 'out of hours' on site security patrols. We also keep our own vehicle on site, so we can usually help with free transfers to/from Falkirk High railway station.
And Finally......Obviously we are a commercial concern and the prime purpose of this website has to be the attraction of potential clients. However, we also have a reputation for providing detailed canal and boating based information. So whether your interests are in booking a holiday; getting more insight into the Scottish Canals and its wildlife; or researching our narrowboat consultancy/training services - please feel free to browse - using the Menu's on the left panel of each page......
Lastly, although we ourselves are relatively new to 'social networking', we do make use of 'Twitter' and we have a facebook page. Using the 'Twitter Panel' in the right panel of this page, we can now routinely provide notes, comments, and mini updates of Willow's position or wildlife observations (in the form of 'tweets'). Because these 'tweets' can be made directly from our 'smartphone', position and 'wildlife spotting' updates will be pretty instant during the cruising season (obviously less used out of season), so why not 'follow us' - or 'Join the Conversation' - your feedback is welcomed.
For those of you travelling from abroad, clicking on the following logo will open the 'Welcome to Scotland' website (in a separate tab/window) - giving some useful Scottish Tourist Information.
IT IS UNLAWFUL TO SMOKE ON BOARD WILLOW
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