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 Millennium Link with it's 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.
We provide private charter full cruising holidays, short breaks, and 'weekender' hotel boat cruises for just one couple (or a single guest). Our guest accommodation is fully en-suite and all meals and cruise costs are included in the tariff - there are no hidden extras.
Additionally we provide our very popular 'One Day Charters' (ie Day Trips) for parties of up to five people, from the Falkirk Wheel. Typically such a Skippered Day Cruise would be to the Linlithgow side of the Avon Aqueduct 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'One Day Charters'for more details and the costs.
Forth and Clyde Canal: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 and Kilsyth Hills just to the north. East of Glasgow, it seems to avoid most of the larger towns and is largely quiet - for much of its length it is almost river like in nature with crystal clear water. Near to the east end of the Forth and Clyde canal we have the spectacular Falkirk Wheel, providing the 'millenium link' between the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. Descending a flight of locks to the east of the Falkirk Wheel, we have the magnificent Kelpies forming a spectacular lockside portal at the Helix park area of the canal.
Union Canal:The Union canal is mainly rural and a winding contour canal (following the 240ft 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. But the 1820s influence of Thomas Telford is also apparent with sections that include embankments alternating with wooded cuttings, spectacularly high aqueducts, and a grotto like tunnel. Passing through Linlithgow, with it's Palace (birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots), the Union canal continues our route west to east. Finally the Union canal takes us directly into the heart of Edinburgh city centre (Edinburgh Castle, the 'Royal Mile', and Princes Street are a mere 10 to 15mins walk from our city centre moorings).
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 route 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 facilities, and adjacent split level lounge and dining area. 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. We have a detailed layout plan of our guest suite (with linked detailed photographs) on our pageAbout Willow. Take a look at our all weather, glazed bow observation deck - it is pretty well unique - 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'. 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 think our guest suite is probably the most spacious of all the UK hotel narrowboats.
The Falkirk Wheel - Our Scottish Base:After a decade of Hotel Boating on the English/Welsh canal network, we brought Willow north to cruise Scottish waters. The extensive English/Welsh canal network has loads of cruising scope - but has sadly become very boat congested during peak times. Summer Lock Queues of 3 hours or more now common on popular routes, and there is 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 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'. From a business point of view it's paid off- we've never been busier.
The Scottish navigation authority, 'Scottish Canals' were very helpful with the transfer of our business north of the border - we are currently the only licensed hotel boat cruising Scotland's Lowland Canal network. 'Scottish Canals' have provided us with an exclusive mooring within the main visitor complex at the spectacular Falkirk Wheel. Spectacular it is - the design, structure, and engineering principles 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 ourCruise RoutesPage.
Car Parking etc:Scottish Canals 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) clickherefor a map graphic. The outer gates to the complex are locked each evening at 8pm and the complex enjoys 'out of hours' on site security patrols. For those coming by train, Falkirk High railway station is only a short taxi drive away.
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.