Doors Open Day unlocks secrets of Scotland’s canals

    Visitors can enjoy a guided walk around Banavie’s Neptune’s Staircase – the iconic flight of eight locks. Photo: John G Moore

    Scottish Canals and the Scottish Waterways Trust are inviting the public to have a rare glimpse into some of the many secrets of the Forth & Clyde and Caledonian Canals. Featuring everything from water taxi tours and floating exhibitions to guided walks of Neptune’s Staircase, the events are part of the Scottish Civic Trust’s Doors Open Day – an annual festival that celebrates Scotland’s architecture and history with a programme of walks, tours, talks, events and hundreds of buildings open for anyone to visit.

    All through September, the festival offers the chance to explore many places that are normally closed to the public. Some open up once a year, some just once in a lifetime; all have stories to tell.

    Chris O’Connell, heritage officer at Scottish Canals, said: “Scotland’s canals are an integral part of the history of the nation. In the north, the Caledonian Canal was a major commercial artery while the Forth & Clyde laid the foundations for the Scottish Industrial Revolution. Today, the remnants of their storied past can still be seen along their banks. The Doors Open Day festival offers the public the perfect chance to step back into the rich history of the waterways to experience some of their 200-years-worth of stories for themselves.”

    For those not wanting to take to the water, Scottish Canals and the Scottish Waterways Trust have also transformed the towpaths of the Forth & Clyde Canal into a tarmac time machine with a heritage trail that tells some of the many stories of the ‘Great Canal.’

    Visitors travelling between Doors Open Days venues can take a tour of this open air museum and unlock the rich heritage of Glasgow’s canal, learning about everything from how Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger took a towpath trot through Maryhill to how the nature reserve of Possil Marsh was once struck by a giant meteorite.

    With interpretation boards and installations along the route, as well as an app that offers historic photos, anecdotes and video and audio clips at the touch of a button, the heritage trail offers the perfect link between the open doors of Glasgow’s historic buildings. The app can be downloaded via the Android and Apple app stores, from the Scottish Waterway Trust’s website: , or by scanning one of the QR codes on the heritage trail.

    Events in the Highlands kick off on Saturday 27 September, when Scottish Waterways Trust Heritage Officer Stephen Wiseman will take visitors on a guided walk around Banavie’s Neptune’s Staircase – the iconic flight of eight locks the English poet Robert Southey once called: “the greatest piece of such masonry in the world, and the greatest work of its kind, beyond all comparison.”

    The day also offers visitors a chance to take a glimpse into the many stories behind one of the canal’s most iconic and historic buildings – Telford House East. Designed by, and named for, the Caledonian Canal’s visionary engineer Thomas Telford in 1815, the former lock keeper’s house has recently been lovingly restored into a luxury holiday cottage. Visitors will be able to hear of the many stories of the building and the role it played in the construction of the canal.

    Stephen Wiseman, heritage officer at the Scottish Waterways Trust, said: “The Doors Open Days events give a fantastic opportunity for visitors to unlock some of the Caledonian Canal’s secrets and marvel at the remarkable achievements of Thomas Telford and his men in the construction of this majestic waterway.

    “Whether you’re following in the footsteps of the Gods at Neptune’s Staircase or appreciating the beautiful design of Telford House East, there will be something to see and stories to hear. I’d encourage anyone interested to come along on the day.”


    Saturday 27 September

    • Guided walks at Neptune’s Staircase will take place from 10.30am to 11.30am and 1.30pm to 2.30pm, meeting at the bottom of the lock flight.

    Saturday 27 & Sunday 28 September

    • Visitors can tour historic Telford House East, which sits on the banks of Neptune’s Staircase, between 10am and 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday, with staff on hand to provide guided tours of the building, answer any questions and tell tales of its storied past.

    Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of five Scottish canals as well as the surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel. Visit


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