Location: Glasgow Kelvin

Grade: Easy river and canal walk

Distance: 4 miles/6.5km.

Time: 2-3 hours

By the Waters of Glasgow

Within two minutes of starting this walk, we had seen a fox and a heron – not bad going for a path in the middle of Glasgow! We were following the Kelvin Walkway, a trail which runs almost from the river’s source in the Campsie Fells to its confluence with the Clyde. The path is very well used by walkers, cyclists and lots of dogs, which all adds to the fun.

After recrossing the river you pass the remains of a flint mill, a reminder that the river was once busy with industry. It became very polluted as a result but in recent years an energetic support group, Friends of the River Kelvin (FoRK) have done great work in helping to clean the river up – as our heron would no doubt testify. FoRK have also put up interesting information boards along the route.

After passing a weir the path goes under Queen Margaret Drive. A branch leads left, up to the Botanic Gardens, but save that for another day and stay by the river. Helpful signs give you the walking time to Maryhill Locks.

You pass under several soaring sandstone bridges, with the bustle of the West End high above. Down here it is quieter, with plenty of shade from the trees. Kirklee Bridge has a plaque dated 1900. It is typical of its period, with graceful arches and polished marble pillars.

The path then climbs away from the river into the open, with high flats to the right. At the end of the tower blocks, keep left, cross Kelvindale Road and continue ahead. At the next fork go back down to the riverside.

At the Kelvin Aqueduct turn right (sign to Forth & Clyde Canal). Climb the zig-zag path and emerge at the foot of the Maryhill Locks. This flight of five locks has been fully restored as part of the Millennium project to reopen the canal. You may be lucky enough to see a boat locking through. It’s a fascinating process, but hard work!

The locks, and the aqueduct over the river, were designed by Robert Whitworth and opened in 1790. The aqueduct is 122 metres long and is 23 metres above the river. The locks are considered to be among the finest of their kind in Britain.

At the top of the locks, keep on the canal towpath and follow it round to cross high above Maryhill Road. Looking back you get a great view of the Campsies. You often see swans here – and in spring, their cygnets too.

Before long you reach Stockingfield Junction. The main canal swings left here, heading for the Falkirk Wheel 35km away, but we keep ahead, on the Port Dundas Branch. On the right is Ruchill Parish Church. If you are lucky, the church hall (one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s lesser-known gems, but worth a look) might be open for tea. Ruchill was originally ‘Roughill’ and on what is now Smeaton Street there was a grand mansion house.

Continue with the canal, which for a time is next to a busy road. In general however it is surprisingly quiet. The next landmark is Firhill, home of Partick Thistle FC, known as the Jags. Not far from here is Queen’s Cross Church. This is Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s only completed church design and is quite beautiful. The church is dedicated to St Matthew, but nowadays is as much a shrine to CRM and his magnificent designs.

Before long the apartments and boats moored at Speirs Wharf come into view. A discrete community has sprung up here, some no doubt attracted by the unusual possibility of living on a boat in the middle of a city. The main apartment building was once a mill. The area is named after Archibald Speirs, who was chairman of the canal committee at the time it was opened.

He would, I’m sure, be more than pleased to see the area thriving as it is today – and he would recognise the old Canal House which still stands, marking the end of both the waterway and of a walk of unusual character.

Roger Smith


Map: OS 1:25,000 Explorer map 342 (Glasgow).

Distance: 4 miles/6.5km

Time: 2-3 hours

Start: Kelvin Bridge subway station (GR: NS 573669). Finish: Speirs Wharf (GR: NS 586664).

Public transport: Subway or buses from Glasgow city centre to Kelvin Bridge. Twenty minute walk from Speirs Wharf to main bus and train stations.

Information: Glasgow iCentre, 0141 566 4083.

Route: Turn R out of subway station and cross river to pick up Kelvin Walkway signs. Follow main path, recrossing the river. After Kirklees Bridge path rises to cross open area then drops to cross a road. At fork go left, down to the river again. Just before canal aqueduct turn R up zig-zag path to the foot of Maryhill Locks. Walk up beside the locks and simply follow the canal path all the way to Speirs Wharf.