Scotland’s breathtaking array of canals forms a network spread across 137 miles, connecting lochs and rivers. The canals attract walkers, cyclists and wildlife lovers, not to mention boating enthusiasts.
While many visitors are familiar with the Caledonian, Forth and Clyde, and Union canals, the surviving stretch of the Monklands Canal is not as well known, but it has just as eventful a history, and plenty of beautiful scenery worth exploring.
Opened in 1794, the canal ran for only 12 miles, connecting the great coalfields of Monklands with Glasgow.
During the 19th century, Monklands Canal was one of the busiest in Britain, transporting around 1½ million tonnes of coal and iron a year, much of it from the massive Gartsherrie Ironworks, which employed thousands from the Coatbridge area.
However, by 1920, only 30,000 tonnes of coal were being carried (the railways had become the main transporter of coal) and by 1942, Monklands Canal was abandoned. Sadly, almost the entire canal was covered by the M8 motorway during the 1960s.
However, there are two beautiful, short sections still visible, at Drumpellier Country Park and Summerlee Heritage Museum, both in Coatbridge, 11 miles east of Glasgow, which prove just how important this historic waterway once was.
Monklands Canal has recently been cleaned up and, although no longer navigable by boat, it forms part of a thoroughly enjoyable walk.
The canal towpath and paths of Drumpellier are surrounded by gorgeous woodland, where a wonderful variety of wildlife reside, including roe deer, woodpeckers, chiffchaffs, pochards and reed buntings.
From Coatbridge Sunnyside station, turn left and descend Sunnyside Road to West Canal Street.
Turn right then right again on to Heritage Way, home of Summerlee Heritage Museum – The Museum of Scottish Industrial Life – where you can explore the canal and learn much about the area’s industrial past, including miners’ cottages and an electric tramway. Retrace your steps back to West Canal Street.
Under the bridge
Turn right, and once opposite Coatbridge Baptist church turn left, then right, onto a cycle walkway. Walk along the avenue of sycamores that cuts diagonally across West End Park, passing under Blair Bridge on to the Monklands Canal towpath.
Once past Drumpellier Bridge, continue along a gorgeous section of the canal, for about ¾ mile, to its end. Cross the canal by a bridge, follow a woodland path then a wider track to a railway bridge on the left. Cross this into Drumpellier Country Park.
Turn left and follow a path through the woodland until you reach a fork. Go left here, then at a single-track road bear left and descend to Lochend Loch. Turn left, follow the scenic lochside path clockwise, returning to the outward-bound path.
Back to the station
Retrace your steps, back to the railway bridge, re-cross it, turn left and follow a track to a junction. Turn right and walk out of Drumpellier Country Park, exiting right on to Blair Road.
Now walk back into West End Park then retrace your steps to get back to Coatbridge Sunnyside station and the start of the walk.