From Sea to Sea

A History of the Scottish Lowland and Highland Canals

By Len Paterson

Format: Paperback

This engaging history covers the main canals of Scotland covering the last 40 years in particular detail as this is the period over which the canal system, against the odds, had been revitalised.

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Neil Wilson Publishing

Neil Wilson Publishing is a small, independent company which prides itself on being innovative and original. Under five imprints they produce a wide range of books with a Scottish flavour.

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"The peculiar formation of the great Caledonian valley - long, deep and comparatively very narrow, and occupied by a regular chain of inland lakes and extensive arms of the sea - had long suggested the idea of a canal which by connecting the whole might afford the means of a navigable communication between the opposite sides of the island. Indeed so marked were its features in this respect, that it must have been difficult to escape the conclusion that Nature had irresistibly invited the hand of man to the completion of such an undertaking." So wrote a Victorian commentator in the 1840s in a description of the Caledonian Canal. Curiously, this observation was made some 350 years after the construction of Scotland's first canal, which was made to serve God rather than Mammon. Andrew Wood had distinguished himself in the service of James III by repelling an English fleet from the Forth and also withstanding their siege of Dumbarton. He was knighted and given lands at Largo in Fife. Around 1495 he had a canal constructed that allowed him to be conveyed, each Sunday, in his admiral's barge from his house to church!


With no history of Scotland's canals currently available Len Paterson set about researching them after the successful publication of his history of the puffer trade having decided to re-assess the important part that Scotland's canals played in that story. This engaging history covers the main canals: Caledonian, Crinan, Forth and Clyde, Monkland and Union covering the last 40 years in particular detail as this is the period over which the canal system, against the odds, had been revitalised. That is the overwhelming conclusion to the story that is now told in this present volume.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Paperback
Imprint Neil Wilson Publishing
Publication Date 24 May 2006
ISBN 9781903238943
Number of Pages 208

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Press Reviews

This is a commendably comprehensive history. Whilst not neglecting the planning, design, construction and the vessels used, it deals in depth with the commercial aspects, both passenger and freight, and with financial performance. These are clearly presented with extensive use of tables and graphs. The decline in the 20th century is dealt with unsentimentally. Following chapters on the revival and the Millennium Link, there is a realistic assessment of the future of Scottish canals - an unusual and welcome feature in this balanced history. Excellent value. Peter Brown, Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society, July 2007 This highly readable book traces the history of this fascinating aspect of out heritage, from their 18th-century roots to their demise and change of use in our own time ... this book provides an invaluable reminder of their origins. Scotland in Trust magazine, Autumn/Winter 2006. ALMOST 40 years ago Jean Wilson's The Canals Of Scotland appeared and became recognised as a standard work on the subject. Much has happened to Scotland's canals in the intervening years and a new account was badly needed. Len Paterson has delivered this with his splendidly illustrated history of the rise, decline and rebirth of our canals - From Sea To Sea: A History Of The Scottish Lowland And Highland Canals. Concentrating on the Caledonian, Crinan, and Forth and Clyde Canals and the Forth and Clyde's linked waterways, the Union and the Monkland Canals the author looks at the commercial and political reasons for building these huge undertakings and at their economics and operation. His account is thorough, based on extensive research in archives and in the considerable literature that has grown up around the canals. A series of appendices give essential figures about costs, traffic statistics and income for the canals at the time of their peak commercial significance. He discusses the engineers who designed these canals, including such great names as Watt and Telford; the investors, private and state, who funded them; and the men whose sweat and effort turned their grand plans into reality. The story of Scotland's canals is indeed a rich and varied one and Len Paterson does justice to it. Canals are, of course, built for ships and the vessels that plied these waterways get due attention. The author has previously written knowledgeably about the puffer and this characteristic product of the canal age is not neglected. A chapter is devoted to the fascinating story of the canal that never was - the project, often re-visited, to build a mid-Scotland ship canal capable of allowing large warships and commercial vessels to move from the North Sea to the Atlantic. The 1950s and 60s saw the canals decline but today they flourish as part of our leisure industry, if no longer as major carriers of goods and raw materials. Readers share the story of the rebirth of the Forth and Clyde Canal, its re-opening from Sea to Sea as a Millennium project and the magnificent engineering achievement of the Falkirk Wheel that reunites the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals. Brian D. Osborne, The Scots Magazine, January 2007

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